Sunday, January 28

March on Washington - It Matters

Fact: At least 3,065 American military personnel have been killed and at least 22,834 have been wounded since the start of the war in March 2003, according to Iraq Coalition Casualty Count, a Web site that tracks Department of Defense numbers. The United Nations has estimated that at least 35,000 Iraqis have been killed each year since the war started.

Fact: President Bush, who often spends weekends at Camp David, was in Washington on Saturday but had no public events scheduled. He spent part of the morning on his weekly bicycle ride at a Secret Service training facility in Beltsville, Md.

Gordon D. Johndroe, a White House spokesman said, “The president believes that the right to free speech is one of the greatest freedoms in our country. He understands that Americans want to see a conclusion to the war in Iraq, and the new strategy is designed to do just that.”
Now did you read the story about the "Tens of Thousands" who marched in Washington, DC yesterday?

United for Peace and Justice, a coalition group sponsoring the protest, had hoped 100,000 would come. They claimed even more afterward, but police, who no longer give official estimates, said privately the crowd was smaller than 100,000.

A handful of congressional Democrats spoke at the rally, but no major presidential candidates. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who has embarked on a long-shot bid for his party's nomination, stood up and called for his party to end funding for the war.

"The president said he is `the decider,'" said Maxine Waters, a Democratic Representative from California. "He is not `the decider,' he is a liar." She added when it comes to funding this "immoral" war, "I will not vote one dime."

Democratic Rep. John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat and chair of the House Judiciary Committee, said the Nov. 7 election -- which gave Democrats control of both houses of Congress -- showed Americans want change.

The House Judiciary Committee chairman, Rep. John Conyers, threatened to use congressional spending power to try to stop the war. ``George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing,'' he said, looking out at the masses. ``He can't fire you.'' Referring to Congress, the Michigan Democrat added: ``He can't fire us.

``The founders of our country gave our Congress the power of the purse because they envisioned a scenario exactly like we find ourselves in today. Now only is it in our power, it is our obligation to stop Bush.''

"It takes the ... outrage of the American people to force Washington to do the right thing," he said. "We've got to hold more of these ... until our government gets the message -- Out if Iraq immediately. This year. We've got to go."

Jane Fonda, the 69-year-old actor and activist once dubbed "Hanoi Jane" by critics angered by a 1972 anti-war trip she made to North Vietnam, was the star attraction. She drew parallels with Vietnam, suggesting that once again an arrogant American government has intervened in a historic culture of which it has no understanding.

"I'm so sad we still have to do this," she said.

“We need to be talking not just about defunding the war but also about funding the vets,” Susan Sarandon said, adding that more than 50,000 had sought treatment through the Department of Veterans Affairs while benefits for them continue to be cut.

“I grew up during the Vietnam War, but I never protested it and never had my lottery number called to go fight,” said David Quinly, a 54-year-old carpenter from Prairie Village, Kan., who arrived here Friday night with about 50 others after a 23-hour bus ride.

“In my view, this one is a war of choice and a war for profit against a culture and people we don’t understand,” Mr. Quinly said. “I knew I had to speak up this time.”

At the rally, 12-year-old Moriah Arnold stood on her toes to reach the microphone and tell the crowd: ``Now we know our leaders either lied to us or hid the truth. Because of our actions, the rest of the world sees us as a bully and a liar.''

The sixth-grader from Harvard, Mass., organized a petition drive at her school against the war that has killed more than 3,000 U.S. service-members, including seven whose deaths were reported Saturday

A small contingent of active-duty service members attended the rally, wearing civilian clothes because military rules forbid them from protesting in uniform.

Air Force Staff Sgt. Tassi McKee, 26, an intelligence specialist at Fort Meade, Md., said she joined the Air Force because of patriotism, travel and money for college. ``After we went to Iraq, I began to see through the lies,'' she said.

"I'm convinced this is Bush's war. He has his own agenda there," said Anne Chay, holding a sign with a picture of her 19-year-old son, John, who is serving in Iraq. "We're serving no purpose there."

Chay said her son, who has been in Baghdad since last July, said he was proud of her for traveling from Andover, Massachusetts, to take part in the anti-war rally.

Counter-protesters said that the anti-war protesters were undermining troop morale and increasing the likelihood of a premature withdrawal. Larry Stark, 71, a retired Navy officer who fought in Vietnam for five years and was a prisoner of war, said, “We never lost a battle in Vietnam but we lost the war, and the same is going to be true in Iraq if these protesters have their way. “It’s like we never learn from the past.”

On the stage rested a coffin covered with a U.S. flag and a pair of military boots, symbolizing American war dead. On the Mall stood a large bin filled with tags bearing the names of Iraqis who have died.

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