Peace panelists voice out against war with Iraq

Peace panelists voice out against war with Iraq

By Peter Heidenreich, Staff Writer

The McHenry County Peace Group held a panel discussion “Reasons for and the Consequences of a War Against Iraq,” last Thursday, Feb. 9, at the McHenry County College. The Peace Group was formed shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks to raise awareness of current events and espouse a pro-peace message.

The four invited panelists were Jeff Gunzel, a member of Voices in the Wilderness; Barry Romo, a Vietnam veteran and member of Vietnam Veterans Against War; Frank Schier, the editor and publisher of The Rock River Times; and Salim Yaqub, an assistant professor of history at the University of Chicago.

The discussion began with an introduction of the guests by Mark Eckel, McHenry County College chairman of the Department of Social Sciences. Eckel then laid out a synopsis of the Bush administration’s argument for their ever-nearing war plan. Following this, each of the four panelists introduced himself and gave a short counter-argument against the war based on his own perspective.

The first to speak was Romo, who gave an impassioned plea for peace. He cited the horrors of war suffered by military members and civilians alike that he witnessed while serving as Army Infantry First Lieutenant in Vietnam during 1967 and 1968. In 1972, he lived in Hanoi and experienced firsthand the devastating effects of U.S. bombing campaigns. He contended that suffering and death which would undoubtedly occur during a war with Iraq were not justifiable.

Next to speak was Yaqub, who laid out a point-by-point rebuttal of the Bush administration argument supplied previously by Eckel. Yaqub took a decidedly more academic approach to his speech than did the heart-wrenching Romo, but his conclusion was the same: the Bush administration has not supplied the world with an adequate argument to support its war machine.

Third in line was Schier, arguing that the American mass media, overwhelmingly controlled by corporate interests, were not objectively reporting the crisis in Iraq. He challenged the audience to seek the truth through critical thinking and a healthy dose of skepticism toward the deluge of biased pro-war and pro-Bush rhetoric.

Last to speak was Gunzel, whose humanitarian organization, Voices in the Wilderness, allowed him to visit Iraq numerous times to try to stop the sanctions imposed against the country. While there, he came to know and befriend many Iraqi citizens. Gunzel spoke out adamantly against the deplorable human rights violations that occur daily in Iraq, but asserted that a military campaign with untold scores of casualties was not a viable solution. He said that the implicit message in the Bush administration’s march to war was that Iraqis are not as valuable as Americans.

Following the speeches was a brief question and answer session. The majority of the audience, which reached an estimated 200 people, echoed the anti-war positions of the panelists. For information about the McHenry County Peace Group and its upcoming events, please call 815/455-3683 or 815/477-8109.

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