Students sounded off on the idea of war against Iraq in a debate yesterday as part of the “Books Not Bombs” student strike. The debate, held in the Chemistry Building, pitted Michigan Review Editor in Chief James Justin Wilson and Managing Editor Ruben Duran against Nursing School junior Abby Schlaff and Amer Zahr, a student in Rackam and the Law School.
Wilson said that the Persian Gulf War ended with a truce contingent on Iraq’s disarmament and said Iraq’s possession of banned weapons constitutes a violation of this truce. “As far as I’m concerned, we’re in a constant state of war,” he said.
Wilson said he approves of an American invasion of Iraq. “I support the use of military force that is justified,” he said.
Schlaff emphasized the need for domestic spending, rather than war spending. “It’s not possible to have a tax cut, an expensive war and increased domestic spending,” she said. “So many human needs are getting shortchanged.”
Saddam Hussein has put the United States into a position where only military force is acceptable, Wilson said. He quoted John F. Kennedy, saying, “Those who make peaceful change impossible make violent change inevitable.”
Zahr said the weapons inspections merely represent the Bush administration going through the motions of diplomacy, and that the United States will attack even if Iraq complies with all U.N. demands. “If there’s anything about the Bush administration, it’s that they’re not smart enough to trick anyone,” he said.
Schlaff argued against what she felt are the prevailing arguments for an Iraq war. She said there is no clear link between Saddam and al-Qaida and that there is no certain evidence Iraq has any weapons of mass destruction that it could use to attack the United States.
Schlaff started by exhorting the audience to take up the anti-war cause. “If you are not convinced of the need for this war, then you need to be against this war because war is a big deal,” she said.
Both sides said they felt the crowd was very respectful, although Duran called it a lopsided crowd. Wilson said the crowd was largely anti-war. “We were in the lion’s den there,” he said.
LSA senior Brandon Zwagerman said the anti-war side swayed him more. “I thought the anti-war side was more convincing,” he said. Both side “were both rational and reasonable.”