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Local anti-war activists disagree on implications of U.S. involvement in Libya

BY MELISSA DAWKINS | NOVEMBER 30, 2011 7:20 AM

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No new antiwar protests are in the works in Iowa City, despite reports of hostility at the hands of insurgents in post-Qaddafi Libya.

But local antiwar activists disagree on the actual implications of President Obama's decision to intervene in the Libyan conflict this spring.

University of Iowa graduate student Dustin Krutsinger organized a protest this past spring against U.S. involvement in Libya.

"The main concern was a prolonged war," he said.

He also said he had concerns in March regarding who would gain power if Qaddafi was removed from power.

And according to a recently leaked United Nations document reported by The Independent, Libyans have been detained — and Africans in Libya lynched — by rebel forces now vying for power.

"Now that we realize that the people we were supporting weren't as good as we had hoped, I'm glad we didn't put in any more time or money into this campaign," Krutsinger said.

However, UI senior Dan Olinghouse, who studied abroad this past spring when the protests broke out, said he believes the transition has gone fairly smoothly considering all factors.

"I'm not going to go around saying 'I told you so,' " he said. "… It seems like it was a fairly clean intervention. It just took a while."

UI political-science Associate Professor Brian Lai said coups such as Libya's have the potential to lead to volatile environments.

"Post-revolutions tend to have governments that are somewhat unstable," he said. "[Libyans have] been through a civil war."

UI senior Drew Hjelm, who did not participate in the protest, said he thought the U.S. government was not transparent in its dealing with Libya.

"On the one hand, there's support for the Libyan government," he said. "And they helped overthrow the government without knowing who they were supporting."

Krutsinger said he will not attempt to organize any additional protests at this time.

"I was a little disappointed I wasn't able to rally more people in support of it," he said of his rally in March. "I was hoping to get some of the antiwar organizations involved as well … I wish our numbers could have been a little stronger."

And Lai said if the current state of civil rights in Libya does not improve, the buzz could potentially affect the upcoming 2012 U.S. presidential election.

"If things go badly in Libya… it could be something people could point to as the inability of Obama to handle Libya." He said. "It probably won't have a huge impact."

But Krutsinger said the way Republican candidates have been discussing Libya is cause for concern.

"There's a lot of fearmongering," Krutsinger said.

While Hjelm said he has not been very involved in protests on campus, he said U.S. government action has led to unfortunate outcomes.

"… good intentions do not always lead to good results," he said. "… The results are overwhelmingly negative for many Libyans."

Krutsinger said he wants the U.S. to show more "constraint" in the future.

"I'm hopeful that we as a nation can learn from this lesson," he said.

While Olinghouse said Libya's government still has much progress to make, he thinks U.S. involvement is no longer necessary.

"It's really up to the Libyan government at this point to straighten the country out," he said.


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