Return of college peaceniks
Students join antiwar protests, but many are skeptical their action will alter US policy on Iraq.
It's a sun-drenched morning amid the red bricks and ivy of Harvard Square and the signs of student protest against US policy on Iraq are sprouting fast.Skip to next paragraph
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"Drop Bush, not bombs," reads one placard. "Are we prepared to build Iraq after bombing?" says another this one dangling around the neck of Harvard Divinity School student Brian Nichols.
He has just rolled out of bed and grabbed a granola bar, and is now taking a stand against President Bush's plans to attack Iraq, mostly, he says, over oil and "to distract from domestic issues."
And so it goes in the quadrangles, classes, and dorm rooms of this famously peace-loving enclave. It's a far cry from the massive draft-card-burning protests of the '70s, but debate about Iraq on America's college campuses is revving up fast.
And now the student protests are growing including marches yesterday at Harvard University, New York University, Boston College, and several other schools. Suddenly the antiwar culture, with its teach-ins and talk of peace, draft dodging, and "American imperialists" is spreading across the nation's campuses albeit with 21st-century twists.
Peace petitions, for instance, are now posted on the Internet. One such document has some 19,000 student and faculty signatures and receives a new one, on average, every 30 seconds.
Some students are already talking about whether they would dodge a draft and how. At Harvard, one junior jokingly wonders if the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy means he wouldn't be drafted if he claimed he was gay.
Teach-ins have sprouted on campuses from Berkeley to Yale. Organizers of a recent session at Drury University in Springfield, Mo., expected 100 people but 250 came and sat in the hot sun for three hours.
Clearly, without US troops being killed or hurt or the serious prospect of a draft the issue isn't fully consuming America's academic hubs. In fact, today's dorm-room discussions "are probably pretty much like those of 1964" before President Johnson dramatically escalated the American presence in Vietnam, says Maurice Isserman, author of "America Divided: The Civil War of the 1960s."
But more than just the Birkenstock-wearing neo-hippies are doing the protesting.
Take Nat Myers, a Harvard junior, who was at yesterday's protest. This sandy-haired son of diplomats grew up in embassies everywhere from Indonesia to India. He's more genial soccer player than tie-dyed Jimi Hendrix disciple. And his opinions fall somewhere in the middle of the campus mainstream.
He's pretty convinced Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein needs to be dealt with somehow. "This is a conflict that probably should be fought ... probably," he says, still clearly wrestling with the idea.
Like many on campus, he's most uncomfortable with the approach President Bush is taking to the issue. "If this war was going to be fought by the United Nations rather than having the UN bullied into it" by the US, it might be OK, he says.