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Speak Up For Peace

Guest Column
Martin Hunter

I am writing to urge the MIT community to take a more active role in calling for a peaceful resolution to the conflict with Iraq.

MIT has in the past acted forcefully on moral and social issues which transcended its elite reputation in science and technology. Students and faculty alike played important roles in the 1960s in opposing the Vietnam War. In the 1980s, MIT joined in the campaign for divestment from investments in South Africa, a global campaign which proved instrumental in bringing down the Apartheid system.

More recently, I was moved by the way the MIT community came together for support and discussion in the week following the terrible events of Sept. 11, 2001. The large gathering facilitated in Killian Court filled an emotional gap many of us needed to bridge, and provided a rare opportunity for students, faculty and staff to interact closely with each other at a personal and vulnerable level. Feelings were shared, and complex issues and implications of the terrorist attacks were processed in the small-group discussions in Killian. In my own group, a professor from Iran, administrative assistants, undergraduate students, and a member of the MIT Board who had lost a friend in the attacks all contributed their views and insights. The wall of writings later set up in Lobby 10 served a similar purpose, providing an invaluable channel for healing and expression, as well as argument and discussion.

By contrast, however, I find a disturbing lack of conversation on campus about the current rush for war on Iraq by the Bush Administration. We are facing a very serious situation. We are being asked to accept the unprecedented possibility of a unilateral, pre-emptive military strike on another nation by the United States -- a move which is expected to cause enormous civilian casualties in Iraq, and possibly of U.S. military personnel as well; a move which will likely exacerbate, rather than mitigate, the threat of terrorist attacks on the United States; a move which may trigger chemical, biological and even nuclear warfare; a move which may initiate another World War. And yet, with a few notable exceptions on campus, like the teach-ins organized by the MIT Social Justice Cooperative and the Technology and Culture Forum, there is little concerted effort to deal with these questions as a community.

My wish is for a deepening and continuing dialogue on these issues to take root on campus. The problem is complex, and fraught with uncertainties. The peaceful path may not seem so clear to many, and some may even outright defend the Bush Administration’s approach. It is essential, however, that we confront the issue and clarify our position, and that we do it now. I encourage everyone, for example, to sign on to a nationwide petition opposing a war with Iraq, which was set up online by MIT professor Nancy Kanwisher at <>. But we must also be increasingly creative and forceful, to find new ways of making our vision heard and acted upon. We must let our voice be heard in the mainstream media. We must let our Representatives know where we stand. We must initiate the dialogue they are not giving us.

The world is living a time of escalating violence and rhetoric of war, and we must find ways to redirect that course and restore hope and faith in humanity. We are certainly responsible to meet and resolve this challenge in our individual lives; lasting change can only be rooted in deep personal transformation. However, as members of the broader MIT community, we are also blessed with a tremendous pool of human resources and potential. It is our duty to make use of that.

Martin Hunter is a staff scientist in the spectroscopy lab.