In an attempt to revive protest to the ongoing U.S.-led
occupation of Iraq, the student group Anti-War Action! has
redirected its focus from trying to prevent war to discussing the
repercussions of the Iraq war and other government policies
directly affecting students.

Laura Wong
(SHUBRA OHRI/Daily)
Laura Wong
Anti-War Action! holds a rally yesterday on the Diag. INSERT: LSA senior Rachel Burrage and RC senior Moira Birss work at one of the exhibits yesterday. The Diag events were part of the one-year anniversary of another all-day anti-Iraq rally. (JEFF LEHNER

The group commemorated the one-year anniversary of its
“Books not Bombs” rally yesterday. “Books not
Bombs” was a one-day program held last year before U.S.
troops were sent to Iraq. During the original program, AWA! held
protests, lecturers and teach-ins to educate the University
community about the dangers of a possible war with Iraq.

Yesterday, a similar event was held again nationwide, but on a
smaller scale with an altered purpose. During the day,
piñatas in the shape of bombs were smashed on the Diag to
distribute candy and facts about the war, as well as to encourage
students to attend an evening lecture and discussion.

AWA! recently generalized its mission, detailed in its mission
statement “Points of Unity,” from a focus solely on the
war in Iraq to include all unjust conflicts. At this point, the
group has expanded its efforts beyond Iraq to include a protest of
the Patriot Act.

“We want to focus on the ways that people’s rights,
specifically students’, are being violated (by the Patriot
Act). One of our goals is to prevent the passage of further acts of
the sort in Congress,” said RC senior Moira Birss, a member
of AWA! who helped organize the events yesterday.

The forum held last night emphasized instances of government
deception, the violation of privacy legalized by the Patriot Act
and the lack of funding towards education, allegedly resulting from
an unhealthy economy and the re-allocation of funds to the war
effort.

Steve MacGuidwin, president of the College Republicans offered
an opposing viewpoint regarding the Patriot Act’s effects on
students.

“In some sense it does violate students’ rights;
however, they are given up for the greater good of the nation.
Something as simple as the government seeing what books you check
out is not as important as saving the thousands of lives lost on
September 11,” MacGuidwin said, an LSA senior.

In addition to AWA! members speaking on these issues, RC Prof.
Thomas O’Donnell, a professor in the Residential College,
described his research and conclusions that the U.S. involvement in
the war was heavily motivated by its need for oil.

The AWA! maintains the stance that the troops should be removed
from Iraq immediately.

“We believe at this point that we’re doing more harm
than good, to the people of Iraq and to our own soldiers. The U.N.
should be dealing with this, not just the U.S.,” Birss
said.

In response, MacGuidwin said

“We have a duty now to establish democracy in Iraq. The
worst possible thing we can do is leave them to govern themselves
at this point. They have been under the control of a tyrant for
years, and if we leave now another tyrant will most likely come to
power,” said Guidwin in response.

Among the audience of AWA! members, students and community
members, LSA senior Donnie Small said he considers himself to be a
fairly unbiased and informed audience member who was interested in
hearing another side of the story.

“I read the NY Times and BBC and watch the news, but
sometimes it’s difficult to make sense of that much
information and all of the contradictions,” Small said.
“I’ve taken a lot of political science classes and I
can understand some of the reasons why we went to war. …
I’ve heard this argument before, but I still haven’t
made up my mind either way.”

AWA! will be collaborating with various local groups to hold a
peace parade and rally on March 20, the one-year anniversary of the
commencement of the Iraq war.

“These events are supposed to continue to raise awareness
in the community so that people know there are still many problems
to solve regarding Iraq,” Birss explained.

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