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MIT professor Discusses Iraq

Aired October 29, 2002 - 12:13   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Opponents of a U.S. invasion of Iraq have taken their argument to the pages of "The New York Times." More than 13,000 professors at U.S. colleges and universities have signed a petition opposing a possible war. They purchased a full-page ad -- actually, it's not a full-page ad. It's a quarter-page ad in "The New York Times."
It all started with an open letter written by Nancy Kanwisher, a professor of neuroscience at MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She is joining us now live for CNN's "Showdown Iraq, One- on-One."

Nancy, thanks so much for joining us.

You started this off by yourself, and you quickly got 13,000 signatures. What happened?

NANCY KANWISHER, MIT PROFESSOR: Well, that's close. Actually, I didn't write the original letter.

The original draft was written by David Fox (ph) and some other faculty members at the University of Minnesota, where it quickly collected a lot of signatures. It was then discovered by Evelyn Fox Keller (ph), a colleague of mine at MIT, and she passed it on to me.

And when I saw it, I thought, well, this is a very good letter. I had been looking for ways to effectively speak out against this war. And so, I said to Evelyn (ph) and David (ph), 'How about we put this thing on the Web?' So we did.

BLITZER: I see the quarter-page ad on the op-ed page of "The New York Times" today. We are told it cost, what, about $35,000 to purchase that ad, is that right?

KANWISHER: A little less than that.

BLITZER: All right. Who put up the money for that?

KANWISHER: Well, so what we did was, we got signatures at an incredible rate. It was really quite surprising to me. I expected a lot of people to support it, but I wasn't ready for the depth and breadth and intensity of the reaction we got. This letter just spread like wildfire.

So, once we got all of those signatures, people quickly started saying, well, you guys should put an ad up. And since I do this just in my spare time and I don't really have spare time, I said, 'Well, I just don't -- I just can't organize that, I can't do it.' But I have a wonderful Web master, Jim Krel (ph) who's been helping with this. And when I asked him, 'Could we do this with credit cards or something?' He said, "Sure, no problem."

And a few hours later, he had it on the Web, and 36 hours later we had $30,000.

BLITZER: And from a lot of different donors or just one -- or a few fat cats came in and put up the money?

KANWISHER: Hundreds and hundreds of donors. We had people donating $10, $30. I think the biggest donation I saw was for $250.

So, it's a very broad-based movement that we've tapped into here. People were so grateful for us for launching this Web site and for giving them an opportunity to speak out.

BLITZER: If the Iraqis allow the U.N. weapons inspectors to go back in, but they have to leave empty-handed because the Iraqis won't allow them to do their job and have unconditional inspections, and they come back, would you reconsider your stance at that point?

KANWISHER: Well, I think getting the resolution through the U.N. Security Council is a necessary step, but it's not a sufficient step. I think there are many issues here.

The difficulty with invading Iraq is not simply that we need to get international support, although that's very important. The primary difficulty that I'm concern about is that by invading Iraq, we would make an enormous number of enemies. Ad as you know, we don't need more enemies. We have enough of them right now, as we discovered on September 11.

BLITZER: But there's an international coalition that coalesces around the Bush administration and supports another war against Iraq. The question is, if the U.S. has that support from the U.N. and elsewhere, would you support going to war against Iraq?

KANWISHER: I think it's very difficult going to war against Iraq, even with some kind of international coalition, it's a bit deceptive, because most countries in the world oppose this war, even the ones who may eventually, grudgingly sign on to a U.N. Security Council resolution. There is really widespread opposition to this war.

So, I think having a U.N. Security Council resolution passed is necessary, but it's not sufficient.

BLITZER: What would be sufficient, in your eyes, to justify U.S. military action against Saddam Hussein's regime, which by all accounts is a pretty brutal regime which has had a very miserable record as far as the human rights of the Iraqi people are concerned? If you just read the State Department's human rights report you get that sense.

KANWISHER: Sure. Well, I wouldn't argue with you. Saddam's a pretty nasty guy. It would be nice to be rid of him, and it would be nice to not worry about nuclear weapons there.

So, I agree with those concerns, but I think that simply going in and attacking is not the way to handle this. I think there are much more important international security concerns that we need to deal with first.

The Middle East is, of course, a very unstable place. There are all kinds of conflicts brewing there. You have the Israeli- Palestinian conflict. You have a rise of Islamic fundamentalism throughout Arab countries. You have the situation with India and Pakistan, and numerous other regional conflicts.

And if you just go in and start a war there, you don't know where it's going to lead. There could be -- it could just easily spin out of control. It could end up making us much less secure, not more secure.

BLITZER: All right, Nancy Kanwisher of MIT working to try to prevent a war with Iraq -- thanks for joining us.


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