‘We will meet that threat now’

Herald Staff Report

A four minute speech heralded unsure times across the world when threats and warnings became bombs and missiles in the Middle East.

Here on the Hill, in the comfort of dorm rooms and on the floors of gymnasiums, students watched the flood of news reports.

American and coalition forces launched the first stages of an attack on Iraq last night as blasts and air raid sirens were reportedly heard over Baghdad.

Speaking from the Oval Office, President Bush announced the effort to disarm Iraq had begun with strikes against military targets meant to undermine their ability to wage war.

In Zacharias Hall, Rineyville sophomore Emily Newton gathered with friends and watched the breaking news reports.

“This is a real awakening and eye opener,” she said. “A lot of young people signed up for money for school, and after 9/11, look what happened. Their whole life was ahead of them, and now it has been postponed.”

CNN reported last night the first attacks were an effort to “decapitate,” or kill, the leadership of the Middle Eastern nation. Missile launches from Navy ships were reported throughout the evening.

“The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder,” Bush said. “We will meet that threat now with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of firefighters and police and doctors on the streets of our cities.”

Two and a half hours later, Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein addressed Iraqis and promised victory over America and its allies.

“They will face a bitter defeat, God willing,” Hussein said, according to an Associated Press story. “You will be able to achieve glory, and your despicable infidel enemies will be defeated.”

Monday night, Bush made an internationally televised speech giving Hussein and his two sons 48 hours to leave Iraq or face warfare. Last night’s announcement came two hours and 15 minutes after the deadline had passed.

The New York Times reported thousands of American and coalition troops had amassed at the Kuwait-Iraq border yesterday morning, awaiting orders from the president to attack.

Bush addressed the 250,000 troops waiting to enter Iraq. The New York Times reported that 17 Iraqi troops surrendered yesterday afternoon.

“To all of the men and women of the United States armed forces now in the Middle East, the peace of a troubled world and the hopes of an oppressed people now depend on you,” he said. “That trust is well placed.”

President Bush said the attack was supported by more than 35 nations. There was also backing at home.

Sen. Joe Lieberman, D-Conn., said he supported the president because he believes Hussein has weapons of mass destruction.

“After all is said and done, this is about one evil dictator,” Lieberman told CNN from Washington, D.C.

As Washington officials announced an attack on Iraq, Western students were glued to televisions.

In a third floor room in Zacharias, Newton and three friends planned on studying for a test they had today in their physical education class.

Instead of asking questions to each other about strength and endurance, they spent time asking questions about an event that was occurring thousand of miles away.

As they watched, they asked things that were both trivial and pressing: “I wonder if it’s cold there?” “How far away is Turkey?””Who’s on our side?”

Haywood sophomore Nathan Peters has friends from high school and college who are currently serving in various branches of the military.

“It got me scared,” he said. “I don’t understand this. Do you realize how many people in our graduating class are over there?”

One of Peters’ friends recently began the married life, only to have to leave it behind. Now there is concern that he may never get that life back.

“I don’t want to think that some of these people won’t come back,” he said.

In the Preston Center, basketballs stopped hitting floors and treadmills stopped running. Instead, students rushed toward televisions and silently stared as Bush announced the attacks.

Nina Maness, a freshman from Gallatin, Tenn., sat near the televisions, crying with her head in her hands. Maness said the hardest thing for her is knowing that she has several friends overseas right now — among them one stationed in Iraq and another in Afghanistan.

“It almost seems pointless, like there should be another way besides war,” she said.

While students watched, faculty members looked past their own initial reactions. They offered answers and contemplated what this attack could mean for their students’ generation.

Soleiman Kiasatpour, a government professor who specializes in Middle Eastern politics and international relations, said Bush’s remarks about restoring control to the Iraqi people is faulty because the country has never had a democratic government.

Kiasatpour said attacking Iraq will not be difficult — their military forces have been weakened from the 1991 Gulf War — but the implementation of a new regime will be hard for the country.

“It will be easy to topple his regime, but to replace it is another story,” he said. “To create a functioning government in this country will be a much harder task.

“The U.S. doesn’t have a good record in doing that.”

History professor Marion Lucas agreed.

He said the United States promised to rebuild the government in Afghanistan but has now set those plans aside.

“They need all sorts of rebuilding there, and we haven’t done that,” Lucas said.

Both professors agreed this action could be setting a critical precedent for future generations.

Kiasatpour said previous wars began when a nation had been attacked or saw signs of future conflict.

With Iraq, the United States is going into war unsure their foe will attack them, setting a new standard young Americans may someday have to face, he said.

“Now you’re going to increase the possibility of war by creating the new idea that it’s OK to attack if you think you’re going to be attacked,” Kiasatpour said. “They have a greater likelihood of being affected by war.”

Lucas said that he feels the war will cause international relations to be worse for future generations.

“We had the sympathy of the world with us just two years ago,” he said. “In the space of two years, by alienating our allies, by going against the United Nations, we’ve alienated the world. That’s going to be a problem for the future generation.”

Herald reporters Joseph Lord, Mai Hoang, Jessica Sasseen, Abbey Brown, Clare Lowther and Shawntaye Hopkins contributed to this report. Reach the reporters at [email protected]