Debaters square off on U.S. foreign policy in Iraq

BY ELIZABETH ANDERSON
Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 6, 2003

The merits of a possible pre-emptive strike on Iraq were analyzed and dissected by panelists in a heated debate last night that prompted both applause and criticism.

Shabina Khatri
Amer Zahr, right, reacts to LSA sophomore Eric Singer during their debate on a potential war in Iraq.

Law student Amer Zahr, a member of the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee, and LSA sophomore Eric Singer, a representative from Students Against Terror, participated in the debate. The two panelists presented opposing viewpoints on the need for an attack on Iraq.

Zahr said the United States has no proof that Saddam Hussein poses a threat to national security. But Singer said the U.S. needs proof that he is not a threat.

Zahr said any strike would be premature until the United States produces proof that Saddam has destructive weapons or was involved in recent terrorist acts against the United States.

"We're saying we don't know what (weapons) he has. It's hard to prove the negative," Zahr said. "We simply have no evidence that he had anything to do with September 11, al-Qaida and Osama bin Laden."

Singer took an opposing view, saying the United States has no knowledge that Hussein has destroyed any of his weapons.

"He hasn't shown us that he doesn't have weapons," Singer said. "Saddam Hussein has been in clear violation of the United Nations since the Persian Gulf War."

The panelists also disagreed on President Bush's foreign policy and his reasons for going to war in Iraq.

Bush "wants to go to war to get re-elected," Zahr said. "We're going to war to ignore the fact that we're in a recession."

But Singer added that he has faith in the president. "I would have supported a pre-emptive strike without the U.N.'s approval," Singer said.

When referring to the situation of the Iraqi people, the panelists differed again. "I can tell you with 100 percent confidence what's best for the Iraqi people - get rid of Saddam Hussein," Singer said. "Iraqis have no freedom. We are going to go there and liberate these people."

But Zahr disagreed with Singer's logic. "Who are we to decide what is better for the Iraqi people?" he said.

Most students who attended the debate said they felt Zahr's arguments were well-articulated and better prepared than Singer's.

"I think it's obvious (Zahr's) winning," Pharmacy student Ruba Odeh said. "His views are presented much more eloquently."

Nursing senior Elise Erickson said Singer's arguments lacked both preparation and intelligence.

"His entire principle of going to war is based on some lust for death, power and ethnocentrism," she said.