Protestors March on the Pentagon

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an estimated 5,000 people
marched on the Pentagon
in Washington D.C. to
protest American imperialism
in the Middle East.
“From Iraq to Afghanistan
to Palestine, Occupation is
a Crime” was the slogan of the march, as it took up all three current targets of U.S.
direct and supported aggression. The demonstration was smaller than many previous
national antiwar rallies, reflecting the work that needs to be done to rebuild the antiwar
The date signified the six year anniversary of the war in Iraq, which was largely
ignored by the media due to the misconception that the war is over. The Obama administration
has made it clear that there will be a large residual force in Iraq, even after all of
the combat troops withdraw. Furthermore, many troops being pulled out of Iraq are
being shifted to Afghanistan. For a candidate who won much of his support on an antiwar
platform, this is not an antiwar presidency. And finally, the march took up the occupation
of Palestine, with the United States still funding 2.5 billion dollars a year in support
of Israel’s blatant human rights violations and war crimes.
Seventeen students from the University of Illinois traveled to D.C., including members
of the Campus Antiwar Network, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), and the International
Socialist Organization, to participate in the first national march against the Obama
administration. From the Pentagon to the corporate offices of Boeing, KBR and Lockheed
Martin, we marched to exercise our democratic rights and let the establishment know
that we refuse to support their imperial wars.
Various chants were significant for different groups. For IVAW, “You got bailed out, we
got sold out!” was especially powerful for people who fought in Iraq and became disillusioned
with the destruction and violence that took place.
Local activist Pete Rhomberg of the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN) addressed the
crowd and described Obama as a “president of first steps,” who closed Guantánamo, but
kept open the Bagram detention center in Afghanistan, and who is withdrawing some
troops from Iraq, but sending them to Afghanistan. Rhomberg argued that “it’s up to us”
to make sure these are just the first steps and not the last.
The A.N.S.W.E.R. coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) made fake coffins
draped with flags representing civilians and service members who died in these conflicts
and placed them in front of the buildings of corporations that have profited off of these
wars. With more than a million Iraqis and thousands of American troops dead since the
invasion, people cannot forget the human costs of the war.
While many view the war in Afghanistan as the “good war,” it is important to grasp
the failure of the stated U.S. military goals. The unfortunate pattern is that increased US
military activity has led to increased violence overall and to increased numbers of civilian
casualties. The Taliban is stronger today than it ever was, and since 9/11 terrorism
has increased.
The US strategy of bombing civilian areas where suspected “insurgents” are located,
has killed mostly women and children (who comprised 72 percent of the victims in the
first eight months of 2008) and is a clear violation of national and international law (Articles
48 and 50 of the Fourth Geneva Convention). Moreover, it ultimately fuels more violence
by strengthening support for insurgents among the Afghan population. 2008 was
also the deadliest year to date for US and NATO troops, with 294 killed.
Antiwar activism must be reenergized in every city and on every campus before it can
take on the enormous national character that movements in the past have taken.
The energy and enthusiasm from the crowd showed the potential for rebuilding a
much stronger movement – one that connects all three occupations and demands an end
to war, no matter who sits in the White House.

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