I had intended to write this for last issue, but space limitations required me to yield to others who wanted their voices heard in the pages of The Pacific Index. In a way, this gave the campus an extra few weeks for the opportunity to prove me wrong.
Unfortunately, it didn’t.
Last month, we had an important milestone in our nation’s history, one of that went largely unnoticed by the Pacific community: the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War.
Arguably one of the worst military blunders of modern history, the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 eventually became widely unpopular, leading to large scale antiwar protests across the nation, and in particular on college campuses.
In fact, it became one of the key issues leading to the plummeting approval rating of then-President George W. Bush and the 2008 election of Barack Obama.
Obama made “change” the catchphrase of his campaign. Bush’s unpopularity made it absolutely necessary for any successful candidate to distance himself from his disastrous policies, in particularly his foreign policy.
One could easily make the case that the reason Hilary Clinton, once the 2008 Democratic frontrunner, lost the nomination was her initial support of the Iraq War, while Obama had no such baggage.
To hear most conservatives tell it as well, the current president is a radical leftist bent on taking America down from its “current glory,” whatever that means.
So what kind of foreign policy have we gotten from the ostensibly “anti-war” President who vowed to take home American troops from Iraq on day one of his presidency?
Well for starters, he has more than tripled the Afghanistan body count since taking office, with the US military presence there expected to continue until at least 2014.
After promising to remove troops from Iraq on day one, they stayed there for two and a half more years until the Iraqis finally kicked us out, under the conditions of an agreement that President Bush himself signed.
In the third year of his presidency, Obama launched a campaign “with no boots on the ground” to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, despite the fact that doing so violated the very criticism that candidate Obama offered against the Iraq War back in 2007.
Hilary Clinton, who voted for the Iraq War, became Obama’s secretary of state. When she left, Obama appointed John Kerry, who also voted for the Iraq War.
Civil liberties issues have gotten even worse under Obama than Bush, impossible as it may seem. The USA PATRIOT Act was renewed by Obama, and Guantanamo Bay remains as open as ever. Furthermore, Obama signed the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act which provides for indefinite detention of American citizens without trial.
Assassination is now an openly admitted policy of our CIA. And while on the topic of the CIA, Obama’s recently appointed director of the CIA is none other than John Brennan, chief architect of the Bush drone program. That, too, is still up and running, to understate the matter.
Agressive overtones continue to come from the White House toward Iran, with new sanctions being passed by the Senate last year.
Despite the fact that Osama bin Laden is now deader than a doornail, the global “War on Terror” rages on in the mind of our government leaders, with no end in sight. Meanwhile, our “defense” budget continues to skyrocket.
When most people voted for Obama, I doubt the change they meant was for him to become Bush on steroids. Even Bill Kristol, editor of “The Weekly Standard,” has declared Obama a “born-again neocon.”
With a government so clearly taking the “world policeman” role to heart, where is the anti-war movement to march in the street and protest senseless killing?
Ten years after the start of the Iraq War, have we still not learned any lessons?
Where are the Pacific students carrying on the anti-war legacy of college students in the 1960’s?
Sadly, if there are any left, they appear to be in hiding. This reflects the state of the anti-war movement in the nation at large, which seems largely unwilling to embarass a Democratic president. But wasn’t Lyndon B. Johnson a Democrat too?
Instead, it seems that the student left has taken up a variety of other issues to content itself with. Identity politics figure highly into Pacific’s student life, as do debates about environmental policy. In fact, we have entire centers on campus devoted to their causes.
Don’t get me wrong, these are absolutely important debates to have, and we should discuss at any possible opportunities.
But when we discuss issues of war and peace, we are very literally talking about matters of life and death.
Yet, where are the Pacific organizations dedicated to opposing American aggression abroad?
Why are we so cavalier about what possibly may be the single most important political issue?
Pacific University can do better. I was hoping that the tenth anniversary of an event that has defined the past decade might stir at least some semblance of an awakening.
No such luck.
It doesn’t have to be this way, though.
A little over a month ago, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who may I remind you is Republican, stood up and filibustered the nomination of Brennan as CIA director for about 13 hours. His self-declared purpose was to shed light on the relatively unknown and little-understood policies of drone warfare.
It was an event which dominated the news for a few days, but then quickly receded into the distance, just as I predicted it would.
If you had been on Facebook or Twitter that day, however, you would have seen something amazing.
A scattering of students of all different political persuasions were all posting frenetically about the filibuster. Whether they were ostensibly Democrat, Republican, Libertarian, Green or some other persuasion didn’t matter.
They were there, in that moment, to oppose drone warfare.
Pacific University needs an anti-war movement. Heck, America needs an anti-war movement, and there is no time like the present for one.
It will be hard, but then again, all things worth fighting for are hard.
Ten years after the start of the Iraq War, we owe it to our fallen countrymen to take a serious reevaluation of our nation’s foreign policy.
It is the only moral choice.