s a college freshman, I marched alongside millions of Americans on Feb. 15, 2003 in protest against the impending U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. I still remember the neon orange poster on which I had stenciled "Stop the War on Iraq" in black ink. Never did I imagine that, halfway through my dual-degree graduate program, almost four years after the largest coordinated antiwar demonstration in human history, I would still be stenciling the same slogan on neon orange posters.
In many ways, the war turned out even worse than many predicted. The war is criminal in its violation of the Geneva Conventions and has resulted in a catastrophic loss of life-3,300 coalition troops and over 655,000 of our Iraqi brothers and sisters. The war has also served as a cheap pretense for a broad assault on our civil liberties, including the violation of habeas corpus, condoning of torture, and rampant racism against Arabs and Muslims. Most disturbingly, the war has given into self-defeating pathologies of hatred and, according to a declaration from 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, has made the world less safe and less free.
As I ponder the Iraq war, I search for ways to speak for the Iraqis whose country is being laid waste, whose families are being mutilated, whose culture is being sabotaged. As I search for ways to speak for those who too often go unheard in the media while this senseless war rages on, I remember the words of Martin Luther King Jr. in a Vietnam antiwar address he delivered at Riverside Church on Apr. 4, 1967: "We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak."
Next week, many of us who are sick of the suffering inflicted in our names plan to "speak" by participating in a nationwide strike. As an organizing member of the Columbia Coalition Against the War, I invite the entire Columbia community, including students, faculty, staff, and the administration, to join us in publicly and actively opposing the unjust war in Iraq.
We, the coalition, call upon the people of this country-especially our generation-to shoulder the responsibility of bringing an immediate end to this war. We strongly encourage the students of Columbia to walk out of classes in opposition to this war. We call on the faculty and administration to set aside business as usual, join our strike, and sign our petition, available at www.gopetition.com/online/11069.html.
Columbia, as a global University, has a responsibility to take a proactive stance against this illegal war. By investing in corporations crucial to the war effort, our University has aligned its financial future with America's protracted occupation of Iraq.
We therefore call on the administration to divest from these corporations for the duration of the war to hasten the war's end.
We unite on the upcoming anniversary to "rekindle the flame of protest that flared up all over the world on that date four years ago," historian Howard Zinn noted in his support for a nationwide strike. Our protest and teach-in on Feb. 15 is only the beginning. We aim for this to be the rebirth of a strong and diverse antiwar movement on Columbia's campus and on campuses around the world.
We will work to build support in our schools and our communities for resistance to the war. We will give voice to the majority of Americans who have expressed their strong opposition to the war. We will show the leaders in Congress that we, the people, are the true "deciders."
If you are still uncertain about helping end the war, consider the eerily accurate words of Martin Luther King Jr. in his speech against the Vietnam War: "Even when pressed by the demands of inner truth, men do not easily assume the task of opposing their government's policy, especially in time of war. Nor does the human spirit move without great difficulty against all the apathy of conformist thought within one's own bosom and in the surrounding world. Moreover, when the issues at hand seem as perplexing as they often do in the case of this dreadful conflict, we are always on the verge of being mesmerized by uncertainty. But we must move on ... move beyond the prophesying of smooth patriotism to the high grounds of a firm dissent based upon the mandates of conscience and the reading of history."