Courtesy Vanessa Waldref Members of GSC protest war and violence in Red Square last week.

Last Thursday, 20 people from Georgetown Solidarity Committee and others outside the group gathered in Red Square to protest military reprisal in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They held up signs saying, “I am in the U.S. Navy . Please don’t send me off to die before my baby is born. Thank you,” and “I am a mother of five. I struggle to survive in Afghanistan. Please don’t kill me.” This weekend, demonstrators from across the country, as well as members of GSC, are converging upon downtown Washington, D.C., for a series of peace marches.

“As a solidarity committee, we act in solidarity with people who are oppressed,” GSC President Vanessa Waldref (COL ’02) said. “We want the world to be a safe place for uslims and Afghani citizens.”

In a Sept. 17 Zogby/Reuters poll, 75 percent of Americans polled favored “all-out war” against countries that harbored or aided terrorists. Peace marchers and demonstrators are finding themselves in a minority across the country. Some news commentators have criticized their patriotism, and others have sent angry E-mails to individual protesters. Many simply disagree with their positions.

“People are generally in support of war,” Mary Nagle (COL ’05) said. “Fear is the underlying factor. Our nation has never been so vulnerable and exposed before.”

Originally, GSC had planned to protest the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings that were to be held in Washington this weekend. With the attacks, the meetings have been indefinitely postponed. As a result, the focus of action this weekend for anti-corporate and anti-globalization has shifted from the two financial institutions to the impending conflict in Central Asia.

“I don’t think I’ve made a switch,” Mark Lance, a professor with the Georgetown Justice and Peace program said.

Lance said that though there is not a direct connection between the IMF World Bank and Afghanistan in particular, he explained that any group able to engage in large-scale terrorist attacks such as those of Sept. 11 must have a substantial group of supporters. “A population that is prepared to do this has nothing to lose,” he said, “and those of us involved in protests recognize these conditions as similar to the kind brought on by the IMF World Bank . We want to concentrate on the cycle of violence in the world today . the structural relations of states and peoples that allows these conditions to come about.”

During its meeting Monday, GSC focused on its traditional topics of interest – labor rights, global justice issues – while also planning for the weekend’s peace activities. While two groups, International Act Now to Stop War and End Racism and the Washington Peace Center, are planning peace marches on Saturday and Sunday, other organizations, such as the Anti-Capitalist Convergence, are still holding teach-ins and other events originally planned for the IMF meetings.

GSC members and other demonstrators say the issue of economic justice and the problem of terrorism are related, and need a more nuanced response than military action to resolve them.

Others said the ideal solution would be to bring Osama bin Laden, if there is proper evidence, before an international court to receive justice. They stressed the importance of having the United Nations or some other international organization resolve this issue, and not the United States unilaterally. All members of GSC questioned said a military response would create a greater problem than before.

“I think a lot of terrorism arises out of instability,” Nagle said. “These military actions create a lot of hostility which breeds terrorism.”

At points, people expressed their frustration over the current situation in general.

“How do we change this damn world so this s- stops?” Lance said.

“You’re only going to destabilize all these countries – Afghanistan, Pakistan,” Ginny Leavell (COL ’05), a GSC member, said. Waldref agreed.

“There is at heart a connection between all kinds of violence – political and economic. We can focus on specific ways the U.S. need not intervene in a way that continues the cycle of violence.”

Waldref said in the wake of the strikes in New York and Washington, her estimates of participation for the upcoming demonstrations and other events this weekend had dropped from 100 to 40 Georgetown students. She cited safety concerns and said protests against the World Bank and IMF “are not pertinent at this time.”

When asked why they are arguing against military action, GSC members and sympathetic faculty answer in a number of ways. Some refer to a sense of duty to protect civilian lives around the world, not merely in the United States.

“I don’t want Afghani, Palestinian, Israeli or American kids to die,” Lance said. Mary Nagle (COL ’05), a GSC member, agreed.

“A civilian life outside the U.S. is just as valuable as a civilian life anywhere else.”

Other students said they needed to present an alternative viewpoint when so many Americans have already agreed with a military response.

“Many voices are being left out on the assumption that we all agree. It leaves out a huge proportion of the population,” Waldref said.

Besides demonstrations, GSC members and the Georgetown Justice and Peace program held a talk Tuesday about responses to the Sept. 11 attacks. It was attended by 10 to 15 students, faculty and individuals from the community. Most questioned the use of the military in response to the terrorist strikes.

“I feel emotionally skeptical of going right to war,” Dicky Murphy (COL ’04) said after the meeting.

After the meeting, other individuals raised their concerns over the lack of discussion occurring in this country over American responses to terrorism.

“I’m really scared that people are not thinking,” said Francine Bloom, a professor with the Justice and Peace program, said. Lance agreed.

“If a university stands for anything, it stands for critical thinking,” Lance said.

Some attendees compared the military buildup in Central Asia to American involvement in Vietnam. Many more comments revolved around media coverage of the attacks since Sept. 11.

“The media is very powerful and is influencing everyone’s opinion,” Ginny Leavell (COL ’05) said afterwards.

On Georgetown’s campus, demonstrators and other individuals against military action have encountered few overtly hostile responses from fellow students or faculty.

“Georgetown is a safe place for dialogue,” Waldref said. “It is seen as a legitimate viewpoint here.”

Last Thursday’s demonstration, for example, received “a variety of responses, from anger, from agreement, to just uncertainty,” according to Waldref. “I feel like there would be an angrier response if we were to do something off campus.”

Elsewhere on campus, students discussed the demonstrations. Jake Klonoski (SFS ’02), president of the College Democrats, said that members discussed the anti-war movement in the group’s meeting this week.

“The basic feeling was that Bush should be supported,” Klonoski said. “We should support our president in whatever actions he feels are necessary.”

Klonoski defended the demonstrators’ right to free speech, but disagreed with their stance on military responses.

“To take no action is to invite further attacks.”

According to GSC members, they will continue raising awareness on and off campus about peaceful responses to terrorism and the root causes of violence in the Middle East and Central Asia.

“We’re responding to a need for dialogue on this campus,” Waldref said. Leavell agreed.

“We need to get people to not just blindly accept what other people are saying. People need to educate themselves on exactly what is going on.”

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