Over a hundred people, including a dozen Yale students, gathered for a vigil on the New Haven Green last night to commemorate soldiers who have died in the Iraq war after the number of U.S. troops killed passed 2,000 on Tuesday.
Though no flag was raised, people at the vigil held candles, carried banners and assembled around the flagpole at the center of the Green, as organizers read aloud the names of soldiers from Connecticut who have died in Iraq. While most attendees said the growing death toll is a sign that the current administration’s policy toward Iraq is failing, some said the sacrifices of soldiers and their families have served a just cause because Iraq’s effort to democratize is progressing.
Vigil organizer John Shanley said he thinks the United States should withdraw its military from Iraq because too many lives have already been lost.
“Congress people are funding the war [and] they can be the first to stop it,” Shanley said.
Students had mixed reactions to the predominantly anti-war atmosphere of the event, where groups performed a number of pacifist songs, including John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” and distributed sheets with the lyrics of Bob Dylan’s “Masters of War.”
Alex Delarosa ’06 said he thinks the pacifist anthems were inappropriate for the event.
“I think it’s disgusting that this vigil is used for political purposes,” he said. “For 15 years now people have been giving peace a chance and the entire purpose of this war is to give peace a chance.”
Alex Gregath ’09 said it is normal to feel sympathy for the parents of soldiers who died, but he is concerned that the vigil was used by some toward a political end.
“They’re taking advantage of people’s emotions when they hear the pain of the mother whose son died,” he said. “People voluntarily enlist for the army and are therefore aware of the possible consequences and believe that the sacrifice for their country is worthwhile.”
But other students said the commemoration of 2,000 soldiers’ deaths should be a catalyst for renewed doubts about the U.S. presence in Iraq. Jena Giltnane MED ’08 said she thinks the vigil was an appropriate place for people to come together and challenge the merits of U.S. involvement in the Iraq conflict, and Tanya Whisnant ’09 said she is concerned at the lack of information available to the American public.
“I think the country has been tricked into this war,” Whisnant said. “We don’t know what conditions are like for Iraqis and our soldiers.”
James Leer ’07 said he is opposed to the war and fears that a draft may be instituted sometime in the future.
“I think [the war] is a waste of time, energy and lives, and is about money, not democracy,” he said. “There’s been talk of a voluntary draft … I am afraid of a draft and everyone should be, with the frequency of casualties.”
But Eric Tung ’06 said he does not believe there will be a draft. He said he also believes media coverage of the progress made by coalition forces in Iraq has been unfairly negative.
“I feel like the media and left like to point at the problems when there is progress,” Tung said. “It’s not talked about much in the media that a landslide of nearly eighty percent of Iraqi voters approved the Constitution.”
The vigil was organized with the support of anti-war groups American Friends Service Committee and MoveOn.org, Shanley said, and similar events are planned for the future. Another group plans to serenade Rep. Rosa DeLauro with the names of all American casualties in Iraq on November 1, he said.