MVC students ask questions about war
A group of Missouri Valley College students with questions about the war in Iraq gathered Friday for lunch to discuss the conflict with their professors.
Chaplain Tim Kiser, professor of religion and philosophy; Capt. La Daryl Franklin, military science professor; and Gerardo Acay, dean of the college's political science department; were all present to answer questions during the hour-long forum.
The students posed an assortment of questions, ranging from the reasons for the war to the safety of people living in Marshall.
One student likened the attacks on Saddam Hussein to throwing rocks at an angry dog. She asked if a more passive approach could yield better results.
Franklin said he felt the U.S. had exhausted its diplomatic options. In addition, because of the size of Iraq, roughly the size of the state of California, it is nearly impossible to try to passively monitor Saddam's activities with inspectors, he said.
"I can't think of a passive force that will work," he said.
Acay said he had reservations about the U.S. having exhausted all of its diplomatic options, but said national leaders are acting to protect what they feel are the country's best interests. He said the leaders of France and Germany were also acting in the interests of their countries in protesting the war.
"But in their cases, they weren't attacked," Acay said.
English professor Wendy Leslie, also present Friday, said when dealing with someone like Saddam it is possible to be too passive. She said because of the way he thinks, it would be impossible to reason with him.
"It's like trying to make an irresponsible person responsible because you wish it to be," Leslie said.
The panel was also asked if students should limit their exposure to media reports to prevent emotional burnout. The professors universally said learning as much as possible about the war is the key to making the most informed decisions about it.
"One of the great things about our country, I feel, is that we're free and you can make your own opinions," Franklin said.
Franklin also noted that embedded journalists traveling with troops are providing first-hand reports from the field. These reports will add to the historical documentation of the war, he said. Because prior reports from Iraq were filtered by Saddam's government, people in the West are getting their first chance to hear from the Iraqi people directly, Franklin said.
Acay said students should also look for information from sources outside the American and British news services. He said many westerners are very limited to their exposure to outlets from the Middle East.
"We ought also to develop an open mind to those sources," Acay said. "As much as possible, it is important to ferret out information."
Acay pointed out the philosopher Socrates once said that the only evil in the world is ignorance.
"If we had enough knowledge, who knows," he said. "We might not have pursued this conflict."
Students also asked about the relevance of the color-coded alert system and how ready areas like Marshall are for terrorist attacks.
Franklin said the alert system, introduced a year ago, will become more relevant as it is adapted to state and local levels. In New York, for example, a code system is being developed for use by the transit system to ensure safety on the city's subways.
As for a Marshall's preparedness for an attack, Franklin said there is little reason to be concerned. He said cities like Tel Aviv, Israel, and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, have very extensive plans and "international" cities in the United States such as New York and Los Angeles are developing their own plans now.
"The important thing is to be aware of your surroundings as you go about your daily life," Franklin said. "Be vigilant and keep the U.S. defensive posture in mind."
The day's discussion ended with a question about what the people still in the United States can do to support troops deployed overseas.
Franklin, who spent time overseas in Bosnia, said mail is a great morale boost for troops. He said sending e-mails and volunteering with the American Red Cross are also ways to show support. Both Franklin and Kiser agreed with a student's suggestion to pray for the men and women deployed overseas, adding that prayers should be said for the people and soldiers of Iraq as well.
Acay reminded students they could offer their support to U.S. soldiers, even if they do not support the mission they are undertaking.
"It is not logistically inconsistent to say you support the troops and question the war," he said.
Franklin also said when the soldiers return home, they should be treated with more respect than Vietnam veterans were given.
Because of the response from the students, Kiser said he plans to host similar discussions in the coming weeks.