As American forces in Iraq routed Baghdad Wednesday, the Yale Coalition for Peace and other student organizations sponsored a teach-in where five anti-war faculty members criticized American war policy and alleged bias in the media.
Approximately 100 students and professors attended the panel, which was the first installment in a series entitled “Perspectives on Peace: A Lecture Series on Terrorism, War and U.S. Foreign Policy.” Speakers included history professors Glenda Gilmore and Benedict Kiernan, Near Eastern languages and civilizations professor Dimitri Gutas, political science professor Ellen Lust-Okar, and University Chaplain Frederick Streets. The panelists discussed issues including international law, Iraq’s future, U.S. motives for the attack, and perceptions that media coverage of the war has been one-sided.
“Those of us who have had doubts about the war have gotten little help thinking about it from journalists — especially American journalists — and astonishingly little help from the opposition party in the legislature,” said English professor David Bromwich, who moderated the discussion.
Bromwich said the event was “not a political rally, not a debate” and gave each panelist time to outline his or her main points.
Kiernan said the Bush administration did not consider international law in its actions and said the media has neglected questions surrounding this issue.
“In my view, the U.S. media, like the Bush administration, is dominated by a war-like intelligentsia,” Kiernan said.
Gilmore also said she believes there is an organized “right-wing plot” to suppress dissent concerning the war. Gilmore said she experienced this when she published an anti-war editorial in the Yale Daily News last October.
“I did not know when I dashed off that op-ed that I would run straight into an organized, pre-planned campaign aimed at anti-war university professors,” Gilmore said.
Streets mainly addressed American motivations for attacking Iraq, as well as the country’s future. He said the United States started the war in order to obtain geopolitical domination in the region, access to oil and influence over countries such as Russia and China.
“Revenge, resentment and humiliation are not just feelings,” Streets said. “They are feelings that get translated into behavior.”
He said the United Nations will play a crucial role in rebuilding Iraq and warned against “religious imperialism” on the part of American evangelical groups that plan to work in the region.
Lust-Okar also spoke about Iraq’s future. She said she is happy that Hussein’s government has been overthrown, but that the human costs have been immense.
“An enormous cost has been paid for this — and I’ll put it in quotes — ‘liberation,’” Lust-Okar said.
She said the war leaves many problems unresolved, both in the Middle East and in the United States.
“I think all of this is not likely to help the war on terrorism,” she said.
In discussing the factors that contributed to the war, Gutas criticized the U.S. government’s motives.
“What the Bush administration really wants to do in the area is not really to democratize but to keep everybody in check by installing these dictatorial regimes,” Gutas said.
While each of the speakers generated audience applause, Gilmore was the most enthusiastically received. A number of audience members said the panel confirmed what they already thought.
“It was delightfully concurrent with what I believe,” Lisa Bozman ’05 said.
Qinna Shen GRD ’08 said she thought the teach-in was informative because information that comes from the media is usually one-sided.