Surrounded by memorials of war on the steps of Beinecke Plaza, about 200 Yale students and a few local residents from a range of political leanings rallied Wednesday in support of the coalition troops now fighting in the Iraqi desert.
Although the rally featured politically conservative speakers, both students who have passionately protested the war and those who stand behind the leadership of President George W. Bush voiced their support for the troops at the rally, which was sponsored by the Yale College Students for Democracy.
The rally drew a large number of anti-war students from the Yale Coalition for Peace. Holding signs reading “Peace loves soldiers more than war” and “Support the troops, oppose the war,” the demonstrators stood alongside their pro-war peers with hopes that the soldiers return home safely. Nevertheless, the two sides hissed and hollered at each other several times.
Telling the troops “Yale is behind you,” rally organizer Michael Anastasio ’04 said the troops did not ask for the war. Their country asked them to go and “they went proudly,” he said.
“Americans of all political creeds stand united for the liberation of Iraq,” Anastasio said. “Fight for democracy, fight for our flag, fight hard.”
Yale Coalition for Peace member Saqib Bhatti ’04 said his organization is strongly opposed to Bush’s policy in Iraq, yet he hopes the troops make a swift return home.
“The best way to support the troops is to bring them home and put them out of harm’s way,” Bhatti said.
Americans should support the soldiers in action because the war has started, history professor Donald Kagan told the audience.
“This is a grave and important moment for our country and the war,” Kagan said. “The war is on and our young fighting men and women are in harm’s way. They know they may need to make the supreme sacrifice of their lives. They are our nation’s richest possession and we treasure every one of them.”
When humanities professor Norma Thompson mentioned France in her speech, students hissed loudly and went on to cheer “USA, USA, USA”.
“If we say ‘war is immoral,’ we are saying to ruthless dictators, ‘there is nothing you can do that can make me fight you,'” Thompson said. “When it comes to a tyrant like Saddam Hussein, to say ‘war is immoral’ is immoral.”
Rallying with the Yale Coalition for Peace, Abraham Koogler ’06 could not help but think about his “State of the Union” address that he would give to some 100 Yale students just hours later. Koogler plays Bush in a three-week simulation of the U.S. government in political science professor Rogan Kersh’s “U.S. Congress” class.
“I view it in the context of myself and others in the class learning how to achieve legislative goals rather than having to ascribe to the ideology behind those legislative goals,” Koogler said. “[In the speech], I will discuss terrorism, but not war. It’s too sensitive at the moment to throw into a speech that is meant to be somewhat of a parody.”
Pushing one child in a stroller draped in U.S. and Australian flags and holding the hand of another toddler, Australia native Johanna Richards attended the rally to show her support for the troops fighting in Iraq.
“I’m all for peace and war makes me sick, but brave people are dying out there and they’re very courageous people and I want them to know that they are supported by the silent majority,” Richards said.
Ewan MacDougall ’03, a U.S. Marine Corps officer candidate, said the rally was motivating for him — his peers had begun to understand his decision to join the military.
“It’s good to know that the people I go to school with support me as a person, if not the policy,” he said.