At IOP, Protestors Await Top U.S. General in Iraq

Protestors will greet General John Abizaid when the top U.S. commander in the Middle East speaks at the Institute of Politics (IOP) tomorrow.

The Harvard Initiative for Peace and Justice (HIPJ), Socialist Alternative, and the Stop Torture Coalition are all planning rallies to offer a counterpoint to the speech by the officer credited with coining the term “The Long War” to describe the war on terror.

Off-campus groups will also join the protest.

The speech comes in the wake of a mid-term election in which voter dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq played a significant role in the Democratic takeover of Congress.

Groups that are planning rallies are protesting Gen. Abizaid’s central role in the war in Iraq.

“He’s the commander of CENTCOM, therefore ultimately responsible for troops in Iraq,” Adaner Usmani ’08, a member of HIPJ, wrote in an e-mail. “We think it would be absolutely unacceptable if his presence here were to go un-protested.”

Usmani also lamented the fact that Harvard allowed Gen. Abizaid to have the podium to himself.

“If Harvard is going to give him a forum as prominent as this to pontificate on the war, I would suggest that, in the spirit of our education, and democracy, it give opposing viewpoints equal prominence,” Usmani said.

The protest will be lively, according to organizers.

“We will certainly be there making noise and hopefully making our distaste of General Abizaid and the Iraq war in general known,” Joshua Kortiz, a member of Socialist Alternative and a Harvard library employee, wrote in an e-mail.

“There will probably be signs and maybe even a bullhorn.”

Friday’s protests will be followed by city-wide protests at the Boston Common Bandstand at noon Saturday.

An IOP spokesperson could not be reached for comment about the speech yesterday.