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Group forms to discuss Iraq, war

As President George W. Bush's threats against the Iraqi government mount, one campus group is seeking to give voice to those against a possible war.

Over the past several weeks, a broad-based group of about 40 undergraduate and graduate students has held meetings to raise objections to U.S. military action in Iraq.

The ad hoc coalition does not have a formal name, nor is it organized through a hierarchy of leadership positions. Members characterize the group as discussion-oriented and based upon shared compelling beliefs.

"There is no leadership in the group," said member Mark Higgins, a graduate student in ecology. "This illustrates that [the group] is people coming together out of a shared interest."

Their interest focuses on reaching a peaceful resolution to the current escalating tension between the United States and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Although the group has not released any documents outlining its beliefs, members stated that four principles form the basis of their position on Iraqi policy.

The group demands a "lawful, peaceful, just and multilateral solution to the situation," Higgins said.

Although the group's members share opposition to military intervention, they have discussed a variety of other issues, including sanctions against Iraq in the years following the Gulf War and general U.S. policy in the Middle East. Members assert that the diversity of issues discussed is a reflection on the wide variety of members' opinions.

"The group has broad perspectives," said junior Yousuf Al-Bulushi.

Some members object to a war with Iraq from a strictly pacifist stance, while others think military action would be economically perilous. Al-Bulushi said several views have been integrated through discussion to yield a firm stance.

The group is working not only to create a forum for discussion, but also to establish an active presence on campus. They have organized a rally to oppose war on Iraq Wednesday at noon on the Chapel Quadrangle. Members said the rally is the first step in an evolving program to raise awareness of the issues that concern them and to invite more people into the dialogue.

"The Duke community very much reflects the national situation of being under-informed," said sophomore Chris Paul, another group member.

"Everyone is going to have different opinions, but we should try to make those decisions with the best information possible, and I am not sure that is being done," he added.

Other members agree the issue has not emerged as a center of political discussion at Duke.

"[The situation] kind of crept up on us," said senior Jillian Johnson. "The goal of this group is to bring [the Iraq] issue into people's everyday consciousness."

On campus, the group also plans to hold "teach-ins" in dorms and to distribute literature reflecting their opposition to war. Subsequent rallies are expected, leading up to a national protest Oct. 26 in Washington, D.C.

"What I'd like to see are first, large rallies here, then to take them to D.C., and then this thing will kind of grow," Higgins said.

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