Regardless of their personal feelings toward the War in Iraq, 117 students and passersby expressed their support Thursday afternoon for American soldiers stationed in Baghdad.
Chris Pagenkopf, a third-year political science major, laid out a 12- by 3-foot banner in front of the UCen yesterday with the message of “Support Our Troops” emblazoned across it, hoping to gather people’s signatures and messages of encouragement. Pagenkopf said he intends to send the banner to U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Andrew Feitt — a recent UCSB graduate — and his fellow soldiers while they are stationed in northern Baghdad with the 3rd Infantry Division.
Pagenkopf’s project, which he said will also be available for signing from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. today, is financed by his fellowship with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD) — a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization based in Washington, D.C.
Because he wanted to avoid partisan politics, Pagenkopf said, he asked members of Campus Democrats and College Republicans to help him set up a table for the signing, hand out buttons that say, “Support Our Troops,” as well as gather signatures.
“Supporting our troops is completely nonpartisan,” Pagenkopf said. “They need to know that we support them even if we don’t support the current administration.”
One signer, John Diamond, said he thinks students and community members can support the troops by other means, such as through an AdoptaPlatoon program. Each month, he, his wife and a few neighbors buy and send packages of food and supplies to a platoon in Iraq.
“All of us hate the war, but we support our kids,” Diamond said.
Among the signatures were words of encouragement saying things like, “You are my hero,” “I greatly appreciate your efforts” and “We liberals got your backs too.”
Pagenkopf said the poster signing was the first of five campus events he is required to organize as part of his fellowship with the FDD. He said is one of about 40 students to receive the fellowship and the first one at UCSB.
According to its website, the FDD conducts research on terrorism and tries to educate the populace on its findings. Former Director of the CIA James Woolsey, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and Congress members from both parties are involved with the organization.
As part of the program, Pagenkopf said he went to the Tel Aviv University in Israel this summer to discuss policies and measures concerning terrorism. He also spoke with imprisoned Hamas members, asking them about the motivations behind their terrorist acts.
Pagenkopf said the military and police actions against terrorists in Israel are significantly stricter than those in the U.S.
“In Israel, the counter-terrorism measures are hardcore — we haven’t seen anything yet,” he said, referring to the U.S. “They will wand you [with a metal detector] right in public…. They carry around semi-automatic weapons in public. In the U.S., we don’t have nearly that level of security. And we don’t need that level because we’re not hit every week or month.”
For his next event, Pagenkopf said he hopes to cosponsor a lecture on terrorism, which is slated for Nov. 14, with the campus Foreign Affairs Club.