Remember my earlier post about going to one of UMKC’s daily reflections on the war? Well, I ended up in the student newspaper. It’s a good article, except that I come off saying that I don’t believe democracy will work in Iraq. Yikes!
Luckily, they printed my letter clarifying things. It’s a brief letter, and I thought about going into a bit more detail about what I do believe. But then I thought that might just open myself up for more misinterpretation, and I decided that brevity was the prudent route to take.
Update. Since you have to register for a user account to actually view the links to the school newspaper, I’ve put the contents of both the article and my letter in the comments section of this entry.
Here’s the text of the article:
Campus help students cope with war
By Ahsan Latif
As the current administration in Washington encourages a fierce battle in the Middle East, University administrators are encouraging sober discussion and debate on campus.
“UMKC is committed to an environment that allows people to express varying viewpoints in an open atmosphere. War with Iraq has happened, and we are challenged to serve diligently as stewards of these values in the time ahead,” said Chancellor Martha Gilliland in a statement on a new web page specifically constructed to address students’ concerns about the war.
The website, http://www.umkc.edu/ warwithIraq, is just one of the campus-sponsored services for students in this time of war. UMKC’s Community Counseling Center is providing ready access to counseling in the form of private meetings and support groups, the UMKC police department has increased its officers’ foot and bike patrols on campus, and the Registration Office has taken special steps to accommodate any students that are called to active duty.
Additionally, Bryan LeBeau, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, has established a daily hour of reflection from noon to 1 p.m. until the end of the war. This allows students and faculty the opportunity to discuss the war openly and civilly, regardless of the opinion they hold. Each day will feature a different topic of discussion moderated by a faculty member of the College of Arts and Sciences.
Our nation’s security was the topic of last Wednesday’s installment of the series. Despite audibly suffering from laryngitis, Dr. Andrew Bergerson, professor of history specializing in modern Europe, moderated discussion.
Bergerson described the sessions as having very few rules or procedures and made it clear that his role was to facilitate discussion and moderate debate.
“I do want to steer discussion in a particular direction today, though,” said Bergerson. “I want to know what you think. Will the war on Iraq make the world more or less secure?”
The discussion centered on whether or not the United States would be successful in turning Iraq into a vibrant democratic society as was done with post-war Germany and Japan.
“I don’t think the parallel to Germany or Japan works,” said George Williams, an assistant professor of English. “I don’t think that the Iraqis have a coherent state tradition.”
Williams said that without the precedent of such a tradition, there would be no ideological foundation on which to build a democratic society.
Bergerson said that Kosovo would be the counterexample to the successful reconstruction of Germany and Japan. The former Yugoslavia recently descended into chaos when members of a secret police force assassinated Serbia’s prime minister.
Matthew Sweetwood, a communication studies major, said that he had spent eight years living in Germany and had developed some understanding of the mindset of Germans. He found that Germans were very conflicted because they regretted the rise of fascism, but they also resented the failure and destruction of their nation. Iraqis are undergoing the same conflict.
“For Iraqis the question is ‘Do I think about making the down payment on a Toyota Camry or do I defend the land of my grandfather?'” said Sweetwood. “They’re not thinking about the taste of a Big Mac; they’ve got completely different concerns.”
The hour ended with little resolution but a much deeper appreciation for the ramifications of the war with Iraq.
“We’ll keep having these discussions as long as the war is going on,” Bergerson reminded students as they began to make their way back to classes.
And here’s my letter:
Letter to the Editor – ìThatís not rightî
Regarding the March 31, 2003 article “Campus help (sic) students cope with war”: I commend the University News for covering UMKC’s efforts to respond to the situation in Iraq. However, I would like to correct a statement attributed to me.
In describing a recent hour of reflection upon the war, the article reads, “Williams said that without the precedent of [a coherent state tradition], there would be no ideological foundation on which to build a democratic society [in Iraq].”
I don’t think I said this, and this is not my belief.
Assistant Professor of English
so what IS your belief?
I believe that democracy has as good a chance of working in Iraq as it does anywhere else in the world.
I also believe that the US war on/in/with Iraq is not the best way to put them on the path to democracy.