Chanting “No blood for oil” and “Weapons inspectors, not war,” students, professors and concerned citizens gathered outside MLK Plaza Wednesday to protest against a possible U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The event, sponsored by the Campus Greens, Alliance of Concerned Students and other progressive USF organizations, featured speeches by professors and students alike. Music, free food and a variety of petitions protesting unilateral U.S. actions against Iraq were also available.
USF student Aneesh Karve said in a fiery speech delivered to about 50 listeners that he believes the reasons for a possible war in Iraq do not include protecting or liberating the Iraqi people as the Bush administration claims.
“If this is a war about human rights, where were we during the last twenty years as Saddam raped and murdered his own people?” Karve asked.
In addition, Karve said the war isn’t about weapons inspections. Instead, he said the war is about lining the pockets of U.S. oil corporations.
“I’m seeing a government of big business, by big business and for big business,” Karve said.
Jessyka Boyle, Hillsborough Community College student, agreed that corporations have a strong influence on U.S. policy toward Iraq.
“These people have come in, taken over our government and are holding it hostage,” Boyle said.
Bisher Tarabishy, a senior and member of the Alliance of Concerned Students, called the Bush administration’s reasons for going to war “spurious arguments.” He cited the fact that the United States has not proposed to attack a number of countries with poor human rights records, which also have weapons of mass destruction and nuclear capabilities, such as China, Iran and North Korea.
“There are so many good reasons not to got to war,” Tarabishy said.
Tarabishy also said, based on testimony by Scott Ritter – the former head of the weapons inspection team in Iraq – that before the inspection teams withdrew in 1998, Iraq’s weapon-making infrastructure and facilities had been completely eliminated.
Festus Ohaegbulam, a professor of government and international affairs, echoed many of the speakers’ sentiments when he said that a war in Iraq would be in direct violation of U.S. law.
“They’re not acting according to the provisions of the Constitution,” Ohaegbulam said. “They’re playing politics with your life.”
Besides being an affront to U.S. law, Ohaegbulam said the Bush administration has not clearly explained the consequences of an invasion of Iraq, nor have they explained the consequences of the preemptive strike doctrine.
“We talk about preemptive action, (but) what kind of precedent does that set for the rest of the world?” Ohaegbulam asked.
Freshman Cynthia Norwood, whose father served in the Air Force and was stationed in the Middle East, said she attended the rally in order to check out the different arguments put forth by the speakers.
“I just wanted to hear the views on who else is against (the war in) Iraq like I am,” Norwood said.
Freshman Antoin Johnson said he hoped for a better turnout at the event.
“It would’ve been great to see a lot more people showing an interest in their lives,” Johnson said.
However, Johnson added that the event did persuade him to get more involved by joining the human rights organization Amnesty International.