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Locals protest surge

BY ASHLEY OERMAN | DECEMBER 02, 2009 7:20 AM

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Holding pizza boxes and posters covered with antiwar rhetoric, UI students and Iowa City residents protested against President Obama’s decision to increase the number troops in Afghanistan Tuesday.

Roughly 12 protesters stood on the Pedestrian Mall beginning at 6 p.m., speaking out in response to Obama’s announcement that he plans to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan over the next six months.

UI law student Navid Zarrinnal, who moved from Iran to the United States eight years ago, said he has learned from his experience in Iran that trying to bring Western ideals to that part of the world creates more radicalization.

The 21-year-old said he has participated in 30 to 40 protests to promote peace, which inspired him to join the handful of protesters Tuesday evening.

“We do not assume it will stop [the war], but these small steps raise awareness and lead to change,” he said.

UI junior Jill Kacere said she was also protesting to promote awareness in Iowa City of the troop escalation.

She passed out postcards with a letter expressing the protesters’ grievances against the president’s plan. The post cards also include a spot for a personal note to the commander-in-chief. By roughly half an hour into the protest, Kacere noted they’d only received two cards back.

She said she hoped more students would join the rally later Tuesday night.

A majority of the group consisted of residents from Iowa City and surrounding areas.

Chris Turner of Coralville blamed the low attendance on recent celebrity news.

“This announcement came the same week as Tiger Wood’s accident; I’m not sure anyone cares [about the troop increase],” Turner said holding a pizza box that read “Obama=Bush.”

Obama also announced Tuesday night that he will begin withdrawing forces in 2011. But some protesters remained skeptical.

“It seems like an empty promise,” Karcere said.

Turner agreed: “We’ll stay there until we run out of money.”

Speaking from the West Point Military Academy, Obama told the nation the increase will begin almost immediately, with the first Marines arriving by Christmas.

Obama said his goals for the war, which has stretched over eight years, are to “reverse the Taliban’s momentum” and secure Afghanistan’s government.

UI junior Mike Barranco, who was in the Main Library at the time of the announcement, said he was shocked when he heard about the increase.

Barranco, whose cousin is serving in Iraq, said he was worried his cousin’s tour could be extended.
And though the 2011 withdrawal puts an end in sight, “it’s not soon enough,” the 20-year-old said.

Rep. Bruce Braley, D-Iowa, said in a statement Tuesday night that he will push to make sure Obama has a comprehensive plan for the 3,000 Iowa National guard troops who will be deployed.

But for the protesters, the president’s plans may be not enough.

If Turner were president, “I would get out of there yesterday,” he said.


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