Jesse Jackson opposes war
By Prabhat Mehta
The MIT Initiative for Peace in the Middle East kicked off a week of anti-war activities on campus Monday night with an "all-nighter for peace" that featured the Rev. Jesse Jackson, president and founder of the National Rainbow Coalition.
Jackson, who spoke to an overflow crowd at Kresge Auditorium, pledged support for United Nations-backed sanctions to remove Iraq from Kuwait, but opposed the use of force after the expiration of the UN-imposed Jan. 15 deadline for Iraq's withdrawal.
"Sanctions are working," he said. "What's the rush for the artificial deadline of Jan. 15?"
The military escalation in the Persian Gulf has been "driven by ego needs and political needs . . . not national security needs," he said.
Jackson, a formal presidential candidate, felt the administration of President George Bush was acting hypocritically in endorsing UN Security Council resolutions against Iraq, while ignoring many previous resolutions and failing to pay "back dues" which he said now amount to $600 million.
A comprehensive peace solution is needed for the region, Jackson stated. Without an international peace conference which includes consideration for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, a lasting peace will not be reached. "The UN resolution for an international peace conference on the Middle East, that pre-dates the Aug. 2, 1990, invasion, must be pursued," Jackson said at a press conference preceding his Kresge address.
In addition, Jackson saw another road for negotiation in one of the articles of the UN resolution against Iraq. The third article, Jackson said, calls for the resolution of differences between Iraq and Kuwait. He felt this "opens a window for negotiations."
"War no more"
Jackson went beyond the current geopolitical scene, calling for a change in national opinion on war and defense. "MIT," he said, "do the world a favor . . . study war no more."
"When there is no hope left, we fight to reflect our emptiness and lack of vision," he said.
Reminding the crowd that the UN deadline coincides with what would have been the Rev. Martin
Luther King Jr.'s 62nd birthday, Jackson asked the crowd to resuscitate his message of non-violence and social justice. "Justice and peace are indivisible," he said.
Jackson, who was the last speaker at the Kresge teach-in, which kicked off the all-nighter for peace, moved the crowd to frequent applause and received standing ovations both at the beginning of his speech and at its conclusion.
In addition to the approximately 1200 people in Kresge, overflow crowds packed into other rooms on campus to watch the event on MIT cable. Members of the MIT Initiative estimated the total audience on campus to be over 3000. After Kresge was filled, individuals were ushered into Room 9-150, Lobby 7, Lobby 10 and the Stratton Student Center.
discussed by MIT lecturer
Several other speakers preceded Jackson, including MIT Lecturer Joni K. Seager. Seager, who spoke first, discussed the environmental consequences of the deployment of multinational troops in the gulf. "The ecology of a large part of Iraq, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia has already been destroyed," she said.
Seager said Americans tend to ignore the environmental costs of the military buildup in the gulf because of the racist and imperialistic characterization of the Saudi desert as a "wasteland." In fact, she said, the region is part of an important ecosystem.
The deployment has also already strained the limited water supply in the region and overburdened local waste disposal facilities, Seager said. Wastes produced by American and other soldiers in the gulf are probably going into "several big holes," she said.
The consequences of a war in the gulf region would be disastrous to the greater environment of the Middle East, Seager said. Attacks on Iraqi chemical facilities along the Tigris River would imperil an important regional water source and contaminate the Persian Gulf for many years to come.
Seager felt the United States needed to "reassess priorities" at home and formulate a national energy policy aimed at reducing American dependence on non-renewable natural resources such as oil. Americans must learn to "step lightly on the earth," she said. This cannot be done by "wearing combat boots."
Melman calls for
Seymour Melman, professor emeritus of industrial engineering at Columbia University, said the United States has developed a "permanent war economy." He criticized American military spending as grossly inefficient and hurtful to American competitiveness.
The "war economy" has resulted in the "deterioration of both industry and infrastructure," Melman claimed. "The production process is broken down."
Melman promoted the idea of "economic conversion" from a war economy to a civilian economy. The United States, he felt, must break its "addiction to a military economy."
A military economy has resulted in the inability of the United States to deal seriously with "reversing the arms race."
"The war-making institutions of our country must be disarmed," he said.
Fatima Zaidan of the Union of Palestinian Women's Groups told the Kresge audience that Arabs do not want war. "Arab people do not need weapons, they need bread and butter," she said.
Zaidan blamed US policy for promoting aggression in the Middle East. "We are sick and tired of the West dealing with us as a super-gas station," she said.
In addition, Zaidan claimed Israel will use a gulf war to carry out what she characterized as its larger plan of "transfer" -- the mass expulsion of Palestinians to Jordan.
Events continue this week
The MIT Initiative continues events this week protesting the use of force to remove Iraq from Kuwait. The Initiative is sponsoring lectures every night this week. Last night Institute Professor Noam A. Chomsky addressed the group.
Members of the Initiative are linking their opposition to American intervention with such domestic policy concerns as the poor and homeless, racism and race relations, sexism, and economic growth.
Although the week of demonstrations coincides with the UN deadline, members of the Initiative do not believe their efforts are too late. Many note that the anti-war protests of the Vietnam War era began only after US military escalation.
MIT's increased anti-war activity occurs in the midst of heightened activity throughout Boston and Cambridge. Numerous protests are taking place in both cities this week.