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Teach-in presents array of opinions on war to Watsonville High students

Teach-in presents array of opinions on war to Watsonville High students


Apr 3 2003

Watsonville High School took on a topic of global importance Tuesday during a teach-in tackling the war on Iraq. Attended by about 300 students, the Mello Center event offered students a diverse array of perspectives on the Middle Eastern conflict.
“I think our job is to try to give a well-rounded point of view to the students, so they can collect this information and make their own points of view in the end. That’s what makes our students active citizens,” said teacher John Speyer, who, along with Watsonville High history teachers Delia Méndez and Jim Hagan, helped put on the teach-in.
Teach-ins originated from Vietnam War-era protests where students and professors would stay up all night to debate the merits of the war.
The first teach-in occurred in 1965, when 3,000 University of Michigan students spent the night in Mason Hall, listening to countless lectures about the war. With a national draft threatening to place many of the students in a military uniform, the teach-ins provided information about a little known conflict in a far off land.
Many students today find themselves with the same fears that their parents faced during the Vietnam War. At Tuesday’s event, students conversed with a well-balanced panel that included members of both political parties, a minister, peace activists, a teacher of Iraqi descent and a University of California, Santa Cruz, lecturer.
“I thought it was really nice of the school to do this,” said WHS student Alejandra Nolasco. “All the teens can now have more background on the war and have the chance to listen to other people’s perspectives.”
Panelists’ comments ranged from the analytical to the emotional, as Republicans in black suits sitting on the right side of the table took on the more causally dressed panelists ironically placed at the far left of the table.
UCSC lecturer Brian Miller told the students, “Every foreign intervention in the Middle East has led to more violence.” He said that he still has misgivings about the war, but now that it has been launched, he hopes for a speedy ending and increased global cooperation.
“Let’s turn this unilateral approach into a multinational effort to rebuild Iraq,” Miller said.
Republican Party member Tim Cleary told the students, “The only option is full invasion,” and likened Saddam to Adolf Hitler, while fellow conservative Tim Morgan of the National Republican Party ensured the students that the U.S. would succeed in the war.
“No one seriously thinks that the United States will do anything else in the war but prevail and change regimes in Iraq,” Morgan said. “The Arab world is very uneasy about our long term plans in Iraq and we’re trying at every level possible to communicate a series of messages to them. We’re giving them a free country, completely the opposite from what they’ve known under the dictator Saddam Hussein. Their oil resources are for them to rebuild their country.”
Alex Arago, staff member for Democratic Congressional Representative Sam Farr, told the crowd he would like the issue to have been looked at further by the United Nations.
“Going to war always creates unintended consequences,” he said. “The list of things that can go wrong is often longer than the list of things that can go right.” Arago also said, “If we stayed with our containment policy and the inspectors, we could have contained the risk.”
Things got heated when panelist Harlow Williams addressed the crowd. A member of the Bay Area Veterans for Peace, Williams told the students, “I’m angry. This nation takes you people and uses you for cannon fodder,” and called the war with Iraq “unjust, premeditated murder of people far, far away from us.”
Williams said, “There are other ways to solve problems, unless you’re a corporate giant and you’re a greedy son-of-a-bitch. Or perhaps you were born to the aristocracy and revenge seems like a neat thing to do.”
Speaking about President George W. Bush, Williams said, “This man in Washington D.C. has taken the nation like a band of pirates,” and added, “The leadership of this nation are a bunch of terrorists.”
Students were allowed to ask questions of the panelists during the second half of the teach-in. “If the president can’t solve violence in his own country, what makes him think he can do it in Iraq?” one student asked.
Student Jessica Escalante asked, “What effects does the ‘politically correct war’ have on U.S. chances for victory, and does fighting in a humane way hurt the war effort?” Another student named Mary Jane asked, “How are we going to rebuild Iraq if we kill everyone there?”
Adriane Reynoso, a WHS student who plans to the join the Army when he graduates, said he appreciated the diverse opinions represented at the event. “I think it was pretty interesting. There was a lot of stuff I didn’t agree, but that’s their personal opinion and I respect that.”


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