Northwestern faculty members and students watched the images of U.S. troops seizing control of Baghdad on Wednesday morning with mixed reactions, but agreeing that the situation is not yet resolved.
News reports showed some Iraqis looting government buildings in the capital. The Iraqis took furniture and computers as U.S. troops and tanks rolled in. Others Iraqis toppled a 25-foot statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s main square.
“We’re seeing history unfold and events that will shape the course of a country, the fate of a people and potentially the future of the region,” said Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a press conference. “Saddam Hussein is now taking his rightful place alongside Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Ceausescu in the pantheon of failed brutal dictators. And the Iraqi people are well on their way to freedom.”
But not all NU students’ opinions echoed the government’s strong sentiments.
“It’s not just about protection, but about asserting the U.S. as world policeman,” said Naureen Shah, a member of Northwestern Opposing War and Racism. “The world resents that and it has dangerous repercussions for the United States and their national interests.”
Shah said she thinks it is ironic that the Bush administration is optimistic about constructing a free market in Iraq while the U.S. economy continues to decline and social problems still exist.
“Reports from the United Nations and non-United Nations sources say we don’t have enough money to deal with (Iraqi) refugees,” she said. “It’s going to take years to rebuild that city and it’s a financial burden that’s scary to me as a citizen of this country.”
Others, however, were more optimistic about the day’s events. College Republicans President Ben Kohlmann said he is relieved at the U.S. military’s progress.
“Baghdad is definitely in the control of the Americans now,” said Kohlmann, a Weinberg junior. “And while it is important to find Saddam, the war is by no means over.”
Many journalists and political commentators compared Wednesday’s events in Baghdad to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. But journalism Prof. Joseph Angotti disagreed.”This wasn’t anything like the Berlin Wall because that was a spontaneous action taken by literally thousands of people … I’m sure the U.S. administration would have loved to show (Iraqi) people pulling down the staTuesday, but the military had to help.”
Still, journalism Prof. Jack Doppelt said media coverage of the live event was gripping.
“The cheering in the streets is a positive and liberating image,” he said. “But the looting caused chaos and no order, and we in part caused that chaos.”
As for Iraq’s future, political science Prof. Elizabeth Hurd said establishing a new Iraqi government could result in an “unmitigated disaster.”
“There are lots of options on the table,” she said. “We can simply fly in our guy or put in place a cooperative and multilateral effort.”
Sociology Prof. Charles Moskos said he also is waiting to see the war’s long-term results.
“The interesting thing is so far the war has gone better than expected,” he said.
Although 101 U.S. troops have died, many deaths resulted from helicopter crashes and friendly fire. Military recruitment will become more difficult now that people have seen fallen U.S. troops, Moskos said.
“Yes, it’s a military victory,” he said. “But I’m not sure it will be a political victory.”
The Daily’s Janette Neuwahl and the Associated Press contributed to this report.