Representatives from two campus political clubs met yesterday to tackle and debate issues related to Sept. 11, 2001, and the war on terror.
About 100 students gathered at Heritage Hill on the Alumni Plaza to watch students from the debate club argue whether the Bush administration's responses to the 2001 terrorist attacks, including the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, were justified and effective.
Defending Bush's actions were political science sophomore Mike Huston and journalism senior Kara Karlson of the UA College Republicans.
"We hope to bring to light what the president has accomplished in a relatively short period of time," Karlson said.
On the other side of the issue were Greg Knehans, a political science graduate student, and Joel Feinman, a Latin American studies graduate student.
Both Knehans and Feinman are members of the UA chapter of Refuse and Resist, a national organization that opposes the Bush administration and the war in the Middle East.
"We are here to contribute to an atmosphere of honest debate on real issues," Knehans said. "We seek to inform people about the basic realities of the Bush agenda and urge people to take up resistance to that agenda."
The Republicans began the debate by framing the message that President Bush has been promoting since the attacks four years ago.
"We can no longer afford to take a passive approach, but must take it upon ourselves to defend ourselves and the world" Huston said. "By doing nothing, we accomplish nothing."
The recent trend of elections in the Middle East following the installation of the new Iraqi government was a sign that the United States is bringing freedom to the region, and we must stay in Iraq until the job there is done, Huston said.
"Early removal is not an option," Huston said. "The world is depending on our leadership."
In his rebuttal, Knehans called into question the very nature of the war and asked whether it was appropriate for the United States to take up a war against terror.
"This is not a war against terror," Knehans said. "How can we claim to be fighting terror when the U.S. is the single greatest practitioner of terror?"
Knehans cited America's history of involvement in Central America, Cuba and the Middle East as indicators that the war on terror is more about expanding America's global influence and power.
"This is a war for empire. It's about expanding global domination and controlling strategic resources," Knehans said. "The Bush administration has used Sept. 11 as an excuse to further a larger agenda, including attacks on civil liberties, science and women's rights."
Huston countered these accusations and continued to defend the president.
"Saying that this is a war for empire is empty rhetoric," Huston said. "There are people out there that want to destroy us, that hate us for our freedom."
Huston said the ultimate goal of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a peaceful one.
"You have signs saying that 'W stands for war,'" Huston said, referencing the slogan used by Refuse and Resist. "Well, the 'W' does stand for war, a war to promote peace and democracy, and I stand with him."
When asked if they could find something good about the war on terror, the representatives from Refuse and Resist said that good news could be found every day in the news, but offered no specific examples.
Huston said their failure to find the good side of the war was indicative of the left's negativity and hatred for the American government.
"The left is all about saying 'No,'" Huston said.
Yesterday's debate was the second such event organized by the newly formed club. President of the debate club, Tawfik Maudah, said the goal of these events is not to find a winner, but to foster an atmosphere of free discussion and to educate one another about important issues.