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'Virtual' War Protest Inundates US Senate, White House - 2003-02-27

Hundreds of thousands of phone calls and faxes jammed switchboards at the U.S. Senate and White House Wednesday, as callers around the country voiced their opposition to a possible war with Iraq.

The phone call protest was aimed at allowing Americans to take part in a mass demonstration against possible war with Iraq without leaving their homes. The organizers, "Win Without War," asked people from all 50 U.S. states to call or fax their Senators and the White House. And they did, by hundreds of thousands, according to Senate sources, jamming phone lines and making it difficult for the legislators to conduct business.

Win Without War national director Tom Andrews said the virtual march was aimed at letting American political leaders know there is a portion of the U.S. public that does not want to see a war.

"They're going to realize that we're organized and we're focused and we're willing to take political action," says Mr. Andrews. "And if you're a member of the Senate or even the House, and you're concerned about your political future, we hope that if you're not willing to do the right thing on Iraq because it's the right thing to do, you may consider doing the right thing on Iraq because it's the politically-wise thing to do."

The huge volume of calls affected not only the Senators, but journalists who cover them as well. VOA Senate Correspondent Debby Tate says the chamber's press gallery was unusually calm. "It's been eerily quiet. I didn't realize the impact that this virtual protest would have until I opened my e-mail and found many messages from people wanting to get a hold of me, and complaining that they were getting a busy signal when they were trying to reach me," says Ms. Tate. "We have the Afghan President Hamid Karzai here testifying before a Senate committee, and there were a lot of questions from colleagues about his testimony, and folks were unable to reach me by phone."

The virtual protest comes as Washington works to garner international support for a military strike against Iraq over its alleged weapons of mass destruction. It follows large public anti-war demonstrations around the world.

Win Without War's Mr. Andrews says, if this event is successful, the group will try take its campaign overseas and organize a global Internet and e-mail campaign.