Rob Winder / Al Jazeera – 2008-03-20 22:20:55
WASHINGTON, DC (March 20, 2008) — Hundreds of protesters have taken to the streets of Washington DC on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq to demand that the US withdraw its troops.
Al Jazeera spoke to them about why they were there, their messages for the Iraqi people, and their hopes for the forthcoming US election.
Kathleen Chandler, 54, truck driver from Buffalo, New York:
I’m here because I’m against the war — it’s an illegal and criminal war — people have said no to this war and are going to demand in this election, that the government, whether Democrat or Republican, end the war or find themselves in a lot of trouble with the American people.
My message for the Iraqi people is that we stand with their resistance, their right to sovereignty, their right to their own country and their right to oppose the US occupation of their country with every means that they have.
People are very angry with the Democratic party as they did not deliver when the were elected in 2006 [in the mid-term congressional polls].
They wanted the war ended, they wanted torture ended, they wanted Guantanamo closed and got nothing so there is a lot of contention.
We don’t need to spend hundreds of billions of dollars on the war machine in the US when people need it for housing and healthcare in the US.
James Linn, 65, retired Vietnam veteran from Connecticut:
I remember the arguments that were made in the Vietnam war — that if we didn’t stop the communists in Vietnam then they would take over southeast Asia — well we didn’t and they didn’t.
We have an administration that at best, seriously misread the intelligence and at worst, lied to the American public.
It has taken the country into a war that has gone on for five full years and has no end in sight and has ignored the growing threat from al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
This war is much more about George Bush and his ideas about the world than it is about reality.
My message to the Iraqi people is that the best thing the US can do is withdraw and help them rebuild their country and that we will not continue destroying their country as we have done.
We have two Democratic candidates who are both opposed to the war – I prefer Obama but would still vote for and work for Hillary.
Henry Mills, 21, English student at Maryland University:
We have to hold ourselves accountable for the government of the United States is doing.
Our responsibility is to speak out against the war and do what we can – so I’m here doing my part.
My message to the Iraqi people is that a large part of the American public is against the war and are open to the pain that the Iraqi people are suffering right now.
I read the news every day and there is still a suicide bombing every day and there are hundreds of people dying every week – this is not progress.
People are out of their minds if they think the war is over and the surge is working.
The US soldiers are just like another gang on the streets and we need to pull them out. They are not keeping the peace – they are causing violence.
Protests like this are largely symbolic but it does help to change attitudes and that is the first step.
Jack Wentland, 70, retired project manager from Hartford, Connecticut:
The reason I am here today is that the war is sapping our resources not only economically but in terms of human resources.
If we don’t speak up then no-one else will.
My message to people in Iraq is that I hope we can leave your country and somehow put it back the way it was — not with the domination of a dictator, but at least with its infrastructure restored.
As with the Vietnam war, only by protest will anything happen.
I can’t understand why we are changing the subject to the economy as it’s the same subject. The war is creating an economic mess and we need to pay attention to that.
I hope Obama will bring a thinking man’s approach to this war rather than shooting from the hip as this [current] administration has done.
Noel Rajeh, lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and works for an NGO:
It’s an important anniversary and it’s important for people to come out and show they want this war to end.
Even if people don’t think they are making a difference you have to stick up for your own convictions.
For every activist here there are 100 people who would like to come but can’t participate but are against the war.
As we walk through the streets a lot of people that work here and live here come out and say ‘keep doing what you’re doing.’
It shows there is a resistance and that it’s alive and it’s big.
My message to the Iraqi people is that there are many people who are here in solidarity with you, that are praying for you and that don’t want this to continue and that I hope that they know that.
I also hope the US troops know that there are people that want them to come home.
I’m supporting Barack Obama as I wanted to support someone who had not supported the war. I think it’s very hard to get out of this war but it would have been easier not to go in.
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