More than 250 people carrying signs saying "If your enemy is hungry, feed him" and shouting "No more war and hate, it's time to negotiate," assembled in Palmer Square last night to voice their opposition to the use of military force in Iraq.
During the interfaith candlelight vigil, 11 speakers, including Professor Emeritus of Near Eastern Studies John Marks, addressed the protesters. Reverend Robert Moore, who organized the vigil in conjunction with the local Coalition for Peace Action, opened the demonstration with the announcement, "We are here to say, peace is possible."
"Saddam's military capacity has been extremely diminished, and his weapons of mass destruction are still only suspected," Moore said. "When 4,500 Iraqi children are dying each month of starvation as a result of the sanctions, it's very hard to say that we are morally better than Iraq."
Moore said he was optimistic after yesterday afternoon's reports of an agreement between U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Iraqi president Saddam Hussein. However, he warned the other protesters, "We need to make sure our government's answer is yes, and then we need to understand why it is we came this close to bombing."
"Our society is fixated on militarism. There's a lot of other choices besides pointing guns and bombs at people," Moore said. "Maybe we need to offer some 'alternatives to violence' training for Clinton," he added, referring to a program offered at his church.
Deputy Director of National Security Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations Gideon Rose, who was unaware of the protest, said he was uncertain if the U.S. would accept Annan's new agreement.
Rose explained that the U.S. needed to accomplish two goals for "an acceptable diplomatic solution." He predicted "full and unfettered access to all sites for inspection, and some kind of agreement that this will be enforced in the future." "My hunch is that Annan will arrange for some kind of access, and some minor face-saving for Hussein," Rose said.
Rose also said he believed that any agreement with Iraq would not be reached through diplomacy alone, but rather, "a triumph for coercive diplomacy."
"If (Annan's) deal is real, then the only reason we got it was Saddam was convinced by the military buildup that we were going to hit him. This would not be a victory for diplomacy alone, it would be a victory for diplomacy backed up by a convincing and serious threat of force," Rose said.
Associate Professor of Politics and International Affairs Aaron Friedberg said he was "skeptical" about Annan's agreement.
"(Hussein has) pretty clearly been evading the resolutions. They've had ample time to remove or destroy any weapons. This is not going to deal with the underlying problem," Friedberg said.
"We are going to be dealing with this problem months down the line," he said.
"This isn't going to go away."