Author: Max Weidman
Approximately 60 students gathered in Johnson 200 to hear author and social activist Tom Hayden speak about the inevitability of the end of the Iraq war on October 2. “It will end because it is a necessity,” he said, making an analogy between the American occupation and a car running out of gas. Hayden, a member of a group charged with conspiracy and incite to riot in 1968 called the “Chicago Eight,” is the author of more than a dozen books as well as the former husband of Jane Fonda.
Hayden spoke about his faith in social activism and articulated a plan of offense against what he called the broad, institutional pillars of the war, as well as specific, day-to-day confrontations which could help sway public opinion. He said small assaults on ambivalence, such as “Honk for peace” signs, will lead to popular rejection of an immoral, intractable war.
His argument closely followed some of the reasoning in his book, Ending The War in Iraq. According to Hayden, America no longer favors the war; it is harder to recruit new manpower; the Iraqi parliament favors a withdrawal of American troops and more than half of Iraqi citizens feel they have a natural right to armed resistance. The margin for error involved in using polls is beyond the point-most thoughtful, inquisitive citizens have already arrived at these truths on their own. Hayden presented the audience with three issues which he felt needed to be addressed: 1) How will this war ever end? 2) What kind of ending do we support? 3) What does this mean for America and the upcoming election?
Hayden’s answer to the first issue was simple: social activism, protest and an outcry in public opinion. He also recognized, but did not offer full remedy to, some of the mitigating factors in this equation. Hayden said the war was designed to minimize public outcry; there are no draft cards to burn and policemen will no longer beat protesters. He said the visceral effects of the Civil Rights and various student movements 40 years ago owed their efficacy largely to a visible opposition, by government institutions, to free speech. The image of huge crowds being fire-hosed awakened our first amendment sensibilities, he said. Hayden made multiple mentions of recent protests which have had 100,000 people or more.
Hayden addressed the second question by urging intelligent diplomacy with Iran, among other things. As an answer to the third issue, Hayden said to students, “Don’t give yourself to a personality.” The force of public opinion, he urged, must be carried through the elections and past inauguration, for no candidate will go beyond the limits of public opinion.
“I am convinced that the war can be ended by 2009,” he said. What remains to be seen is whether or not the measures he prescribed will bring about that end.
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