The gathering, which was well-covered by local print, radio and television outlets, was organized by the Progressive Student Alliance to demonstrate to the community that there is not universal support for a war against Iraq, organizers said.
"We care deeply about the people of the United States, and we care deeply about the people of Iraq," said Daniel Siegwart ’03, who addressed the crowd before introducing a series of speakers that included other PSA members and John Pettegrew, professor of history; Ted Morgan, professor of political science, and Lloyd Steffen, university chaplain and professor of religion studies.
After criticizing President George W. Bush for his "schoolboy excitement over the thought of war," Pettegrew asked, "President Bush, what are you doing? Where in the world are you taking us?"
Morgan congratulated the students on organizing and attending the rally, and for demonstrating vocal opposition to government policies that "are making the world a much more dangerous place than ever before."
Despite enthusiastic cheers and applause from the crowd, Morgan said he wasn’t in a "rally the troops mood."
"I’m in a dark mood because I feel we’re headed down a very dangerous path," he said, adding that Bush’s plans for war will only unleash more violence. "It will make the Cold War look tame."
`A recipe for peace’
Steffen criticized American foreign policy that he said was "inconsistent with democratic values," and offered a method for expressing discontent with American war plans. Quoting from the New Testament that he said Bush professes to embrace, Steffen said, "If your enemies are hungry, feed them. It doesn’t say, ‘attack them.’"
He encouraged those attending to send a small bag of rice to either the White House or to local representatives as "a recipe for peace."
Siegwart invited Faramarz Farbod, an Iranian-American and political science professor from Moravian College, to share his perspective. Farbod, who said he harbors no illusions about Saddam Hussein, called the Bush administration’s reasons for waging war fraudulent, and said they involve oil more than democracy.
"As a dual citizen, I have a problem with the American interpretation of patriotism," he said. "My feeling is that you love what is right and just in your country, and you fight what is wrong and unjust."
Among those participating in the rally was Michael Mueller, a development officer in the office of the vice provost for research, who distributed flyers for an upcoming anti-war demonstration in New York City on Feb. 15th.
"I have a five-year-old daughter," he said, "and I think of five-year-old girls like her in Iraq and what will happen to them if we go to war."
Not all of those who showed up for the rally were in support of the anti-war movement, however. In addition to the occasional SUV packed with male students who honked their horns and yelled pro-war chants, a small group of students held signs in favor of an attack on Iraq and interrupted the speakers with their commentary.
One of the students who supports attacking Iraq, Evan Philcox ’04, an English major, said he came because he was angered that they organized the rally before Secretary of State Colin Powell made the case for war to the United Nations.
"We’ve given (Iraq) enough time," he said. "At some point, you have to back up your word or you’re just a paper tiger."
The airing of dissenting viewpoints was fine by Irwin Pantel, a graduate student in Lehigh’s history department, who held a hand-lettered sign that read, "George Bush, Corporate Whore, We Don’t Want Your Oil War."
"It’s frustrating here sometimes because of the apathy," he said. "Students don’t seem to even take an interest in finding out what’s going on in the world. They don’t question. If you support the war, fine. If you don’t, fine. Just make an informed decision and engage in dialogue. That’s what a university is all about."