At about 9 a.m. Monday morning, someone checking the official White House Facebook page would have noticed something peculiar. A single message began showing up on the fan page over and over again, at one point once every minute. Each time it came from a different user and included a small flame icon along with it.
“This week’s anniversary marks 8 years of war in Afghanistan, and I’m remembering those who have died,” the message states. “Bullets don’t win hearts and minds. We need a better plan for Afghanistan, end the war.”
The messages stem from a “friendly” takeover of the White House fan page launched by the peace advocacy group Peace Action West to mark the eight year anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. Boasting a membership of over 50,000, it advocates for a “smarter foreign policy” that includes putting more resources into economic development and humanitarian aid in the war-torn country.
“It’s a vigil, and the reason we chose a vigil is because a lot of our members support Obama,” Communications Director Reva Patwardhan told me in a phone interview. “A lot of progressives support Obama, and we actually think that of all the people who could possibly be president he’s the most likely to do the right thing. But he’s going to need a lot of public support in order to push him in that direction, and the fact is that he’s actually considering an array of options for what he’s going to do in Afghanistan. The commander in Afghanistan, General [Stanley] McChrystal, has asked for 45,000 more troops. There’s a huge amount of pressure to give him that. We’re asking [Obama] not to give in to that pressure.”
The group created a Facebook Connect page allowing its supporters to streamline their efforts into one efficient system, though some of the people posting on the fan pages steer from the beaten path with their own custom messages. Patwardhan said they’ve been using their massive email list to promote the cause, but it since has taken off through word of mouth on both Facebook and Twitter, and several other organizations are pitching in their support.
The eighth anniversary is this Wednesday and she said their vigil will last at least until then, possibly longer.