Students supporting military action in Iraq fight for a voice

Miki Johnson and Miki Johnson

Although most voices raised at Northwestern in recent weeks have opposed the war in Iraq, students who support the Bush administration say they are dedicated to making sure their voices are heard as well.

But members of the Naval ROTC — one NU group that might support the war in Iraq — are not allowed to voice their opinions about any military action ordered by President Bush, said Captain Jeffrey Keho, Naval ROTC commanding officer.

“Our job is to carry out military actions, not to critique them,” said Keho, explaining that all military personnel take an oath not to use their position to validate their opinions or speak on behalf of the military.

Although the military does tend to be conservative, Keho said, many members of the military are actually against war because they are the most likely to be affected by it.

Several students raised their voices at the March 12 meeting of the Associated Student Government when senators voted not to adopt a resolution that would have condemned unilateral action against Iraq by the United States.

After many students spoke at the meeting in support of the war, ASG instead decided to set up an online referendum to gauge student sentiment.

Karl Zimmerman, who lobbied to strike the antiwar resolution, also organized a rally opposing the resolution and supporting the Bush administration that coincided with a Feb. 21 peace rally.

“(We wanted to) make sure the students’ voice wasn’t that we are against the war (since) there were a large number of us for it,” said Zimmerman, a Weinberg freshman.

Ben Kohlmann, College Republicans president and ASG senator, also opposed the resolution because it didn’t fairly portray student sentiment about the war. But he was equally troubled to see ASG taking a stance on political issues.

“For ASG to take up this issue is pointless,” said Kohlmann, a Weinberg junior. “It was not created to be a political outlet; it was created to make life better for students on campus.”

Scott LeBlanc, a Medill freshman, was so “bothered” by the antiwar resolution he wrote a letter to The Daily urging its defeat.

LeBlanc said he is satisfied with ASG’s decision to poll students instead but added that a dominant antiwar sentiment is apparent throughout campus.

“A lot of professors here are politically motivated,” LeBlanc said. “I have felt intimidated in some classes.”

LeBlanc said professors should have the right to voice their opinions outside of class, yet he has felt “alienated from the class” when professors made “snide comments about Bush or (a) crack on the war.”

Kohlmann said another reason both sides of the issue aren’t being heard on campus is that the antiwar community tends to get “all the press” because they are more vocal.

Similarly, one of the reasons Zimmerman organized the February rally was to ensure people who support the war efforts were not as quiet as they usually are, he said.

“It gives the wrong impression that the voice isn’t there, even though it definitely is,” Zimmerman said.

Kohlmann said he sees a slight bias in the university’s decision to bring primarily liberal speakers to campus. Former Democratic Sen. George McGovern criticized the Bush administration’s actions in Iraq in his Thursday speech, as have many of NU’s recent speakers, Kohlmann said.

“In an educational environment, in order to learn you need to get both sides of the issue,” he said. “To me that’s just not happening.”

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