Just Another American Publicity Stunt

Anna Schlotz and Snehal Shingavi are UC Berkeley students. Send comments to [email protected]

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"Don't ask us to join, because we will tell you to leave."

Despite the fanfare with which the elections in Iraq have been broadcast into American homes, the balloting of increasingly smaller sections of the Iraqi population only begins to expose the hypocrisy of proclaiming democracy under military occupation-where men and women with guns and tanks at every corner tell you to vote, even though water, electricity, medicine, and housing are still at best unreliable features of daily life.

Elections in which the names of candidates were not announced, where most Iraqis could not name more than a few of the 7,700 people running, and where the major parties were forced to drop the demand for American withdrawal timetables from their election platforms. These were not in fact civil rights at their best, but another orchestrated American P.R. maneuver along the lines of the toppling of the Saddam statue and Bush landing on an aircraft carrier.

Would Thomas Paine have tolerated American elections under British bayonets being called free? Should Iraqis really be understood to be any different? Did the British portrayal of the 1765 Stamp Act riots as terrorism delegitimize the necessity or the validity of the American Revolution?

If not, should Iraqis then be expected to accept the murder of loved ones by ever-smarter bombs and torture in modern Abu Ghraibs, the destruction of their homes and hospitals to find nonexistent WMDs and the permanent contamination of their soil by depleted uranium without protest?

The Iraqi resistance is an organic movement of fathers, sons, mothers, and daughters who are Shia, Sunni, Kurdish, working class, intellectuals, secular, Islamist, and Arab nationalists all united by their opposition to the occupation. Singling out a minority of "fanatical" Iraqis as representative of the entire resistance is only a way of vilifying the right of Iraqis to independence, even as history has demonstrated time and again that the nastier the occupation, the more vicious the resistance.

The US will not even recognize the hypocrisy-and the Orwellian nature- of blaming foreign fighters for the instability in Iraq, as if the marines were an indigenous institution. The anti-war movement has a responsibility to support the resistance as the struggle for the basic human rights of freedom from occupation, self-determination, and the ability to live with dignity; and to place the blame for chaos, civil war and terrorism squarely at the feet of American bombs and foreign policy. After all, the only thing standing in the way of U.S. plans to attack North Korea, Iran or Syria is the implacability of Iraqi resistance.

We believe it has become impossible any longer to be anti-war without also being pro-resistance. The occupation will only end if the Iraqi people are successful at dealing increasingly decisive blows to a U.S. military that shows no signs of leaving.

So, the anti-war movement has to take two important steps. First, it must give platform and support to cases of military personnel and families whose opposition to the war is becoming greater. And second, it must hurt the American war machine where it will be felt the most: military recruitment. The third circuit court in FAIR v. Rumsfeld ruled in November that universities can legally deny military recruiters access to campuses because the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy discriminates against gays and lesbians.

And in January, the marines reported they were unable to meet their recruiting quotas and that the war in Iraq was the single greatest reason young people did not want to enlist. This provides the anti-war movement with an opening not only to protest the military's discriminatory policies and its targeting of low-income and minority students, but also to provide a real referendum on the war-one the last elections did not provide.

We urge the administration of UC Berkeley to take a stand. Tell military recruiters they are not welcome on campus. Gay and lesbian students deserve our support and deserve to learn in environments free from discrimination. Students should not have to choose between an education and war. Iraqi people deserve genuine freedom.


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