Gathering on a rainy Ho Plaza for a rally sponsored by the Cornell College Republicans, students voiced their support for American soldiers in Iraq yesterday afternoon. Participants waved American flags and chanted patriotic slogans, as speakers advocated the necessity of war to disarm Iraq’s government.
“The American people are not going to dive back into the failed liberalism of the ’60s and ’70s,” said Ryan Horn grad, chairperson of the Cornell Republicans, in his opening speech to the crowd. “Conservatism and true American values are the future of this country.”
Horn’s introduction was followed by forceful speeches from Joseph Sabia grad, Elliott Reed ’05, Jamie Weinstein ’06, and Katie Mclean ’05. They expressed pride in the troops currently engaged in combat in the Middle East and support for military force.
“Through 12 years and 17 U.N. resolutions, Saddam Hussein has violated his government’s ceasefire agreement,” said Sabia, from an umbrella-covered podium in front of a large American flag. “He has murdered hundreds of thousands of political dissidents, has starved his own people, has collaborated with several terrorist groups, including the [Palestinian Liberation Organization] and al-Qaeda, and has continued development of weapons of mass destruction.”
Yesterday’s rally was the first of its kind held by the Cornell Republicans, although they plan to organize similar events in the future. Horn said that the rally was inspired in part by the lack of visible pro-war sentiment at Cornell. “The people we aimed this at were those individuals who walk from their dorms to class and back and forth and they walk through crowds of protesters. If they have patriotic feelings, its not just them. There’s a lot of other people and we feel that they are in the majority.”
In addition to Cornellians, a handful of students from Wells College turned up for the rally. “We’re really proud of the Cornell Republicans,” said Wells student Karen G. Howard, “We’re glad to be here to support our troops and let them know that we care about them.”
Members of the Cornell Antiwar Coalition also set up a table at the event. They carried signs, passed out information and talked with passers-by. Some antiwar protesters in the crowd jeered the speakers during the rally.
Sabia addressed the antiwar activists in his speech, saying “The 1960s are over. Your hatred of America is no longer en vogue. Your socialist propaganda no longer has any resonance. Your spitting on soldiers will not be tolerated. … We hear your ideas and we reject them.”
Horn also spoke to the rally’s opponents. “If you don’t like this country then feel free to go to Iraq. You should try protesting like this in front of the Republican Guard.”
Counter-protester Ben Mantle ’04 defended the antiwar viewpoint, saying, “I don’t think that these people understand that being antiwar is not un-American…. [The soldiers] are our friends and our family too and we want them to come home. We don’t agree with the reasons for [the war], and that’s patriotic. That’s freedom of speech.”
Jack Cognetta ’06, one of the antiwar protesters, criticized the rally speakers and offered a different approach. “Instead of going at terrorism with a reactionary foreign policy, we need to look at the root causes of terrorism. We need to understand why we were attacked on 9/11. We need to work with other countries and work on things like human rights, work on things like feeding the people of this world.”
A number of students paused on their way across Ho Plaza to listen to the rally. Silvia Korchumova ’06 commented on the events, saying “I believe that everyone who is antiwar is very much in support of the troops because they realize that everyone who goes to the Middle East is endangering their life. Instead of solidarity, which we should have right now, we’re splitting ourselves in a very illogical manner.”
Event organizers were pleased with the rally, estimating that the crowd numbered in the hundreds during the peak of the event. “I thought it was a great success,” said Horn. “I think that there’s a reason for that. I think that the vast majority of people on this campus are proud people. They’re patriotic people, and they support our troops in the field.”
Archived article by Jeff Sickelco