Healthy debate and skepticism about government is needed

Jay Lively

As we draw closer and closer to the presidential election in November, a vigorous dialogue and exchange of ideas should be raging at our universities and colleges.

But it’s not.

Political apathy has become a danger to our democracy, and it runs rampant among our institutions of higher learning. If the important political debates of our times are not had amongst students and teachers then they’ll certainly be had behind locked doors where records are sealed and “doublespeak” goes completely unchecked. Our politicians and leaders are making promises they can’t keep and often don’t intend to. The guilt can be spread across party lines.

That being said, allow me to criticize President George W. Bush and the direction our great nation is heading. I love my country, but can we please get past that? Love for our country gives us every reason to talk about the ways we can make it better. We should be skeptical of hollow slogans and catch phrases. We must question the decisions our leaders are making.

Bush’s tax cuts were irresponsible. This is happening while Western has to deal with budget cuts and tuition increases. Our tuition has gone from $1,010 in 1999 to $2,025 this semester. That’s a 100 percent increase. Too much of the tax cut’s burden is being pawned off on the states. Bush’s doublespeak of education reform is hideously deformed.

We were misled concerning the war in Iraq. We know for sure there were plans to invade Iraq before Sept. 11, 2001. The extent of those plans is the only stone left unturned. The CIA just recently confessed that at no time did they say or imply Iraq was an immediate threat or that Saddam Hussein had ties to Al-Qaeda. If I’m not mistaken, that was certainly the impression “W” gave us.

I will concede Hussein was a horrid dictator and the world is better off without him. But isn’t Bush’s mantra of “The evil-doers hate at our freedom,” a rather simplistic assessment of a complicated situation? I’ve been to a Muslim country, and they don’t hate our freedom.

There are two very important questions we need to ask. First of all, was it worth the price? Thousands of lives lost, tens of thousands injured for life and billions of tax-payer dollars leads me to think it wasn’t. Second, how did we get ourselves into this situation?

To address the latter we need to be students of history and dive deeper for a moment.

Hussein was a friend and ally to the United States throughout the 1980s. A video clip from 1983 shows current Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with the dictator. That was the same year Hussein first used chemical weapons against neighbor Iran. That was also the year the Reagan administration began supporting Iraq militarily. This military support continued with Bush Sr. until the Gulf War – a war Washington knew was going to happen and could have done more to prevent.

“We have no opinion on your border dispute with Kuwait,” U.S. Ambassador to Iraq April Glaspie said in 1990 shortly before the Iraqi invasion. That message was from the White House.

Many saw this as Washington’s tacit approval for Hussein to invade Kuwait.

Certainly Saddam, a decade long ally, saw it this way.

My point in this history lesson is that as citizens we are dangerously mis-educated. To be good citizens we must be informed and take on a greater role in the great debates of our time. I implore everyone to do their research, become educated and make informed decisions by election time. And I beg our teachers and administrators to do all they can to facilitate this dialogue.

Jay Lively is a senior print journalism major from Louisville.

This commentary does not reflect the views of the Herald, Western or its administration.