Those of you who read the Badger Herald might have seen an article I wrote, which criticized SLAC's methods for being too extreme. There was a brief comment near the end that took issue with the Campus Anti-War Network as well, but labeled their tactics as necessary. Despite the necessity of protest, I found the occupation of Herb Kohl's office to be a bit over-the-top, if not an expertly crafted publicity stunt.
Well, today, I decided to see where CAN is going now. It looks a bit more promising, but I can see flaws on the horizon.
CAN is planning on switching it's attack and message. Instead of standing their ground on the broad campaign to bring an end to the war, they're focusing on the most indefensible tactics of the war - torture. Since the abuses of Abu Ghraib and the administration's defense of interrogation tactics, the left has touted these offenses as the most egregious example of a failed war. Now that members of the American Psychological Association have come out against the APA's involvement in torture tactics, CAN has decided this issue is one that is completely indefensible and a good striking point for the war. (Side Note: the APA has come out against torture before, but recent reports show psychologists may have been involved in some of the government's interrogation tactics after all.)
The basis for this change is definitive local action. By focusing on the issue of torture, they're taking a portion of the war that the vast majority of the public rejects and forcing the University to take a position on it. Of course, administration officials will do no such thing. Yet, they're attempting to circulate a petition rejecting the use of torture amongst the faculty, through Prof. David Rosenthal.
CAN is taking aim at what they call "Campus complicity" in the Iraq War by remaining silent.
However, they made clear the approach is not going to be one of antagonism. They simply ask the university to condemn torture - albeit, with certain political strings and riders hidden beneath such a proclamation. When the university doesn't respond, CAN points to the university as refusing to abide by a moral decision that many of us would easily make.
They're hoping this will get more people on-board. I'm skeptical, as usual.
Campus complicity is good place to start, this I agree with. Certainly, there is probably enough research going on at this university or others tied to the war. If it's made public, it could become a very public sticking point for the local media and raise publicity and awareness.
That is, if this sort of research actually is happening. It is a big "if". Someone at the meeting mentioned research on sleep deprivation that may be tied to interrogation methods. If it's true, I'd like to see it. Otherwise, don't spread half-truths. Research the research.
The problem lies in the aspect of torture as their campaign "theme." In terms of a public discourse, the subject is pretty well under CAN's belt. Yet, in terms of recruiting others, torture is an unattractive topic. If CAN comes out and assails the Gonzales position and cites a bunch of memos, it may bore onlookers. If they stage symbolic recreations of Abu Ghraib and flash depictions of torture, people will look away. The majority of the country doesn't want out of Iraq because of what we're doing to their people, they want out because of what we're doing to our soldiers. The abuses are just more sad facts of war the public would rather not see anymore.
Also, the logic behind the torture focus is a bit faulty. They're operating under the idea that occupation is a form of torture and inevitably leads to such practices. They plan to pound home this idea by showing the Battle of Algiers and maybe getting Professor McCoy to speak. It works on college campuses, but if you reaching into the general Madison community, I'm not sure how the academia approach will play with normal residents. People will make the connections between Algeria and Iraq, I'm just not sure they'll accept them.
It becomes a balance of awareness and action. If CAN finds ties to Defense Dept. tactics through this university and take serious issue with it, they might actually get the ball rolling on a national outcry. Otherwise, they might remain just another group of college students with big ideas.
One of the members of CAN turned to me during the meeting and said, "The problem with leftist groups is there is all this division, while the conservatives stand united." While I think the conservatives are in similar disarray, he has a point. It all sounds so united at first - US out now! Then you hear the chorus of united voices break down into separate cries: "End Imperialism!" "Give Peace a Chance!" "What would Jesus do?"
CAN has promise if they can hold those cries back and unite their voices throughout the country. It's hard, but it has been done before - and without facebook.
So what do you think? Comments, please: what are your opinions on the Campus Anti-War Network?
I would like to hear the conservative opinion on this though.