Scholars and political experts will meet downtown this Saturday to air their views on the justifications for the war in Iraq and the doctrine of pre-emptive war.

The forum, titled, “Pre-emptive War: Defense or Aggression?” will be held at 9 a.m. in the Lobero Theatre. The free event corresponds with United Nations Day and is sponsored by the Santa Barbara City College Adult Education program. It will feature lectures from and debates between a number of distinguished college professors and experts in the fields of international law and political science, including opening remarks from Robert Muller, former assistant secretary general of the United Nations. Several UCSB professors are also scheduled to speak.

Peter Haslund, forum facilitator and director of the International and Global Studies Program at SBCC, said the forum speakers will discuss America’s current approach to war.

“The issue is important, because U.S. foreign policy has fundamentally changed since the end of the Cold War,” Haslund said. “It is now a question of whether pre-emptive or – as one of our speakers puts it – ‘preventative’ war is the wave of the future.”

Haslund said forum organizers have tried to bring together diverse speakers in an attempt to create a lively debate.

“We have deliberately tried to find speakers with divergent points of view,” Haslund said. “We want to bring some degree of enlightenment [because] we arguably live in a participatory democracy. In order for this to work, we need different sources of information so we are not left at the mercy of the media or the government.”

The forum will feature presentations by several speakers lasting about 20 minutes each, followed by time for rebuttal. Mary Byrd, forum outreach coordinator, said there will be shorter exchanges by panelists and some time for audience participation after the presentations.

Richard Falk, speaker and visiting professor of global studies at UCSB, said it is critical to inform citizens about the war in Iraq.

“Essentially, the current administration’s attempt to justify the war in Iraq by the doctrine of pre-emption is unconvincing,” Falk said. “American citizens are embarrassingly ill-informed on central foreign policy issues. If we want to be a vital democracy, we need informed citizens.”

Other speakers scheduled to appear include John Arquilla, associate professor of defense analysis at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey; Stephen Zunes, professor of politics at the University of San Francisco; Robert Rauchhaus, assistant professor of political science at UCSB; and Stanley Roden, attorney and lecturer in political science and international law.

Haslund said the most important message he wants to convey to the audience is that citizens need to be informed of the reality of the situation in Iraq.

“Education is important,” Haslund said. ” Ignorance is folly.”