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Poised for War

Mills College Weekly

By Shannon Ryan

By the time you read this story the United States may already be at war with Iraq. President Bush expressed the United States’ intention to use military action if Saddam Hussein refuses to flee Iraq by today.

In a 13-minute televised speech Monday night, Bush issued an ultimatum to the leader of the Iraqi state, announcing his resolve to exercise the country’s “sovereign authority in assuring its own national security” through a pre-emptive strike.

In the speech, directed at the American public as well as at the international community and the Iraqi people, Bush emphasized this decision as the result and culmination of 12 years of failed diplomacy.

“All the decades of deceit and cruelty have now reached an end,” he said.

Bush places all blame for the impending war on Hussein’s “tyrannical” regime, which holds “the most lethal weapons ever devised.”

In Monday’s address, Bush defended the U.S. position by citing Iraq’s “history of reckless aggression and deep hatred of America.” He also claims Hussein has in the past and continues to aid, train and harbor terrorists including operatives of al Qaeda.

This declaration of military action marks the end of a months-long diplomatic process pursued by the United Nations to peacefully disarm Iraq.

Although news of the impending war did not surprise many at Mills, the speech brought about different reactions among students and faculty members.

Junior Leyna Tilbor said she mistook Bush’s speech over the radio for evangelic preaching, “then we heard the twang,” and knew it was Bush. Tilbor said she found Bush’s language deeply ironic.

“If anything, we are under the thumb of a tyrant,” she said. “What he’s trying to root out is what he is.”

While junior Sheree Pirie describes Bush as a “horrific speaker,” she still finds his justification for military intervention valid and the contents of the speech logical.

“I don’t think you can be anti-Saddam without being pro-action,” she said. “[This is] not necessarily about going to war but wanting to get Saddam out of power…Nobody wants to go to war.”

While professor of public policy Emery Roe does not deny Saddam Hussein’s culpability, he said the United States should have continued to work with its allies and follow UN protocol. Regardless of one’s stance on the war, Roe said that people tend to disregard “the grotesque effect on the economy” this war will have.

“He [Saddam Hussein] destabilizes the Middle East by his presence,” said Roe. “He killed his people and his parliamentarians. Everything the United Nations says is true. Does that justify what we are doing? No.”

Despite what seems to be an inevitable outbreak of war, Mills students who have been active members in recent anti-war rallies plan to continue showing their opposition to the war. Sophomore Joy Liu, a member of “third world rising,” a group of local activists, artists and organizers interested in including people of color in the anti-war movement is determined to continue showing resistance. One of group’s goals is to show that “war impacts everyone, especially communities of color,” she said.

Although many are not surprised by the threat of war, some students are concerned about how it will affect them emotionally. One graduate student new to the area has promised her family that, should there be a war, she would move back home to New Mexico and sacrifice her career as a Bay Area photographer.

Another student feels helpless and so hopeless that she has considered dropping out of school to move back home to be near friends and family.

Bush concluded his address by assuring his Iraqi listeners that “the day of your liberation is near” and urged them not to destroy their oil fields, “a source of wealth that belongs to the Iraqi people.”