Organized by the Win Without War coalition, an umbrella group whose members include big names such as the NAACP, the Sierra Club, NOW, Oxfam America and the Rainbow/Push coalition, the "march" took the form of a barrage of faxes and phone calls directed at the phone lines of the White House and selected members of congress. And, perhaps mindful that most callers wouldn't get as far as a "your call is important to us" message, a primary goal was to drown out the drumbeat of war with a busy signal.
According to Peter Schurman, executive director of MoveOn.org, his web site had signed up more than 140,000 supporters, each of whom agreed to make a phone call to the White House and to both of their state's senators. That alone would put 420,000 calls through D.C. switchboards. There were also a reported 80,000 faxes sent through TrueMajority.org, another member of the Win Without War coalition. Tom Andrews, the national director for Win Without War, estimated that 1 million calls and faxes had been placed by the end of business Wednesday.
TIME.com's own informal survey revealed, if nothing else, very busy phone lines: Wednesday afternoon, getting through to the main White House switchboard proved impossible. Calls to the offices of New York senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton were also greeted with a busy signal. The Associated Press reports Sen. Richard Durbin's office received 800 calls in a four-hour span Wednesday, or about twice as many as usual.
Despite the organizers' high hopes, their dial-a-protest may not be having much effect. Strong opposition to a war in Iraq, evidenced by millions of marchers and hundreds of thousands of callers, faces an extraordinarily unreceptive audience in Washington. President Bush has made it clear he does not intend to be swayed by those who do not agree with him, dismissing the protesters as a "focus group," in a speech given just after the worldwide protests on February 15th. Wednesday afternoon, a White House spokesperson (reached through the media office) was similarly unimpressed by the "virtual march." "Phone calls are a useful tool for people to express their opinions," she said, "but it's not an objective or scientific way to measure public sentiment."
Whether such nonchalance is studied or genuine is anyone's guess, but one thing is clear: peace activists will be forced to make plenty more calls before anyone in Washington picks up, let alone gives them an answer they'd want to hear.