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300 Protest 20 Years of War on Iraq

Saturday, January 15, our fifth day of actions to shut down Guantanamo, etc, began with a rally at the White House marking 20 years of war on Iraq. We were around 300 people, with some of us in jump suits and hoods. Speakers quoted from Dr Martin Luther King and told stories of the detainees and the struggle to free them, or charge and try those who are guilty of some crime. I had a conversation with one of the police that indicated that he was moved by our actions and wished us well. From there we went to a teach-in at a nearby church.
At the gathering, we watched a heart-br

Saturday, January 15, our fifth day of actions to shut down Guantanamo, etc, began with a rally at the White House marking 20 years of war on Iraq. We were around 300 people, with some of us in jump suits and hoods. Speakers quoted from Dr Martin Luther King and told stories of the detainees and the struggle to free them, or charge and try those who are guilty of some crime. I had a conversation with one of the police that indicated that he was moved by our actions and wished us well. From there we went to a teach-in at a nearby church.

At the gathering, we watched a heart-breaking film by John Pilger, “Paying the Price – Killing the Children of Iraq,” which showed the devastating effects of the sanctions on Iraq, along with statements of officials like Madeleine Albright and Tony Blair about how it all made sense and the suffering was worth it. UN officials, one after the other, resigned in protest, but the sanctions went on to kill around a million Iraqis. Depleted uranium was used in weapons and, because of the sanctions, it was impossible to clean up, so many Iraqi babies are now born with birth defects. It also showed where Saddam Hussein came from, the CIA ouster of a nationalist government and installation of a government more to Washington’s liking, including Hussein.

Many speakers shared stories of the wars and the work against them. An Iraqi American, Andy Shallal, told of his cousin who died during the sanctions because of a lack of hospital beds and pointed out the disproportion in the deaths on Sept 11 and Iraqis killed in the war that came after, 1 to 100 (3,000 people in the attacks of 9/11 to 300,000 Iraqis). 

David Swanson of War Is A Crime pointed out that it costs the American government $1,000,000 a year to keep each soldier in the field.

Medea Benjamin of Code Pink told of meeting Iraqi women while Saddam Hussein was in power and of being impressed with how accomplished they were, many with advanced degrees, all paid for by the Iraqi government. She also said that in Afghanistan the US spends $300 million a day, but the Afghan people are no less poor. A recent Save the Children study ranked Afghanistan as the worst place to be a mother, with high maternal mortality rates, etc.

Ellen Barfield, of Vets for Peace, talked about the Iraq Water Project that she has helped with. It was started with money that Brian Wilson, who lost his legs trying to stop a munitions train in the Contra war in the 80’s, got in a settlement with the government. The vets are trying to make up for the intentional targeting of the water supply of Iraq in the first Gulf war.

Lou Wolf, a founder of Covert Action Quarterly, summarized reasons to believe that the attacks on 9/11 are not what our government has told us and said that 1900 architects and engineers have now signed on to a statement that the Twin Towers were demolished and not brought down by the planes, leading one to suspect that our government, itself, was involved in the attack.

Camila Mejia shared the experiences in Iraq that led him to refuse to redeploy, the senseless brutality of the US occupation and ineffectual efforts to help the victims.

Ray McGovern, an ex-CIA agent who’s been active in the anti-war movement lately, talked about how he ramped up his activism by doing civil disobedience on the anniversary of the smart-bombing of the shelter at Al-Amariya in 1991, where hundreds of Iraqis were trying to escape the US bombing campaign.

Coleen Rowley, an FBI agent in Minnesota, told of the infiltration by the FBI of many peace groups. She said that 23 activists in Chicago and Minneapolis arenow being charged as “terrorists”.

Brian Becker of the ANSWER Coalition told of a recent report that indicates that the US has no intention of leaving Iraq on the appointed deadline this year and invited everyone to the protest at the White House on March 19.

Joyce and Kevin Lucey shared the unspeakable sadness of losing their son Jeffrey to suicide, after he came home from Iraq. He left a note asking his parents to remember him as he was as a child, not as the murderer he became.

It was an inspiring gathering of about 200 activists sharing painful information and experiences, but the mood was hopeful and there was a lot of solidarity. After the teach-in many people continued back to the White House for a candle light vigil. I am continually impressed by the energy of this group, including many who are fasting. This was their fifth day of the fast with six days to go. 

 

 

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