Columbia U. student group demand Iraq redeployment during telethon

Joy Resmovits

NEW YORK (U-WIRE) – Standing in front of a sign reading “Number the lives,” more than 100 Columbia University students used their cell phones on Tuesday to call senators to urge them to support Sen. Russel D. Feingold’s Iraq Redeployment Act of 2007.

The telethon, organized by the Columbia Un iversity College Democrats, was scheduled to coincide with the fourth anniversary of the Iraq War.

In January, Feingold proposed the Redeployment Act, a plan to end the war in Iraq. According to a press release from the College Democrats, the act “would force the President to safely redeploy U.S. troops from Iraq within six months of the bill’s enactment.” The statement claimed that Feingold’s plan is the most concrete one for deploying U.S. troops because it would use Congress’ power to prevent funding of continued operations while ensuring that U.S. troops are safe and continuing to allow other counterterrorism operations.

“It’s best because it cuts funding for the war within six months, while making sure to help everyone and ensures that soldiers are paid,” said Sarah Leonard, deputy public affairs director for the College Democrats. “It removes the president’s flexibility, which he has clearly abused.”

Leonard said that the College Democrats were united in their support of the act. “We all agreed this is a good idea. Our goal today is to get everyone involved in working towards the best goal,” Leonard said. “The army should not be in a civil war that must be solved by diplomacy.”

Jenna Hovel said that she strongly supports the act because “it’s the only plan with teeth.”

Students who approached the two tables set up on Low Plaza were given the phone numbers of their senators and cards with scripts to read. “Now is the time for real, not symbolic, action to end the war. … Please make this the last time we commemorate an anniversary for this war,” the cards read.

In addition to making calls, 208 students signed postcards supporting the act. Some students said that the telethon would not be enough to sway the congressional leadership. “If enough people call, senators will realize their constituencies care,” Anna Brower said. “The sheer volume can help. But one telethon at Columbia is not enough. There need to be multiple telethons.”

In addition to the telethon, the College Democrats mounted several bright yellow posters throughout Low Plaza and provided Sharpie markers to callers so they could make a tally for every Iraqi casualty – 658,411 in total – in order to better visualize the otherwise abstract figure.

“You can make about 100 tallies a minute if the Sharpie fumes don’t get to you,” said Jacob Taber, public affairs director for the College Democrats.

The College Democrats also collected change, with a goal of raising one cent for every casualty, to donate to UNICEF in order to aid children affected by the Iraq War. “We haven’t undertaken the daunting task of counting the money yet,” Leonard wrote in an e-mail. “We know we haven’t reached our goal yet … and we’ll continue until we do.”