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Arizona Daily Wildcat
September 16, 2002

Politics, not religion, to blame for Islamic violence worldwide

As a UA alumnus, I have been a regular reader of the Wildcat since 1995, and I am impressed with the debate currently taking place within its pages. There is one important aspect that has not been addressed, however.

The violence we have all witnessed lately is one of politics and not religion. Most of the people inflicting violence now and in the past have largely been greatly ignorant of their professed religion. If one looks at the Muslim world currently, many of its inhabitants are not even allowed to own a Quran or grow a beard because their Islamic governments would arrest them for fear of being too radical (Uzbekistan for example). In other Muslim countries where the Quran is allowed, many of the people are illiterate in their own language and certainly cannot read Arabic, which is the only language in which the Quran can truly be read (Northern Sudan for example). The average post-9/11 American may well know more about Islam than the average Muslim worldwide. On this subject it should be noted that the recent violence in Israel is a bit of a demographic anomaly.

Recently, there are educated people who are blowing up themselves and others. They are doing this not to further Islam but to achieve a political result. Religion is being used as a political tool for a political end. Islam is not a threat, but rather it is political Islam that is the source of much violence and it is that which must be understood and stopped. Can there be a nominal form of Islam, or is Islam more or less violent than Christianity? These are interesting questions, but not truly relevant to understanding the violence affecting the world today.

Joshua Montgomery
Class of 2001

America needs to ask whether killing civilians is truly justified

We are about to kill thousands of civilians in Iraq. We have killed more than a million civilians in the last decade. All justified, naturally, as "self-defense."

It is a near-historical universal that military acts are justified in terms of self-defense. We must examine, then, the justifications for war on their merits.

The U.S. government has much experience in deceiving the public in its rush to go to war. A short list in the 20th century includes fabrications of Hun atrocities to justify entering WWI, fabrications of aggression in the Gulf of Tonkin to justify escalating the invasion of Vietnam, fabrications of Libyan complicity in the bombing of a German discotheque to justify bombing Libya and fabrications of Iraqi forces amassing at the Saudi border to justify the first Gulf War.

The current justifications given for attacking Iraq follow this tradition of lying to justify war. It is claimed that Saddam kicked weapons inspectors out of Iraq, when it was the head of UNSCOM who ordered them out. It is claimed that we must stop Saddam from developing weapons of mass destruction, but the United States sabotaged the only effective means of preventing this development, by turning UNSCOM away from its primary purpose and into a U.S. spy agency. It is claimed that we should attack Iraq because Saddam poses a threat to the United States, but the United States supported Saddam when he was a much greater threat and committed his worst atrocities. Even when he invaded Kuwait, it was with implicit U.S. approval to take over the oil fields on the border. In spite of the most massive criminal investigation in history, not one shred of evidence has been found linking Iraq to al-Qaeda, and links to international terrorist organizations are tenuous at best.

When Madeline Albright was asked, in 1996, about the 500,000+ children killed by sanctions, she replied that it was a tough choice but, "we think the price is worth it." Is it? If we choose to incinerate thousands more Iraqis under our bombs, the callous disregard for human life and every precept of international law will not put us in good stead with the rest of the world. Every bomb we drop will create more terrorists and more hatred for us around the world. Is the price worth it?

Tyler McMillen
applied mathematics graduate student

Redirecting UA mission based on corporate model dangerous

The article in the September 10 Wildcat "Likins: Time to redefine UA identity focus" is troubling on so many counts it's difficult to know where to begin an adequate response. Although, as the article quotes Likins "This is the beginning of a process and these (ideas about redirection) are not definitive," I am distressed by what looks like business as usual on this campus in terms of decision making. Once again we see the embodiment of the university president as corporate CEO model in action. What else can we assume when the Board of Regents determines that the best (only?) way to conceptualize changes of this magnitude should begin (and end?) with brainstorming by the three university presidents? The degree to which this kind of decision-making model has taken over university governance, here and elsewhere, is as disturbing as it is inappropriate. Universities are not corporations. It is long past time that faculties take back control of campus decision making and return administrators to their proper role of implementation rather than policy formulation. I'm sure we've gone far enough down the corporate, president as CEO road, that such an assertion will appear unthinkably absurd. But believe me, it is not, and the faculty should wake up from its torpor before the corporatists define the university out from under us.

The second problem with this reformulation of the universities' identities is that the process is being driven by exactly the wrong kind of stimulus: budget cuts. While this situation is being cast as a way to turn disaster into opportunity, no one would argue that the formulation of grand visions and possible futures would take on a very different character if the process were being driven by different considerations. The kinds of futures we might imagine by starting with the careful assessment of where we'd like to be headed, and what makes sense for our distinctive role as the UA (and differentiated from ASU and NAU), and then figuring out what resources are needed to get there are likely to be quite different than following the process in reverse. If we take budget constraints as our starting point, how constrained will our vision and imagination be, and how much poorer the results?

Finally, I want to question the kind of differentiated mission for the UA that is already beginning to be constructed. It is clear that the kinds of redirection toward greater selectivity and higher admission standards, a stronger focus on research, and so forth will be appealing to many on campus (including many faculty). Given the abysmal history of this state's support for higher education, however, we might want to think very carefully before we venture further down the road toward elite status. If ASU continues to grow rapidly to serve the needs of the growing Phoenix area, and if NAU pursues a goal of strong liberal arts (i.e., an emphasis on undergraduate) education, where will legislators most likely be looking for cuts during crunch times? To the UA of course. It will be easy to mobililize the anti-intellectual, anti-elitist arguments that have been trotted out so many times in the past. If we're so big on research, we'll hear, why don't we just rely more heavily on our grants, contracts, patents, etc., and reduce our dependence on the state?

I'm not saying that such outcomes are inevitable. I'm also not suggesting that developing distinctive missions for the three universities is inappropriate or undesirable. What I am saying is that the university community, and not just, or even most importantly the president, needs to think these matters through very carefully. We should also be quite leery of letting the current budget situation be the driver of such decisions. I, for one, don't want the principal motive force for new imaginaries to be cast in terms of which programs to cut. This is a truncated view of truly strategic planning.

Marv Waterstone
Associate Professor, Geography


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