The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

The Independent Student Newspaper of St. John's University

The Torch

Heading for War

As of presstime, America is on the brink of war.

Despite lacking the support of the United Nations Security Council and some of the most powerful countries in the world, the United States is poised to attack Saddam Hussein and the country of Iraq.

In a globally televised speech Monday night, President Bush gave the Iraqi dictator 48 hours to flee the country with his sons, or face removal by force.

While this pre-emptive strike by our nation affects everyone on the planet, those in our university community including students, faculty and administration have reacted in many different ways.

Some have shown support, others anger and fear. Many don’t see the reasoning behind the war. And still others are just not sure how to interpret the situation.

“I’m sick over it,” said Brother Shamus McGrenra, senior associate director of the Office of Graduate Admissions. “Sick over it from a moral point-of-view, sick over it from a personal point-of-view, and sick over it just as what America is perceived in terms of our image in the world.”

The world view of Americans was a main point mentioned by those opposed to war.

“I was recruiting for St. John’s in the Pacific Rim, in Tokyo, Shanghai and Hong Kong, and they have two perceptions of Americans over there,” McGrenra said. “One is the political perception, and they have great disagreement in terms of our policies and how it relates to Iraq and also the United Nations. But they still love us and want to come to America.

“I can only wish that the second part of it was more magnified than the first.”

The justification of this war was also a topic with varied opinions, usually regarding the question of Iraq as an imminent threat to America and whether a pre-emptive attack is necessary to prevent it.

“Just going to war itself requires very strong justification, because when you go to war you kill people,” said Denis Sullivan, professor of philosophy. “Starting a war requires even stronger justification, and I just don’t see it’s there.”

Conversely, some feel that while war is not always the best option, sometimes it is the only option.

“War is always a bad idea,” said James O’Keefe, director and associate professor of criminal justice and legal studies. “However, I do think that the diplomatic options have been exhausted, and I don’t think we have any alternatives.”

Fears of another attack on our own soil further drive those in support of the war, who think Iraq may currently or in the future be capable of such a thing.

“Iraq, I think, is the most threatening,” O’Keefe said. “I mean there’s a clear and compelling record of his long association with terrorist groups. I was there Sept. 11, because I was still with the Police Department, and I understand that we need to never let that happen again.

“If it takes going to Iraq and getting rid of someone that’s a known terrorist then I’m fine with that.”

There is also a fear among some that an attack will spark more terrorist attacks in our country.

“War will have worse ramifications for Americans,” said junior Jordan Walts. “More buildings will be falling if we go in with force.”

Possibly the most obvious supporter on campus is sophomore Erik Hagen, whose residence hall suite is decorated with pro-war propaganda.

“My feeling about the situation is that we have to go in and do what we set out to do 12 years ago and never finished,” he said. “We have to finish what we started.”

Having read that Saddam Hussein was training suicide bombers to attack troops, Hagen’s opinion was solidified that the Iraqi leader poses a threat to more than just the United States.

“I think any country who is training people for suicide attacks is an enemy to the entire free world,” he said. “And this isn’t just saving the national security of the United States, but the whole world is threatened by people like this.”

A lack of United Nations support also troubled many who felt worldwide backing would add validity to the conflict, irrelative of its justification.

“I think if it was a united front, and the entire force of world opinion and world politics would play, I think we would have not only a short-term, but also much more of a positive long-term effect,” McGrenra said.

This feeling did not stop the United Nations from coming under harsh criticism for not acting to back up the regulations it had set forth for Hussein’s disarming.

“I think the U.N. is in serious trouble of maintaining their credibility,” O’Keefe said. “And they seem indecisive in the very area they were formed to resolve.”

This was still not enough of a reason for war, Sullivan argued.

“Certainly the [United States] administration is on good grounds when they criticize the United Nations as being weak in its response to serious emergencies,” he said. “I just think this is not the emergency with respect to which the United Nations should show strength.”

The United States is also coming under criticism for planning an attack without the consent of much of the world.

“With the state of the world, I don’t feel it’s a good idea for the United States to try and go in like cowboys to try and eradicate a situation where the rest of the world doesn’t feel the same way,” said senior Jared Wade. “It’s not our position to be the police of the world.”

A theology lecture on war with Iraq was held March 10 to better inform attendees on the horrors of war. Christopher Vogt, assistant professor of moral theology, moderated the event that drew an estimated crowd of 200.

“There was a lot of concern about the fact that Saddam Hussein is not a good man,” Vogt said. “Basically, that the threat is real and what can we do about it if war isn’t necessarily the answer?”

Many students remain confused about the nation’s options and the consequences of each alternative.

“Just talking to students that I have in class who attended the event, it did seem that they are kind of on the fence, most of them, and concerned that this does seem to be moving maybe too fast,” Vogt said. “But on the other hand, they don’t want a repeat of 9-11.”

Many people chose a middle ground, neither strongly for the war nor against it. These people tend to support their country, while wary of war’s consequences.

“I think a lot of people are against going to war because they don’t want to see any innocent people get killed,” said Ann Wade, technical assistant in the Office of Marketing and Communications. “On the other hand, [Hussein] is a dictator and he’s hurting a lot of people – a lot of innocent people – and he needs to be checked. So I think for that reason, I would probably stand behind the president in his decision.

“I would prefer that we had the support of the UN and the support of the other countries,” she added. “But if it’s a matter of stopping him and stopping him from having these missiles and armaments, then I think we’d have to go ahead and do that.”

Regardless of personal opinion, one thing seems clear. The overall consensus within the St. John’s community is this war is coming, whether the world is ready for it or not.

“The war is going to come, probably come this week,” Sullivan said. “I just hope and pray that the administration is right – that it will be quick, short, and successful.”

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