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Released February 14, 2003


HATTIESBURG - Forum participants debating the impending U.S. war with Iraq Thursday evening took widely divergent views, with one panelist arguing it's "time for action" and others urging a more "cooperative and peaceful course."

"I'm sort of an old-fashioned, patriotic American citizen and I believe what we're doing is right," said John Young of Picayune, a veteran of three combat tours in Vietnam.

"In the real world, this is a campaign for Iraq and not a campaign on Iraq," he argued. "This has been going on for 11 years now and if the U.S. and the United Nations are to have any credibility at all, the UN must stand behind Resolution 1441.

"Iraq has no intention of complying," said Young, a regular participant in Southern Miss' Vietnam Studies Program. "When are the diplomatic solutions exhausted? It's time for action."

Other panelists, however, took opposing views.

Dr. Dan Capper, a Southern Miss professor of philosophy and religion, maintained the United States must seek greater international cooperation to curb the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and counteract widespread "resentment" by many countries of America "militarism, unilateralism and paternalism."

Capper, a self-described human rights activist and expert in religious studies, said Saddam Hussein has inflicted terrible human rights abuses against his own people but that a U.S. attack will only serve to kill thousands more "innocent Iraq citizens...

"The U.S. must recognize that Iraq's noncompliance (with U.N. resolutions) does not in and of itself justify war... We must take the most cooperative and peaceful course," he stated.

Young and Capper were among five panelists who participated in a debate sponsored by the Southern Miss History Department and moderated by Dr. Brian O'Neil, an associate professor of history. The debate was held before a standing-room-only audience of about 300 students and visitors at Stout Hall on the Southern Miss campus.

Panelist Jason Dawsey of the Pearl River Community College History Department criticized U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and other high-ranking DoD officials as a "group of hawks" who have taken over U.S. foreign policy.

"Sadly for Americans, this view has won over President Bush," said Dawsey, who downplayed any link between Saddam Hussein's secular government and the fundamentalist, international Al-Qaeda terrorist movement led by Osama bin Laden. "President Bush is obsessed with Iraq and his cabinet shares that obsession."

One panelist, Dr. Andy Wiest, a Southern Miss professor and military history expert, discussed the modern technological battlefield and America's potential ability to win a quick and decisive victory. He cautioned, however, it would be Iraq's goal to protract the war and inflict substantial U.S. casualties, with hopes of weakening the resolve of the American people.

Dr. James Wolfe, a longtime Southern Miss professor of political science and authority on international law, said launching a war does not violate the U.N. charter as long as the attacking nation is defending itself against an act of aggression, all diplomatic and nonviolent remedies have been exhausted, and that the military response is in proportion to the actual threat.

"Each of us must find his or her own answers to these questions," he said.


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April 20, 2004 4:09 PM