“As an American citizen with ancestry on this continent that precedes the Revolutionary War I want to register my complete opposition to any kind of preemptive attack on Iraq or any other sovereign nation.” This is the message Bob Vance of Petoskey, Mich., phoned in to his senators in the Feb. 26 Virtual March on Washington.

The Virtual March, initiated by MoveOn.org and the Win Without War Coalition, tied up Senate and White House phone and fax lines to oppose the Bush administration’s drive for war on Iraq.

Many callers reported they could not get through – despite repeated efforts they heard a phone company recording: “All circuits are busy.” The office of Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) reported his lines were “pretty jammed.” MoveOn co-founder Joan Blades told the World many participants were calling their senators’ local offices because they were “determined to get their message heard.”

White House phone lines were feeling the heat. MoveOn’s Peter Schurman told the World when he placed his call to the White House and then asked how things were going, the operator replied, “The March is on.”

“Well over one million phone calls were made in just eight hours by people from every state in the country,” former Maine Congressman Tom Andrews, national director of Win Without War, said. “Every Senator’s office and the White House switchboard received at least two and often more calls per minute.”

The MoveOn website was reporting more than 300,000 people scheduled to place calls by 3 p.m. Eastern Time. Many more were expected to call, fax and e-mail Senate offices and the White House through other organizations or on their own, opposing unilateral preemptive war and demanding that the U.S. let weapons inspections work.

MoveOn participants had registered online ahead of time and were assigned a specific time to call each of their senators, as well as Senate leaders and the White House.

On Feb. 26, the MoveOn website featured a real-time “anti-war room” where the number of scheduled callers spun upward faster than the blink of a viewer’s eye. The site also displayed a 50-state map with callers’ names and messages flashing in rapid succession over their states.

From Houston, Tex., Celia Morgan told her senators, “I am one of the 59 percent of Americans who believe that the President should give the United Nations more time. Nothing but ill will and lost lives are to be reaped by invading Iraq.”

Eunha Jung, in Tahlequah, Okla., said, “The U.S. is in a position to be an excellent role model for the rest of the world by achieving peace by means of superb diplomacy.”

“It would seem that since we have not found Bin Laden that Bush is determined to have a war somewhere,” said Dorothy Witt of Harrisburg, Ark.

From Bethel, Alaska, Dave Kirby urged, “Please give peace a chance. Don’t let the president cowpoke us into a fight.

“We can’t afford war,” was the message of Leticia Gilmore of Pierre, S.D. “While we are all whipped up about what may or may not be a threat from the Iraq government our own economy is falling to pieces.”

“War is not the only option,” said Lowell Stanley in Springfield, Ore. “Peace, while more difficult to achieve, is worth the time and effort; give enhanced inspections a chance.”

Win Without War director Andrews commented, “The outpouring of support for tough inspections to disarm Saddam Hussein, and against an invasion and occupation of Iraq got through loud and clear today.” Americans want the administration to work with through the United Nations to resolve the crisis, he said.

“We knew that so many people who don’t participate in demonstrations would take the opportunity, by letting their fingers do the marching, to send a clear message to their Senators and the President. Our support is clearly growing as the American people begin to reject the administration’s arguments for war,” Andrews said.

Win Without War is a coalition of 32 national organizations supporting United Nations inspections to disarm Saddam Hussein and opposing a U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. Its members include the National Council of Churches, the NAACP, National Organization for Women, and the Sierra Club.

The National Council of Churches called Feb. 26 “A Day of Prayer and Faxing,” and urged all its Protestant and Orthodox denominations and congregations to join the Virtual March.

From New Orleans, La., Jean Egan told her senators, “Our God is love, our Gospel is peace. No war, no never again war!”

Martin Sheen, who plays President Bartlett on TV’s “West Wing,” had called on Americans to participate in the Virtual March: “Our message to Washington will be clear – “Don’t invade Iraq! We can contain Saddam Hussein without killing innocent people, diverting us from the war on terrorism and putting us all at risk.”

Sherri Frazer, from Scott Depot, W.Va., echoed his words: “I do not want to kill innocent people. We can disarm Iraq in a humane way. No BLOOD! We are the leaders of the world, and we can again be peacemakers of the planet.”

The author can be reached at suewebb@pww.org


Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.