Students protest possibility of war

While most students prepared for the arrival of parents this weekend, a small group of their classmates piled into cars and chartered buses, heading for Washington, D.C. to join a non-violent protest against war in Iraq.

About 180 members of the Triangle community joined 200,000 other demonstrators at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington to voice their opposition to the Bush administration's resolve to use military force in Iraq. The demonstration, which coincided with similar protests in Berlin, San Juan, Tokyo and Mexico City, featured addresses by the Rev. Jesse Jackson, political activist Al Sharpton and activist Susan Sarandon.

"The event brought together people from all over America who oppose war in Iraq for a wide variety of reasons," said Mark Higgins, a Duke graduate student who organized the trip. "We completely filled the streets of D.C. with everything from Christian pacifists, to people who oppose American imperialism, to those who believe the war is principally about elite economic interests."

The demonstration reflected a growing sentiment among many Americans that the primary motivation for attacking Iraq has become a monetary rather than moral one.

"In the name of fear and fighting terror, we are giving the reigns of power to oil men looking for distraction from their disastrous economic performance, oil men more interested in the financial bottom line than a moral bottom line," Sarandon said.

Her comments echoed the opinions of several members of the Duke delegation, who agreed that unilateral intervention on the part of the United States was indicative of a new wave of American imperialism in the Middle East.

Emily Antoon, a freshman, felt obligated to attend the protest on behalf of children in Iraq and other Middle Eastern nations with whom she has been communicating for the past year.

"I see the war in Iraq as motivated by racist and imperialist opinions," Antoon said. "We need to realize the consequences a war would have on the civilian population of the country. Removing Saddam [Hussein] will destroy hundreds of thousands of lives in the process."

While many protesters focused on the international impact of the war, several demonstrators, including the Rev. Jesse Jackson, pleaded with government officials to consider the domestic impact of military action.

"We must not be diverted," Jackson said. "In two years, we've lost two million jobs, unemployment is up, the stock market down, poverty up. We need regime change in this country."

During the speeches at the Vietnam Memorial, organizers displayed bar graphs that depicted spending for military mobilization eclipsing spending on domestic education and other public services. After the conclusion of the speeches, demonstrators marched around the perimeter of the White House and to the Washington Monument.

Mainstream discussion focused on criticisms of a unilateral war effort, but there were those who moved to offer alternative policies to the Bush administration.

"A lot of people proposed lifting the existing sanctions on Iraq. They have been prevented from receiving food and health care for too long. Through the United Nations, the United States must pursue a diplomatic solution," said freshman Ian Faerstein.

"What I got from all of this was that there are similarities between Iraq and the United States. Death is death. A woman's belly turned inside out is the same color no matter where you are," concluded freshman Jules Bruno. "We need to rethink our strategy."

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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