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COLUMN

Follow the Leader?

Arvind Sankar

This is in response to the Tuesday (Apr. 8) column by Andrew Yue. I respect Yue's right to support the president, the troops and the war; and to call on the protesters to stop protesting. But I must take issue with a couple of statements that he makes, which make it appear as though he is unaware of the founding principles of this nation.

He notes that both houses of Congress have tabled resolutions supporting the troops, and calls on those protesting the war to “follow their leaders.” This is a sentiment more appropriate to a dictatorship than a democracy. In the United States, the members of Congress represent the people. They have an obligation to listen to the voices of their constituents, not the other way around. If indeed almost one-quarter of the American public opposes the war (according to an ABC news poll conducted Apr 2-6), it is remarkable that there is not significant opposition within the House. It's not supposed to be this way.

As for supporting the commander-in-chief during a war, I would remind Yue that Franklin D. Roosevelt had to fight two presidential elections during World War II -- a far cry from facing a few protesters during what is, no matter what the rhetoric, a relatively “quick and easy” war for America; the nation's survival is not being threatened, and the war looks like it'll largely be over in a month, with relatively few American casualties. The elections faced by FDR were no cakewalks; the votes were 25.6 million for FDR and 22 million against in 1944, and 27.2 for and 22.3 million against in 1940 (the United States was not officially at war in 1940).

Now to less substantive issues -- I find it morally repugnant that so many columns (including Yue's) and letters attacking the protesters complain that they are blocking the roads, preventing people from getting to work, using up valuable police effort, and so forth, at a time when there are men, women and children dying in Iraq -- both Iraqi and American. Where's your sense of perspective? Can you be a little less selfish, please?

I should also point out that the president who sent these troops into battle is trying to whittle away at veterans' affairs while the war is still on, and is producing budgets that will force many cities and towns to cut back on police and other emergency response personnel. Why doesn't anyone call on him to support our troops? Finally, I accept that the president may have more access to military intelligence than anyone at MIT, but I find it very hard to believe that he has anywhere near the “historical perspective and political insight” of the diverse student body and faculty of this institution.

Arvind Sankar is a graduate student in the department of mathematics.