The second teach-in sponsored by the IU student activist group Indiana Students Against War (ISAW) focused on the global “War on Terror” and attracted about 40 people to the four-hour event on April 2.
ISAW member and teach-in moderator Sandrine Catris said in her opening remarks that the purpose of the teach-in was twofold: to recruit more activists and to critique the War on Terror.
“ISAW believes that if people honestly and openly discuss what is happening that they will become activists,” she said.
Featured speakers at the event in Ballantine Hall included Professor M. Nazif Shahrani, who spoke on Afghanistan; journalist and IU political science doctoral student Rafia Zakaria, who spoke on Pakistan; and Bloomington resident Kadhim Shaaban, who spoke on Iraq.
"The United States needs to be talking to a wider range of people in Afghanistan."
- M. Nazif Shahrani, IU professor
Students from ISAW and other organizations had prepared speeches that they presented on Palestine, Korea, Lebanon, Syria, Somalia, U.S. domestic effects and budgetary costs of the so-called War on Terror.
Question-and-answer periods following each presentation were passionate and spirited. Everyone who attended was encouraged to provide their views, which led to some fascinating discussions about varied opinions.
“I felt the teach-in was far-reaching and was struck by the devastation caused by the usage of military force used in this war,” said Radha Surya. “It made me think, ‘What would the world look like, or be, if there was no War on Terror, if the money and resources were used to grant people economic security rather than focus on controlling them militarily?’”
A Bloomington resident who goes by Apple said, “This teach-in made it very clear that the world is still reacting to the ill effects of the time when Western Europe and the United States had colonies. Now, we have shadow colonies, and we are witnessing the results of the attempt of our nation to retain control of other regions of the world. I wonder if we will ever give up trying to control the world. I am hopeful that we will give up that quest, but I really don’t know.”
After the teach-in, Catris said: “The War on Terror has lasted more than eight years, and all the speakers, especially Professor Shahrani, Kadhim Shaaban, and James Cooper all showed clearly that the origins began many years ago with U.S. policy. Also, despite the recent name change, the War on Terror is still continuing under the Obama Administration. I don’t think many students realize that the War on Terror is continuing or they would be outraged and protesting.”
Shahrani, a professor of Central Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at IU, spoke of how the United States, now under the Obama presidency, sent fact-finders to Afghanistan but returned to Washington having only spoken to the same people that the Bush Administration had spoken to.
"Our nation did not learn the lesson from the British involvement in Iraq."
- Kadhim Shaaban, Bloomington resident
“The United States needs to be talking to a wider range of people in Afghanistan,” he said. “If not, the United States will be basing its policy on the same ideas that have failed for the past eight years and more.”
Shahrani also spoke of the need to have local representation in the various regions of Afghanistan to gain local support for the government, just like the United States has elections for local representatives, as well as elections for national representatives.
He examined the cost of the build-up of military forces to “secure” Afghanistan and showed how the cost is unsustainable, unless the United States and other nations are willing to bankroll the government’s military forever.
“Imagine if, instead of building up the military, the world would create a demilitarized nation of Afghanistan, like Switzerland is in Europe, and guarantee its national security,” Shahrani said. “This approach would have a better chance of succeeding than a military build-up.”
Shaaban presented a detailed historical account of Iraq from the days of the British Occupation in the 1920s.
“Our nation did not learn the lesson from the British involvement in Iraq,” he said. “The British gave Iraq a method of governance and left. After the United States invaded Iraq, it remained, and allowed the nation to enter into chaos.”
"I don’t think many students realize that the War on Terror is continuing or they would be outraged and protesting."
- Sandrine Catris, Indiana Students Against War
Shaaban told how sectarian strife and ethnic cleansing began during the U.S. occupation. He also gave historical and personal accounts of the devastating effects of the 12-year U.N. embargo that occurred during the Clinton Administration. He provided valuable information on Iraq’s history and current events.
Linda Stewart asked, “Mr. Shaaban, you spoke of how 400,000 academics fled Iraq after the country descended into chaos. With all those teachers leaving the country, what is the education system like in Iraq?”
Shaaban told of how even basic supplies, such as pencils, were denied to Iraq during the embargo and how an entire generation of people were not given the opportunity for advanced education.
Zakaria gave a historical analysis of Pakistan and said, “If there is one thing that I want you to take from my presentation, it’s that the problems that face Pakistan must be solved using political means, not military force.”
ISAW member Walker Rhea reflected after the event, “I thought that the teach-in revealed the terrible situation the U.S. has created for itself and the rest of the world, especially those countries that have been invaded or intervened in by our military. What seems to be necessary is a real sense of understanding and compassion for the lives of people in countries affected by U.S. foreign policy on the part of the American people. Our military created this problem and we need political and economic strategies to solve them, not domination and force.”
Dave Stewart can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For More Information
Listen to David Stewart's March 31 interview with Kadhim Shaaban on WFHB’s Interchange program.