Pictures of sick children in Iraqi hospitals greeted audience members as they walked into Angell Hall Auditorium D yesterday evening. David Sole, president of the Local United Auto Workers 2334, finished a two-part teach-in series put on by the Muslim Students Association.
The teach-in drew around 65 students and community members, including members of the group that Sole took part in which breached the U.S. trade barricade in 1998 in order to bring medical supplies to Iraqi citizens and especially children. Sole spoke on topics ranging from the importance of civilian activism to capitalist greed to U.S. neocolonialism, and ended his lecture with information about the National March on Washington Against the War on Iraq, to be held on Oct. 26.
Sole commented that he was “Speaking today about building opposition to Bush’s expanded war against Iraq.”
“Support for this war is very thin … and I’ve seen support for wars,” he continued. Sole emphasized the need for student organization against President Bush’s current policy toward Iraq, using as examples protests against U.S. actions in Vietnam, which he participated in while a graduate student studying biochemistry in Ann Arbor from1968 to1969.
Sole began his political activism during college in response to U.S. propaganda regarding the Vietnam conflict. Since then he has been involved with various civil rights movements, humanitarian issues in Iraq and issues of labor organization and workers’ rights. He is currently an organizer for the International Action Center, an organization dedicated to providing information, activism and resistance to US militarism, war, and corporate greed. Sole described his own political views, stating, “We’re in a very perilous time right now. The U.S. government has taken a tremendous turn to the right.”
Sole was quick to point out that U.S. sanctions against Iraq have killed more people than bombing. He cited the tens of thousands of children who die each year of simple diseases brought about by U.S. bombing of water systems in Iraq.
Engineering senior Ashraf Zahr, co-chairperson of the political committee for the MSA, introduced Sole and announced plans to start a “broad-based coalition for peace on campus.”
LSA junior Lena Masri, co-chairperson of the MSA political committee, described the MSA’s purpose as “focusing on issues in the Muslim world” and raising awareness. She also said the MSA chose Sole because of his position as a renowned activist during the Vietnam conflict and his work with humanitarian issues in Iraq.
Members of the audience stayed after the lecture for a question and answer session with Sole. LSA senior Deepa Challa described Sole as “really powerful – most speakers are quieter,” and responded to Sole’s comment that students today seem to be ahead of students in the 1960s by stating, “To me it doesn’t seem like we’re that far ahead of people in the ’60s, but I guess we are because the war hasn’t even started and at least we are talking about it.”
LSA freshman Emma Sacks stated that she came to the lecture because “it’s always good to hear different perspectives – I just wanted to hear about the current situation from different sources.”
Overall, Sole’s message was one of student empowerment and the power of grassroots movements.
“The situation looks bleak if you don’t know how to look at it,” Sole concluded his lecture. “I think the prospect for building a powerful movement against this war exists, but it’s not going to be easy.”