war in Iraq:
Opponents plan largest protest since the invasion
Margaret Kingsbury believes there are as many reasons to demonstrate
against the U.S. military operations now as there were a year ago, if
“The information we obtained over the last year, that there were
no weapons of mass destruction and there was no imminent threat, makes
it all the more clear that we have attacked a country that had no ability
to attack us,” Kingsbury said.
Kingsbury is the coordinator of the anti-war march and workshops being
sponsored in Lansing Saturday, March 20, by the Greater Lansing Network
Against War and Injustice to mark the one-year anniversary of the invasion
of Iraq. (Click
here for events list)
was inspired by the national anti-war organization United for Peace
and Justice, which called for a Global Day of Action. Similar actions
are planned in more than 200 U.S. cities and 50 foreign countries.
The Detroit-based Michigan Emergency Coalition Against War and Injustice
will send two buses with more than 120 people. Organizers are expecting
anti-war activists from across the state, but particularly from the
Jackson and Battle Creek area. Similar rallies will take place in 11
Michigan cities, including Kalamazoo, Midland, Flint, Grand Rapids and
The slogan for the rally at the state Capitol is “Michigan Still
Says No to War.” Speakers will include U.S. Rep. John Conyers
(D-Detroit); state Rep. Michael Murphy (D-Lansing); Abayomi Azikiwe
of the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice; Elizabeth
O’Brien of Direct Action in Lansing; Adie Urley, Molly Leatherman
and Anna Putnam of the Greater Lansing Youth for Peace and Justice;
and Arnold Stieber of Veterans for Peace.
Stieber, of Grass Lake, near Jackson, said his personal message at the
rally will be, “If you have to hurt someone to solve the problem,
you are the problem.” In 1969, after graduating from Michigan
State University with a business degree, Stieber was drafted and spent
14 months in an infantry company in Vietnam.
After his return, Stieber said he was able to “shut it all off.”
He married and continued life as if he’d never taken part in the
traumatic event. But last year, when the Bush administration announced
it would go to war with Iraq, no matter what, “it was like a volcano.
A lot of stuff was brewing underneath, to which I didn’t pay much
attention. I exploded in research.”
a lot of time reading books and other material, Stieber concluded that
the “nicest thing I could say about George W. Bush was that he
is an embarrassment. But it doesn’t really matter who the president
is, because they have all degenerated to puppets of big business. Billions
of dollars are generated from wars. The plan to invade Iraq was made
in the mid-1990s. They only needed a reason.”
Stieber, secretary for the Veteran for Peace’s Washtenaw County
chapter, said it was difficult for him to understand why some Vietnam
veterans still supported the invasion. One explanation, he believes,
is the powerful American “culture of war.”
“We are raised as children to believe that war is the answer,”
he said. “You play war games, or cops and robbers. You learn that
there’s only one way to solve a problem: shoot them up.”
The Greater Lansing area has played an active role in the anti-war movement.
Four weeks before the invasion, a statewide rally organized by the Greater
Lansing Network against War in Iraq (the old name of the organization
that is sponsoring Saturday’s activities) attracted more than
2,000 protesters, making it the largest demonstration in Lansing since
the Vietnam War protests in the early 1970s. Lansing residents joined
603 cities worldwide under the slogan “Say No to War in Iraq.”
Twelve million people on five continents took to the streets.
A few days later, Lansing City Council voted unanimously to take a stance
against the war, calling upon Bush to pursue all possible peaceful diplomatic
alternatives. Lansing became one of 100 cities to adopt a municipal
resolution for peace.
It seems as if the anti-war movement has lost momentum over the last
several months. Event organizer Kingsbury agrees, saying she believes
the number of people active in the local anti-war movement is smaller
than it was a year ago.
But anti-war activist Ben Burgis, who recently moved to Kalamazoo from
East Lansing, said the anti-war movement is still “alive and kicking.”
Burgis thinks the rally will send out a strong message that no more
American soldiers, Iraqi civilians or Iraqi resistance fighters should
According to Iraq Body Count, a research group that tracks civilian
deaths as reported in 40 international newspapers and wire services,
as many as 10,000 non-combatant civilian deaths have been reliably reported
so far as the direct result of military actions. Since the beginning
of the war, 566 U.S. soldiers have died and more than 3,300 have been
wounded, according to www.antiwar.com.
And according to The Cost of War, a group that bases its analysis on
data provided by the Congressional Budget Office, the government has
so far spent more than $106 billion to finance the war in Iraq. The
nonprofit organization National Priorities Project estimates that Greater
Lansing residents will have to pay $64.5 million in federal taxes for
war, occupation and reconstruction in Afghanistan and Iraq this year.
Burgis said the main reason he will protest is that the administration
has lied about the real reasons for going to war. Initially, the U.S.
government called for “regime change” because Iraq supposedly
posed an immediate threat to the world’s security. But since it
didn’t find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the Bush
administration changed its justification for war, saying it wanted to
promote freedom and democracy.
Burgis thinks this is just another attempt to cover up the real objective,
which was to take over Iraq’s economic resources and expand U.S.
“Whereas the Iraqis have been demanding direct elections, the
United States hasn’t been very eager to allow direct elections,”
Burgis said. “But what the U.S. has been eager to do is to go
forward with the free market economy, to privatize the country and sell
it off to foreign investors.”
Due to its close alliance with the U.S. corporate sector, the Bush administration
has been criticized for occupying Iraq in order to influence neoliberal
economic reforms in the Middle East. To give an example, the Kellogg
Brown & Root unit of Halliburton, an oil-services company formerly
headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, controls Iraq’s oilfields
under a controversial, no-bid contract from the Army Corps of Engineers.
Halliburton has been accused of price gouging on imported fuel.
Burgis, a philosophy student at Western Michigan University, thinks
that the Bush administration’s “neo-colonial” foreign
politics are a reason to take the streets. He observed that Bush took
the opportunity to send Marines into Haiti to “restore stability,”
as the country sat back to watch the Academy Awards on Feb. 29. This
makes Haiti the third nation to be directly controlled and occupied
by the United States military since 9/11, after Aghanistan and Iraq.
Burgis said he thought it was bizarrely ironic to see Bush, who was
“appointed” by the U.S. Supreme Court, order the democratically
elected president of Haiti to step down. “I would certainly say
that the pattern between Florida and Haiti is that George W. Bush doesn’t
care very much about the voting rights of poor black people anywhere.”
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