Gears of Unending War

Diane Jong | Staff Photographer

Diane Jong | Staff Photographer
Ilghiz Khisamov of the Muslim Student Union was one of several student and UCI staff speakers voicing their opinions for the ‘Gears of War’ series of events at the flagpoles in front of Anteater Plaza.

On the eve of the 6th anniversary of the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, several student groups hosted the week-long “Gears of War,” a series of events criticizing United States imperialism, the University’s support of the country’s expansionary political goals, as well as racism, sexism and worker exploitation.
The groups involved were the Worker-Student Alliance, Muslim Student Union (MSU), Amnesty International, Darfur Action Committee, Campaign for Consciousness and Students for a Sensible Drug Policy at UC Irvine.
With four main events spread from Monday Feb. 23 through Thursday Feb. 26, the program began with a screening of “Occupation Dreamland,” a documentary directed and produced by Garret Scott and Ian Olds. Depicting American soldiers deployed in Falluja, Iraq in 2004, the documentary intended to reveal Army life and the complexity of U.S. wars in the 21st century; the screening was followed by a discussion of the week’s upcoming events.
Lectures discussing war profiteering, labor exploitation on and off campus and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, were all followed by panel discussions, documentaries and the voicing of individual opinion when possible.
A joint worker-student protest Wednesday, at the University Center, and a rally on Thursday, where 500 signatures from workers and students demanding that fees be rolled back and the workers be in-sourced, were among the most important events of the week, according to Fernando Chirino, a third-year sociology graduate student and long-time member of the Worker-Student Alliance. Chirino, stated that the events demonstrated the potential of workers and students to successfully organize.
“If we worked together, we could take UCI back from third-party corporations who leech off of public institutions and from administrators who force students and workers to sacrifice to make up for budget problems,” Chirino said.
One of the main arguments was that instead of fighting off politicians who divert public money away from public institutions and into war budgets, making defense contractors and oil-barons increasingly wealthy, university administrators are forcing the working-class to subsidize those profits through fee hikes and outsourcing.
Ben Jakovljevic, a fourth-year philosophy major and founder of UCI’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy chapter, stated that as they suffer similar hardships, students and workers have stronger relationship than they are aware of. Jakovljevic related the situation to the drug war.
“Because of the current drug policy that we have, there are certain people behind bars … whose voices cannot be heard in a similar way [to the voices of] the workers, especially those on campus who are underpaid … and forced to work 24/7 … [they] don’t have the option to take an hour off work and speak out,” Jakovljevic said.
Furthermore, Jakovljevic stated that the workers are essentially systematically divided to deter them from uniting and demanding fair wages and more benefits.
“The fact of the matter is that these people are being treated like dirt right next to us,” Jakovljevic said.
Dick Plakin from the Los Angeles Jews for Peace also spoke on Wednesday on the solidarity between Jews, Christians, Muslims, Arabs, Palestinians and Israelis in the Middle East. Plakin pointed out that their joint efforts to fight injustices in the Middle East are an often neglected perspective when assessing the Middle Eastern situation.
Thursday’s Iraq Veterans Against the War event proved to be a popular lecture from the series. Veteran Kevin Stendal discussed his opinion that U.S. military strategy is essentially outdated. In spite of technologically advanced equipment and machinery, Stendal stated that the country is continuing to fight the way it did during World War I. Emphasizing his opinion that pre-emptive war is far from a good idea, Stendal stated that the war in Iraq and everywhere else are essentially useless and accomplish little in terms of national security.
Sitting in a room with veteran students, Arab students and students who accept funding from and do research for the military, all discussed the significance of the U.S.’s presence in Central Asia. Chirino stated that it is impossible to argue that military occupations, such as the ones in Iraq and Afghanistan, are not related to UCI.
“Imperialism is most certainly manifest at UCI,” Chirino said.
Undergraduate and graduate students, as well as UCI staff and workers, were also able to participate in the event via public speak-outs. In three scheduled speak-outs at the flagpoles, Ilgiz Khisamov, Dennis Lopez, Hamza Siddiqui, Jow Haider, Chirino and Jakovljevic were among those who spoke, expressing their individual opinions regarding various topics that were addressed in the main events throughout the week. Khisamov, a fourth-year English major and MSU member, stated that the speak-outs had an advantage of a passive audience including administration officials.
“[I found] ‘Gears of War’ to be extremely beneficial in shedding light on the role of the American ruling class in current world economical and political upheaval. Besides contributing to the general discourse of the campus with progressive ideas, ‘Gears of War’ has brought together a very diverse group of clubs. We might have different opinions on the world or different agendas, yet we came together out of concern for our common future and a strong desire of making our world a better place,” Khisamov said.
In comparison with last year’s “Gears of War” event, Chirino said that this year’s emphasis was on finding practical ways to implement actions rather than simply discuss theories.
Although pleased that the events ran smoothly, Jakovljevic stated that the audience consisted mainly of group members and students receiving class credit.
Distracted by a coinciding concert at the Student Center, Jakovljevic stated, “They chose mindless entertainment over intellectual stimulation.”