Five years ago, this country was told that the Iraqi government possessed weapons of mass destruction and had connections to al-Qaeda and 9/11. And five years ago, President Bush went on the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared “Mission Accomplished”, saying that major combat operations in Iraq were over. Five years later, we’re still there. No weapons of mass destructions, no connections to al-Qaeda or 9/11, 4,000 American soldiers dead and over 1 million Iraqis dead. And this President STILL wants to claim that this war is a “success”.
About six months ago, I made a speech in White Plaza denouncing Donald Rumsfeld’s appointment to the Hoover Institution as a “distinguished visiting fellow”. And I wasn’t alone in feeling that way because over 4,000 members of the Stanford community signed a petition condemning his appointment. Then a whole group of us went to an ASSU Senate meeting to show our support for a bill that would condemn his appointment – a symbolic statement that would show the widespread campus sentiment against the affiliation of a war criminal with our campus. But, amazingly enough, that bill failed because, apparently, the ASSU thought it was better to focus on providing bike lights rather than voicing the widespread sentiment of the students who elected them into that office. The only thing we were able to get out of them was a bill that would invite Rumsfeld to speak to the students, an invitation he has yet to accept. This was from far from ideal but at least it was SOMETHING.
It’s funny that the opposition claimed that Rumsfeld’s presence supports free speech and academic freedom, while the same people supported the decision of Old Union to pull down SCAI’s photo exhibit on account that the captions were “inflammatory”. What’s really inflammatory is the fact that an institution, which claims to support free speech, has the nerve to implement its own “free speech hour” and “zone”, at White Plaza from 12 to 1. This is the main reason why we have no amplified sound at this rally and are forced to stand over here and yell with our voices. How is this institutional support for free speech?
In these past couple of months, I’ve learned that Stanford, as institution, is not designed to support student activism on important issues, such as the current war in Iraq. But what’s even more troubling than the lack of institutional support is the attitude of many students here on this campus. If anything, this campus – and, in a way, this generation – is largely apathetic. We’re focused more on making our resumes looks good than trying to solve serious issues. Sure, we’ve been turning out to the polls in record numbers and we join political causes on Facebook but that seems to be about it. There are rarely deeper conversations on the state of the world and how to change it. When it comes to the war in Iraq, it’s treated like a damn football, with all the focus going towards the “right strategy” to “win”. No one talks about the illegality of the war, the immorality of the war, how the war is an example of American imperialism or how the Iraqi general population feels about the war, 70-80% of which is against the occupation and wants the U.S. to leave. There’s a lot of idealism and potential but hardly any real, concrete action. And there are plenty of potential activists who get lost in the sea of apathy, don’t know whom to turn to, wind up becoming cynical and don’t do anything.
But, you know what, WE can change that. We don’t have to be apathetic and we don’t have to let other apathetic people or bureaucratic institutions to get in our way of trying to save the world. Sure, we all have busy schedules and futures to plan for but we can all pitch in, one by one, to make this world a truly better place and we should start now by ending this illegal, immoral, imperialistic and totally unjust war in Iraq – a war that’s wasting valuable resources that could be going toward education, healthcare and cleaning up the environment. There is no reason, whatsoever, that this war should’ve ever been waged in the first place and no reason for it to be continuing. There is also no reason for war criminals like Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleezza Rice to be given titles of honor. They should be put in jail, where they belong. Let’s band together, right now, and get other people to join us, to stop this madness and end this war.