The students, faculty, and staff of Hampshire College have voted to condemn the “War on Terrorism” and propose alternative solutions. The vote, which was won by a margin of 693-121 (with 11 abstaining or ambiguous votes), is believed to the first such decision by a college community in the United States. (A majority of the students, faculty, and staff participated in the vote.)
“Our community has spoken,” said Michael Sherrard, an organizer with Hampshire Students for a Peaceful Response, which sponsored the vote and authored the anti-war resolution. “We refuse to fall into silent support for an unjust war that kills innocents overseas, and threatens our safety and civil liberties at home.”
However, organizers were quick to defend the right to free expression of those who disagreed with the vote.
“As a diverse community of strong individuals, there are some at Hampshire who do not support our views. Even if they are in the minority, their opinions, and rights to free expression, must be respected. We wish that politicians and the media would extend the same respect to those of us who oppose this unjust war, or who happen to bear the same skin tone as Osama bin Laden,” said Donald Jackson, also a member of Students for a Peaceful Response.
Hampshire has a precedent for trend-setting political statements. In the early 70s, students voted for the impeachment of President Nixon. The college was also the first to decide to divest from apartheid South Africa. With this vote, organizers hope to make a similarly strong public statement, and build a movement which can similarly change the course of U.S. foreign policy.
Students for a Peaceful Response is a multi-campus coalition in Western Massachusetts formed in the wake of September 11, and active in the growing nation-wide student movement against the war. It is organized around six points of unity: mourning for the victims of the September 11 tragedies; a call for the peaceful pursuit of justice, rather than war and militarism; condemnation of religious, racial, and ethnic scapegoating and bigotry; opposition to the curtailment of civil liberties; desire to provoke discussion of the root causes of terrorism; and recognition of global justice as the condition for a true and lasting peace.
Full text of the statement approved by the community:
The tragic day of September 11, and the days following, have been a time of profound suffering for people everywhere: firefighters in New York, secretaries in Washington D.C., and farmers in Afghanistan. One indiscriminate act of violence has been followed by another, a pattern seriously endangering the prospects for a just and peaceful world. In such a time of loss, we must ask ourselves – is there a path out of this escalating cycle of violence? Yes, we can respond to the tragedy of September 11 as a crime against humanity, carried out by individuals, not as an act of warfare for which a nation must be held responsible. This path would proceed within a framework of genuine international cooperation and be designed to bring to justice those guilty of the crime – without destroying the lives of innocent millions. It would employ the proven tools of transparent and conclusive investigations, diplomatic and police efforts, and fair courts of law to achieve its goal. At home, we can meet the immediate need for effective security through common-sense solutions that apply fairly to everyone, while preserving our hard-won civil liberties.
Instead, the Bush administration has embarked upon a very different path–with disastrous consequences:
The death toll of innocent Afghan civilians killed by inevitably imprecise bombing is mounting.
The U.S. military campaign has made it impossible for international relief organizations to deliver the food aid necessary to prevent the starvation of millions of Afghan civilians in the winter now beginning. The token and scattered aid efforts of the United States have been roundly criticized as insufficient, or even counterproductive, by such organizations. A massive humanitarian crisis remains.
While the Northern Alliance has forced the Taliban from power (certainly a welcome development), they too possess a disturbing record of human-rights violations, especially against women and political dissidents.
The current suffering in Afghanistan will only deepen the conditions of loss and desperation which foster international terrorism. Even the CIA has stated that strikes against Afghanistan are “100% certain” to lead to terrorist reprisals.
The recent “U.S.A. P.A.T.R.I.O.T.” Act infringes upon everyone’s First and Fourth Amendment freedoms. Rights to privacy, speech, and association remain as critical as ever and are, if anything, more so in times of trial.
The proposed “economic stimulus” package provides billions of dollars in corporate giveaways and tax breaks, but almost nothing for laid-off workers and poor communities most at risk.
Both at home and abroad, the “War on Terrorism” is symptomatic of the racism of American society, in its disregard for the lives of people of color overseas, encouragement of racial, ethnic, and religious scapegoating and violence, and practice of law enforcement “profiling.”
New legislative and law enforcement initiatives threaten specifically the rights of non-citizens, through indefinite detentions without indictment, military tribunals, arbitrary deportation, and unfair targeting of international students.
For all of these reasons, and many more, we, the students, faculty, and staff of Hampshire College, have no choice but to condemn the current “War on Terrorism,” and demand that it not be expanded to Iraq or any other countries. We call for the resumption of effective independent humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, and the immediate halt to the U.S. military action that prevents it. We call for a U.N.-led effort to establish in Afghanistan a democratic and multi-ethnic government, respectful of the rights of women. Furthermore, we demand that the Hampshire administration join us in resisting any arbitrary and unfair law-enforcement invasion of our own community, especially efforts targeting international students and campus activists.
Finally, military action will never put an end to international terrorism, which often stems from forces that have previously received the support of the American government. In its place, we must, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter – but beautiful – struggle for a new world,” a world where hunger, war, and economic injustice, the root causes of terrorism, are eliminated. This way alone leads to safety, security, and lasting peace. Thus, we commit the full resources and energies of our community to this endeavor, and challenge our colleagues at schools around the country, and all over the world, to do the same.