Last week, the scene at the corner of Elm and York streets seemed like something out of a Vietnam movie. Two groups stood on opposite corners of the intersection. One side shouted “One, two, three, four,” in time for the other side to chime in: “We don’t want your stinkin’ war!”
How original. How cute. How “We have our 1960s back!” I have decried the culture of Yale activism and protests on this page before, but the duplicity of the anti-Iraqi war contingent deserves special attention.
Think about the members of Yale’s anti-war movement. When they’re not bashing Bush’s stance on Iraq, these are the same people agitating for other pet leftist causes. They’ll get arrested to end Yale’s oppression of its unions. They’ll sleep on the New Haven Green to gain recognition for the problems of the impoverished and the homeless. They’ll hold events at the Women’s Center to end sexism and promote women’s rights and equality. They’ll support the cultural houses in their efforts to defeat racism and promote marginalized, downtrodden ethnic groups. They’ll rally against American imperialism, shaming the United States for thinking herself superior to other nations and cultures and more deserving of the prosperity and freedom we enjoy within our borders.
With that in mind, one has to ask the necessary question: Why do these individuals oppose war in Iraq?
If Yale is a brutal enemy whose union workers are oppressed and marginalized, what of Iraqi workers? Indeed, the term “Iraqi workers” is difficult to use, knowing how many Iraqis don’t have employment and suffer from extreme poverty, thanks to Iraq’s totalitarian regime. To most Iraqis, Yale’s union workers live like royalty. If we’re fighting for the people who make $18 an hour, how can we ignore the people who would be happy to make $18 a month?
If New Haven’s city government is cruel and heartless toward the homeless people sleeping on the Green, what of Baghdad’s government and its people? Does Saddam Hussein care about the poor within his regime? To Hussein, charity and caring is telling a son-in-law he’s forgiven, only to murder him on his return to Iraq. Charity and caring is granting a farce of amnesty to prisoners as a reward for his 100 percent re-election, with traceable ballots signed in blood. Charity and caring is giving $25,000 to the families of Palestinian suicide bombers as a reward for their sacrifice to the cause of killing Israeli civilians. To Iraqis, Mayor John DeStefano Jr. looks like Mother Teresa. If we’re fighting for the people whose city’s charity only gives them a place to stay from November through April, how can we ignore the people whose leader’s charity only lets them live if they support the regime?
If Yale and other American universities are sexist because they don’t tenure enough women, and if America is sexist because it doesn’t fully support a woman’s right to a partial-birth abortion, then what about Iraq’s treatment of its women? Women’s rights in Iraq means complete subservience to a husband. It means state-enforced second-class citizenship and no recourse against domestic violence. It means punishment and even death for committing adultery and having children out of wedlock. Instead of a miniskirt, a liberated woman’s fashion is a burqa. If we’re fighting for more women to get tenure, how can we ignore the women who would give anything just to be able to go to college?
If America is racist because blacks and Hispanics haven’t yet reached economic and social parity with whites, what about the Iraqi government’s treatment of its ethnic minorities? Minority rights under Saddam Hussein entail exclusion from government participation and the invasion and seizure of the Kurds’ land and property. In 1988, Hussein used chemical weapons on the Kurdish minority to exterminate these ethnically undesirable Iraqi citizens. This is the same Saddam Hussein sending funds to Palestine to promote the eradication of another hated ethnic group: Jews. If we’re fighting for more widespread affirmative action and greater minority rights, how can we not fight for minorities trying to assure their very survival?
It’s possible that some activists will say that while these are egregious and hideous injustices, America has an obligation to attend to her own people first and doesn’t have the right to correct the wrongs of other regimes.
If that’s the justification, how can these same students blame America for being self-centered, overly powerful and insensitive? By arguing that we shouldn’t attack Iraq and liberate the Iraqis, activists are left with the natural conclusion that the Iraqis are not deserving of such liberation. How can they then deride the world’s lone superpower for thinking herself superior to all other countries and cultures, while arguing that we should let Iraqis languish under such appalling human rights violations rather than go to war to oust Saddam Hussein? If this justification isn’t racist, self-centered and elitist (to use some of the activists’ favorite labels), I don’t know what is. How can we say that all men (and women) are created equal, and that every individual in every country is equally worthy, and then say that American peace and prosperity are more important than the lives and rights of the Iraqis?
When it comes to dealing with leftist activists, President Bush is in a no-win situation. But this is not a situation Bush has brought upon himself; rather, it is a fallacious logical circle born out of leftist insincerity. Instead of sticking to their so-called principles — the ones they embrace when they’re not marching in D.C. — liberal anti-war activists have failed to follow those convictions to their natural conclusion. Instead of realizing that their other pet causes dictate support for ousting Saddam Hussein, they’ve decided it’s more important to adopt the newest left-wing fashion — denouncing war in Iraq — than to cling to their beliefs, even if that means breaking with leftist ranks.
In either event, the whole fiasco speaks very poorly of Yale’s anti-war movement, and it’s a shame that Washington, D.C., was made to think that 220 protesters represent all of Yale. But disappointing as this might be, there is some good to be found. For those public-service minded Yalies — on the right or the left — who do support war in Iraq, your mission is clear. Instead of spending your weekends marching on the Capitol, make sure that your applications for government internships are done before this week’s Nov. 1 deadline. That way you, not last weekend’s activists, will be the decision-makers the next time a brutal, Hitler-esque dictator threatens U.S. and international security.
Meghan Clyne is a senior in Branford College. Her column appears regularly on alternate Wednesdays.