ETSU students take up war debate

By Thomas Wilson

STAR STAFF
twilson@starhq.com

   JOHNSON CITY -- An open forum discussion of the U.S. invasion of Iraq drew dozens of students and citizens to East Tennessee State University here on Tuesday afternoon.
   Sponsored by the university's departments of Political Science and Sociology, faculty and students presented their views at three timed intervals. The discussion was held outdoors at the campus ampitheater and raised topics from the control of Middle Eastern oil reserves to U.S. imperialism to the gross human rights abuses of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
   "I'm pretty much a bleeding-heart pacifist, but I'm also a realist," said Jamie Rightsell, a senior majoring in philosophy. "You know war is going to happen and there's not a lot we can do to stop it."
   Rightsell felt striving for peace went beyond simple words. Peaceful resolutions required work, she said.
   "Peace is difficult," said Rightsell. "It requires a lot of understanding."
   Jennifer Fillers of Bluff City, an accounting student, said she attended the meeting to hear both sides of the war debate. Fillers said she had done a substantial amount of research about Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and allegations of gross human rights abuses including torture and murder of thousands of Iraqi citizens.
   "I am not pro-war, but I think he should be taken out of power," she said. "We have a moral obligation to help other people who are suffering from his regime. Just because it is in another country, that is no reason to stand by and let him do the things that he is doing."
   Fillers said she had been glued to her television set since the bombing of Baghdad began last week. The past week saw mounting casualties of U.S. forces and British troops who continued their march to Baghdad on Tuesday night.
   Fillers also felt U.S. leadership had privileged information regarding Iraqi weapons stashes that would more than convince the world of the need to disarm and depose the Hussein administration.
   Englishman Liam Cullen, an exchange student spending a semester at ETSU from Huddersfield University in northern England, expressed some pointed words about British Prime Minister Tony Blair and the United Kingdom's role as a military coalition invasion of Iraq.
   "(Blair) is working off his own mandate," said Cullen. "This is not something I believe in, my family believes in, my friends or any of my associates." He also made a point that ousting Hussein was the primary objective of any action against Iraq - a process that could be affected by means other than full-scale military action.
   "It takes a 25-cent bullet to kill Saddam Hussein," said Cullen. "It is a regime change that they need, not a war against an entire nation of people."
   According to briefings from U.S. military brass, coalition troops were within 50 miles of Baghdad on Tuesday afternoon.
   General Tommy Franks said Monday that U.S. forces had encountered "sporadic resistance" during the ground campaign. He also said that a number of humanitarian assistance ships are loaded, and will begin to deliver needed humanitarian assistance - food, water, medicine - to Iraqis within the next few days.
   The U.S. army said Tuesday it gave the main Iraqi oil well firefighting contract to a subsidiary of Halliburton Co., a firm once run by Vice President Dick Cheney without any bidding.
   According to the company's Web site, KBR (Kellogg, Brown & Root) was awarded a contract from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to put into action a contingency plan the company originally developed at the Department of Defense's (DOD) request for assessing and extinguishing oil well fires in Iraq. The project would also involve evaluating and repairing, as directed by the U.S. government, the country's petroleum infrastructure, according to the company's press release.
   "With great power comes great responsibility," said Isaac W. Stone, an ETSU senior majoring in fine arts. "With superpower status comes super responsibility." Stone said he disagreed with the notion of "regime changing" and the U.S. military becoming a global police force. Those ideas undercut the concept of American democracy, he said.
   Don Donichy, a Vietnam veteran who served with the U.S. Navy Air Command, spoke as part of a panel that included professors and citizens. Active in many local veterans organizations, Donichy felt the U.S. had the Iraqi government under the gun before military action occurred.
   He also said that once the conflict was over and Hussein had been ousted, U.S. involvement in the nation's affairs should end.
   "Now that it's started, we need to support our troops, take Saddam Hussein out and pull our kids out of there and let the Arab nations take care of it," he said. "Let them police this thing after that."
   The war struck a very personal tone with Donichy. His son served in the Gulf War 12 years ago and his daughter is currently serving in a forward position with the U.S. Army in the invasion of Iraq.
   "My daughter is my hero," said Donichy. "I want my child to come home - that is the reason I am here today."