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Students React To Bush Ultimatum

By Nathan Collins


MIT students are anxious at best about an impending invasion of Iraq. At worst, they are angry and upset.

“This is demoralizing,” said Laura ColÓn ’04, echoing an anti-war sentiment visible on the faces of other students who watched U.S. President George W. Bush address the nation Monday night. But as Bush concluded his address, MIT students reacted with a mix of clapping and boos.

A crowd of nearly a hundred packed into the second floor television lounge in the Stratton Student Center to watch Bush declare that a war was imminent unless Saddam Hussein and other leaders left Iraq within 48 hours. If they do not leave, the United States and its allies will invade “at a time of our choosing,” Bush said.

Anticipating fears that a war will spur terrorist attacks, Bush said that security had been increased at airports and on the coasts. The Homeland Security terror alert level was raised to orange, or “high,” tonight, The New York Times reported; “We will not be intimidated by thugs and killers,” Bush said.

“Except you,” responded one audience member.

“It’s insane to come back to the country” right now, said Nate Ele, who said he has just returned from working with the Peace Corp in Mozambique and is visiting his brother at MIT. War is “an enormous mistake,” he said.

A few others suggested that a war, while not a preferred option, was necessary. “I was very happy with what he said, [though] I don’t want a war to happen,” and it would be better if Hussein left Iraq to avoid war, said Michael Starr ’06.

Students plan for walkout

Anne M. Pollock G, who is helping to plan a walkout in the event of war, said that more than 800 MIT students had pledged to join the walkout. In the meantime, “I think it’s our ethical obligation to hold out hope and work for peace,” she said.

The walkout will start at 11:30 a.m. the day after an invasion and will be followed by a rally at 77 Massachusetts Avenue at noon, Pollock said. After an afternoon of sign-making and arts events, walkout participants will join students from “a dozen or more” local universities and others at a Government Center rally. Pollock said the walkout may happen before war starts in order to allow students to participate before spring break.

“It’s depressing to see the extent to which Bush is not listening to the world,” Pollock said.

Jocelyn A. Rodal ’06, another student helping to plan the walkout, said she was frightened by “the total lack of evidence” of a link between Iraq and al-Qaida and a “lack of respect for the Iraqi people.”

Purim celebrants’ views mixed

Some students took time out from celebrating Purim, a Jewish holiday, to express their views.

“I disagree with the President. ... Iraq is not a threat to us,” said Aaron B. Strauss G. “I don’t see why we can’t continue to contain” Iraq, he said, adding that he thinks the United States is jealous of French and Russian oil contracts in the region. “That’s a good monetary reason,” he said.

Jake P. Solomon G said that he was “not against” a war. He said that many anti-war activists had complained that U.S. oil interests drove the push toward war and that Bush’s comments about oil “played into their hands.” Bush warned that Iraq should not set fire to oil wells in the event of war, a remark that elicited some laughter from the Student Center crowd.

Kayla D. Jacobs ’06, who said she lived in Israel for six years prior to coming to MIT, said she was worried about an attack on Israel but unsure about a war with Iraq. “Saddam has to be removed, I know that,” she said. “Whether this is the right way, I don’t know.”