Protesting eight years of war

March 24, 2011

ANTIWAR ACTIVISTS, military veterans, students and working people took to the streets March 19 in Chicago and Seattle to mark the eighth anniversary of the Iraq war and to oppose the continuing U.S. drive to dominate the Middle East.

In 2003, the Bush administration made its infamously flimsy case for war on Iraq, using cooked intelligence to assert that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. In 2008, Obama was elected in part because he campaigned on opposition to the U.S. war in Iraq. Yet in 2011, the Obama administration still has some 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, in addition to many contractors working for the Pentagon.

What's more, the U.S. has escalated its troop presence in Afghanistan, and on Saturday, March 19, 2011, one day before the eighth anniversary of the U.S. war on Iraq, U.S. bombs began dropping on yet another Muslim country.

In Chicago, more than 1,000 people gathered downtown and marched up Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile as weekend shoppers, tourists and passersby stopped to watch, snap photos and occasionally join in a chant.

Spoken-word artists, teachers and others addressed the assembled crowd before the march began. Many talked about the connection between the U.S. war in Iraq, massive U.S. military spending, the ballooning federal deficit, and the struggle for workers' rights in Wisconsin and elsewhere throughout the Midwest.

Favorite chants included "Occupation is a crime from Iraq to Palestine" and "FBI, CIA, terror made in the USA." As word reached the crowd that the U.S. bombing of Libya was set to begin at any moment, many joined in chants of "No UN, no Qaddafi, let the people rule Benghazi!"

The crowd was diverse, with crowds of young and multiracial marchers; military veterans of the U.S. wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan; and a contingent of members from various campus chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine marching with a huge Palestinian flag.

In Seattle, several hundred people gathered downtown to protest the continuing war on Iraq, but acutely aware that the war on Libya was starting at any moment. A large number of signs declared, "U.S./UN/NATO--Hands off Libya!"

While the number of demonstrators was small, the turnout was larger than in the past few years as people are simultaneously inspired by the revolutionary upheavals throughout the Middle East and North Africa, but also angered by President Obama's continuation of Bush's war across the Middle East and Central Asia.

"The U.S. military has never been used as a force for good, and it never will be," said Jane Cutter of ANSWER. "The U.S. only uses military force to protect its own interests."

While the U.S. military spends hundreds of billions of dollars to attack and kill people abroad, pressing social needs in the U.S. go unmet. One estimate shows that the U.S. spent $100 million on the first day of bombing Libya alone--an amount equivalent to salaries for 2,000 teachers.

"There's a war going on in this country," said Josh Simpson of Coffee Strong, an antiwar GI coffee house outside the U.S. Army's Fort Lewis, south of Seattle. "It's a war against working people. We could pay for all the government deficits simply by ending the wars...

"I served in combat in Iraq, and now, as I finish up my teaching certification program, I'm under assault all over again...It's been six years since I left Iraq, but we have to keep protesting. From Egypt to Wisconsin, the working class is waking up and fighting back."

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