On February 20th in Montreal the Student Society of McGill University had its first-ever successful general assembly. What was it that brought hundreds of McGill students together? A desire to hold a campus-wide strike against the pending war in Iraq. Not wanting to be upstaged by our normally less political cross-town rivals, Concordia students will be voting on a resolution against the war in a CSU general assembly today (March 5).
A demonstration regouping all the schools from across the city will leave from in front of Concordia’s Hall building at 3pm. These actions are part of a North America wide student day of action. Anti-war sentiment amongst students is well founded. The potential costs of a war are great. A best-case scenario will be the death of thousands of Iraqis. In a worse-case scenario, tens of thousands of Iraqis may die, terrorist attacks against the U.S. or Britain will ensue and regional conflicts, will multiply. Canadian students know our government could be complicit in a devastating war.
According to Time Magazine, Canadian forces are already in the Gulf and they are ready to provide logistical support for an American-led invasion. Prime Minister Jean Chretien has decided to send Canadian soldiers to Afghanistan in an attempt to placate the Bush administration by relieving U.S. soldiers there. As students we understand that this war is primarily about oil. Not only access to oil but control over the Iraqi supply, which has the second largest known reserves in the world. Also, it is about the currency in which oil is traded. In November of 2000, Iraq switched from the dollar as its petrol-currency to the Euro. Jordan followed and with Norway’s possible adoption of the Euro as well as Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s distrust of the U.S., other countries may follow.
If more countries decided to sell their oil denominated in the Euro, the dollar’s role as the world reserve currency could be seriously threatened. This could result in a flight from the dollar, long-term asset portfolios could move toward the euro, the cost of the U.S. trade deficit would be magnified, and the stock market could seriously deflate along with the dollar. Control over the second largest oil reserves in the world and the maintenance of the U.S. dollar as the oil currency are the reasons for potential American aggression. Arguments about Saddam?s evils, democracy and liberating the Iraqi people are little more than a smokescreen.
Yes Saddam is a vile dictator. Yes he gassed thousands of Kurds. Yes he has committed massive human rights abuses. Nonetheless, throughout his murderous reign in the 1980s he was supported by the U.S. According to the NY Times, American assistance continued even after “Iraq did turn its chemical weapons against the Kurdish population of northern Iraq” in March 1988. (Patrick E. Tyler, “Officers Say U.S. Aided Iraq in War Despite Use of Gas” NYT, August 17).
In addition, the U.S. track record for supporting representative government has been haphazard at best; it is just as likely to undermine democracy as support it. History provides us with many such examples from Chile to Iran. Still, lest some believe this behaviour is just ancient history, this past April the Americans funded and consolidated the Venezuelan opposition, which briefly ousted twice democratically elected President Hugo Chavez.
Finally, it is hypocritical of Bush to claim he cares about Iraqis. The U.S. has been the main proponent of continued UN sanctions, which according to the UN have cost at least 500 000 lives. Today across North America students are saying no more. As members of the global community we no longer accept Bush?s murderous hypocrisy. The Bush and Blair team, with quiet support from Chretien, have no right to wage this war in our name.
Fund education not war!