Turn poll numbers into protest Friday

Civilian pessimism of the war matches that of U.S. soldiers serving in Iraq.

Students from across the Twin Cities will walk out of school April 28 to protest the U.S. military occupation of Iraq. You should join them. By rallying with high school and other college students in front of Northrop Auditorium at noon Friday, you will be standing in solidarity with a majority of soldiers stationed in Iraq and a majority of Americans. As we’ve seen with the recent marches for immigrant rights, we all still need to stand up to be heard. You’re presence will bring political force to what poll numbers register: Opposition to the war in Iraq is growing in this country, spreading across the political spectrum and reaching deep into military ranks.

Let’s start with the U.S. public. According to a March 2006 CBS poll, only 29 percent of Americans believe the Iraq war is worth the cost. President George W. Bush has the lowest approval ratings of any president at this point in his second term as a direct result of his Iraq crusade.

U.S. civilian pessimism of the war matches that of U.S. soldiers. According to a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International poll, “72 percent of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and more than one in four say the troops should leave immediately.” And it’s not just the soldiers in Iraq living the day-to-day realities there who support an end to the occupation. Since March, six retired generals have called on Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to resign, often citing his mishandling of the war.

So if most think the U.S. occupation of Iraq is a bad idea, a demonstration might seem redundant. If most of us agree, why walk out April 28?

Because with each passing day more blood is being shed in Iraq. Five U.S. soldiers were killed Saturday and three more Sunday. Exact numbers of Iraqi deaths are not known, but former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi estimates 50 to 60 deaths related to the conflict per day. Estimates of Iraqi civilian deaths are as high as 100,000. It now is becoming clear to the U.S. public that the invasion has precipitated increased violence between Iraqis. The continued presence of the U.S. military force will only continue to fuel the violence.

Why else should you walk out? Because we, as youths and students, are being recruited to fight this war. Increased military spending and cuts to education mean that a growing number of working-class and immigrant students have to choose combat rather than college. This reality hits the University most painfully this year as the number of General College students admitted to the University will be reduced by half and tuition costs continue to rise. For undocumented students who have lived in this state for many years, their dream of college, with its out-of-state price tag, is doubly out of reach for now.

So even if there is widespread consensus that the U.S. needs to end the occupation of Iraq, the reality is that the occupation continues and the Bush administration treats poll numbers like a “tallyho” call at a hoedown. Without visible and vocal demonstrations of our opposition to the war, poll numbers will wait to translate into votes in 2008. But even then there is no guarantee that elections will change U.S. policy in Iraq and tens of thousands more Iraqis and Americans will die in the meantime. Your presence and voice Friday will give poll numbers political force now.

Friday. Northrop Auditorium. Student Walk-Out. Noon.

Marion Traub-Werner is a University student. Please send ocmments to [email protected]