At noon on Saturday, as many Yale undergraduates were still rubbing sleep from their eyes, Ralph Nader was just a few blocks away from campus encouraging all Americans to wake up.
Nader spoke at an afternoon fund-raiser organized by the New Haven chapter of the Connecticut Green Party. The proceeds from the event, which was held at BAR, will help pay for an anti-war rally scheduled for Feb. 22 at noon on the New Haven Green.
Between 75 and 100 people paid to hear Nader outline his reasons for opposing what he called the Bush administration’s “drive to war.”
Nader criticized Bush for leading the country into a war with Iraq while accusing him of evading the draft during the Vietnam War. He called Bush the “number-one chicken hawk.”
Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard after receiving a degree from Yale in 1968.
After attacking Bush’s personal record, Nader focused his criticism on the administration’s motives for war, arguing that close ties between the White House and oil corporations are a factor.
“The Bush administration is marinated in Big Oil,” Nader said.
A war in Iraq would distract public attention from domestic issues like unemployment and the recession, he said.
Elizabeth Walker, a New Haven resident, echoed Nader’s criticism of the president.
“[Bush’s rhetoric] only inflames the terrorists more,” Walker said. “I’m more afraid of his tactics than I am of the threat from Saddam.”
Speaking before Nader arrived at BAR, Mike Ritger, a post-baccalaureate student in environmental science, denied that Hussein poses a direct threat to the United States, though he did call Hussein “a source of instability in the Middle East.”
Nader said Hussein poses little threat to the United States or to his neighbors. He cited the opinion of retired Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni that Iraq was sufficiently weakened by the Persian Gulf War and U.N. economic sanctions to the point that it could be contained by its powerful neighbors, including Iran, Turkey and Israel.
He said Israel in particular “would have obliterated [Hussein] if they thought he was a threat.” As evidence, Nader pointed to an Israeli air strike against a partially completed nuclear reactor in Iraq in 1981.
By the time the crowd was leaving BAR, Ritger had changed his mind.
“After what Ralph said, I doubt that he’s much of a threat to the Middle East,” Ritger said.
However, the majority of those in attendance were firmly opposed to war in Iraq before they came through the door, many of them for reasons more personal than academic.
One reason Anna Friedlander, an 11th-grader at Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden, opposes the war is that her friend’s father is serving in the Persian Gulf.
“I have grandchildren. I don’t want them to grow up in a war,” said Pat Crabtree, a Milford resident, adding that she wants to bring her 11-year-old grandchild to the Feb. 22 anti-war rally on the Green.
Nader asked opponents of the war to make their voices heard by attending rallies or by simply talking to their friends.
“In the next few weeks, it’s up to every American city, town and village to take a stand,” he said.
He even offered an appeal for help to Yalies.
“Bring ’em out — at least as many as go to the football games,” he said.
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