The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Anti-war bus tour makes an EC stop

Soft-spoken Paul Melling, sporting a red-flannel shirt and long hair under a black cowboy hat, looked conspicuously juxtaposed standing next to the picture displayed on the screen behind him.

The image, taken several years earlier, was a much-contrasted version of the same person – this time sporting a buzzed haircut and holding a rifle. An artillery cannon sat in the background.

Melling, 27, served in the U.S. Army from 2002 to 2006 and spent about one year in Iraq. On Monday he and former newspaper columnist Henry Norr addressed a handful of people in Davies Center during a stop here by the Wheels of Justice bus tour, which promotes “nonviolent education and action against war and occupation in Iraq and Palestine,” according to the tour’s Web site.

Melling told the nine people who gathered in the President’s Room that he and other artillerymen in Iraq would sometimes learn that their rockets had killed innocent people. On at least one occasion, he said he later found out that his battalion had “wiped out a family.” other times, he said the artillery rounds wouldn’t explode and were left lying in fields.

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But the full gravity of the situation didn’t sink in for him until one of his friends died in Iraq.

“A group of us didn’t really have any idea what he died for,” Melling said. “After that we became more disgruntled.”

After he was honorably discharged from the Army in 2006, Melling joined Iraq Veterans Against the War, and this summer he walked in an anti-war mafrom Chicago to St. Paul. This is his first tour with Wheels of Justice.

“I don’t know what it’s all for,” he said, summing up his thoughts on the war. “I don’t think it’s in any way benefiting any country. We’re just causing more harm than good.”

Sixty-two-year-old Norr, a former technology columnist at the San Francisco Chronicle, followed Melling’s presentation with a discussion about the conflict in Israel.

Norr discussed his own personal experiences there – calling the region “a place of great beauty.” He talked about the history of the conflict and discussed his observations of outright violence and subtle acts of cruelty targeted towards Palestinians.

A wall built to separate the Israelites from the Palestinians in the West Bank, he said, cut off a Palestinian village from its traditional farmland. Gates in the wall were built to allow the Palestinians access to the land, he added, but Israeli guards would oftentimes open the gates off-schedule or not at all.

He added Palestinians have traditionally been nonviolent in their protests, but that their patience has been tested by harsh treatment by the Israelite settlers.

“Some Palestinians understandably are skeptical,” he said, “of the power of the nonviolent movement.”

The Wheels of Justice’s stop was sponsored by the UW-Eau Claire Staff and Faculty for Peace and Justice, the Progressive Students Association and Amnesty International.

Karen Pope, an emeritus assistant professor and a member of Staff and Faculty for Peace and Justice, said the event was a good learning opportunity for students, but was disappointed only a few students attended the presentation.

“(Students) need to be as well educated about being a world citizen,” Pope said, “as they do about getting a good grade on their next chemistry exam.”

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Anti-war bus tour makes an EC stop