The head of a new YSU organization said that America's actions make people hate this country.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Mike Kelt was strolling across the Youngstown State University campus, killing a little time before his first class of the day, when he stopped in his tracks outside the student center.
There, on a sunny Monday morning two days before the one-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a group of peace activists had a forum called "The World After 9/11: Can you make sense of it all?"
Many of the speakers, which included local activists as well as people from Chicago and New York, assailed the U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
They called for withdrawing U.S. support of Israel, talked about the thousands of Iraqi and Afghani civilians killed by U.S. bombings, and said the United States had to share in some of the blame for the Sept. 11 attacks.
Kelt, 20, whose father fought in the Vietnam War, couldn't believe what he was hearing.
"Give me a break," he said, waving his hand and walking away.
"These people need to look at that big hole in the ground in New York. Three thousand people. Dead. Who's responsible for that? We are?"
That was the reaction of many students who stopped by to listen to parts of the forum Monday.
"Some of these things I find really offensive," said Eric Devault, a freshman from Austintown and a member of the Ohio Army National Guard.
"They have the right to say whatever they want," said Amy Socorsi, a YSU junior. "But, I guess I just think it's pretty tasteless, especially with Sept. 11 coming up again."
The forum was sponsored by Youngstown Peace Action, Workers Solidarity Club of Youngstown and the Youngstown Student Peace Action Network, a new YSU student organization.
"We need to have a voice of opposition to end a lot of America's foreign policy, which isn't in the best interest of most people around the world," said Jacob Harver, 20, a freshman history major and co-chairman of YSPAN.
Harver said YSPAN has only four members, but he said he hopes the number will grow. Though he condemned the Sept. 11 attacks, he said U.S. foreign policy breeds such terrorism.
"People aren't just born hating America; it's our actions that create that," he said. "To address terrorism, we need to find the culprits and not just blindly bomb countries in which more civilians are killed."
One of the featured speakers was Ahmed Bensouda, 22, of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates. Bensouda, a pro-Palestinian activist at the University of Illinois, recently spent three weeks in jail for violating his student visa by not being enrolled in school.
Bensouda, who is free on $10,000 bond pending an immigration hearing in January, said there are thousands of people like him being detained in the United States and worldwide.
"I was just one of the lucky ones" to be freed, he said.
He said the experience left him even more committed to changing U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.
The "Bush regime" will continue to stifle dissent and "intimidate people to shut up and quietly fly their flags outside of their homes," he said.
"If the state is not coming for you now ... they'll be coming for you later for something that you believe," he added.