Local activists assembled Wednesday to beat around the Bush.

Students, staff and faculty gathered in Storke Plaza yesterday to hear and give reactions to President George W. Bush’s State of the Union Address. The rally was organized by the Student Action Forum on the Middle East and the Campus Community Peace Group. Over a hundred students attended, including about 10 Campus Republicans, who held up life-size cutouts of the president and waved American flags in silent disagreement with the majority.

“The turnout for this was fantastic,” said Nicholas Pitney, organizer of the rally and member of the Student Action Forum. “This type of activity is the only way we know to create positive change, and it’s greatly feared.”

The rally was in response to Bush’s Tuesday night speech in which he presented his arguments for a war in Iraq, claiming Saddam Hussein has failed to account for chemical and biological weapons and poses an imminent threat to the United States. Bush also presented new arguments claiming that Hussein is running covert operations against weapons inspectors that enable him to know their movements in advance and thus conceal evidence of weapons programs.

Though a presentation of the U.S. evidence to the United Nations against Iraq is scheduled for Feb. 5, Bush said the U.S. would not be subject to the rulings of the U.N., saying that “the course of this nation does not depend on the decision of others.”

This unilateral rhetoric was the focus of Wednesday’s rally, which featured faculty and student speakers, as well as a Nobel laureate, dismissing Bush’s speech and calling for activism.

“Basically, Bush told the U.N. to do what we want, or we’re going to do it anyway,” said Richard Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University and visiting UCSB professor. “This war isn’t being pushed because Iraq is a threat. It’s being pushed because America wants to dominate world affairs.”

While some speakers dismissed war flat-out, others agreed with the use of force if broad international support was present.

“Most of us recognize that war is hell, but we’re not absolutely against it,” said Walter Kohn, co-winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in chemistry and former UCSB professor. “The sudden rush to war is currently without any basis and would undermine, not protect U.S. security and standing in the world.”

Also among the speakers were two representatives from the Santa Barbara chapter of Veterans for Peace, both of which likened the current situation to Vietnam.

“If there’s one thing I’ve learned serving in the military, it’s that the more critical an issue is, the more the government will deceive people about it,” Daniel Seidenberg, president of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace, said. “War has no positive effect for anyone involved except the wealthy.”