Protest in Washington D.C. against the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq

Before the march, at a rally in Lafayette Park, which is located directly across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House, one protestor, Paul D. Morosky from Uncasville, Connecticut carried a sign that read: “ End These Racist Wars.”

“The wars probably were assisted in their creation because of the use of racial issues. It goes far deeper than that. The wars themselves are being fought against people who we are referring to as 'haji's', 'towel-heads,' and 'sand niggers.' These are all racial slurs that help to demean the 'other side' and allow our troops and Americans in general to look down upon people of the Middle East. This also is seen right here in America.

“Not only that but when you think about the poverty draft that we have going on in this country, because basically there are no jobs, you see this too as a level of racism. These kids are getting out of school and they got nothing else to do with no ability to obtain higher education. So they sign up for the military as it looks like a great way to move ahead, and get an education. They are not truly made aware of the intended use of them as killing machines. They're being used as cannon fodder for these wars.”

When we spoke at the protest in D.C., Morosky said there are many reasons the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are bad, but that the racist aspects of it is something he wants to call people's attention to. By way of email I asked Morosky if he is referring to Black and Brown folk, from the inner city along with low-income White folk who may live in rural as well as urban and suburban parts of our country.

“Of course white as well,” he wrote in the email. “Unfortunately our racist society here in America has kept our citizens who are of color in the lower classes of society, which are targeted by the military industrial complex. There is a high-tech military recruiting center that allows children as young as 14 to come play video warfare games for free. This is directly targeting a poorer segment of our society.”

Shortly before posting this article, I emailed Morosky, asking for more information about that high-tech recruiting center. I will add that information when he responds.

I asked him if he is involved in efforts in his local community aimed at stopping the wars. I asked him that because a commenter on Democratic Underground suggested that local protesting is as good as, if not better than, going to D.C. It involves us being more likely to form relationships with people in our communities who see us protesting week after week.

Morosky responded by email. “My wife and I currently participate in a monthly vigil that we hold locally as the War Moratorium in Norwich, CT. We participate in other local events as well. We hold a monthly free DVD movie/documentary showing at our local library in an effort to build community based around information that doesn’t otherwise play at 'a theater near you'. However, any media attention our national movement can gain seems to only happen when we gather in force and speak with one voice as was happening(during the protest on March 20 in D.C. ).” Those are my words in parentheses.

Last week, as the time to take a chartered bus trip from Columbus Ohio to D.C. drew near, someone said to me that going to D.C. is a waste of time. I told Morosky about this when we spoke in person.

“Whether or not my fellow citizens want to come out and join us is completely up to them, but I can't bury my head in the sand.” He said protesting in D.C. is a way to get our country to do a better job of living up to it's core principles. “Staying home isn't going to get it done.”

At the time of writing this article, the Peace of the Action website, which has been a source of information for the March 20 protest, does not have under it's “Our Demands Are Simple” section the demand that the US end its support for Israel.

Perhaps it never did. I may have made a mistake and thought that was one of the demands associated with the March 20 protest. Whichever, when I spoke with Morosky in D.C., I asked him about the realism of demanding that our government end its support for Israel.

“ I understand that the demands do seem a bit strong. I have mixed feelings about Israel. I have many Jewish friends, but I guess my biggest thing with Israel—especially with the houses being built on the settlements---We (the US) scold them for this but we don't try to make a difference by cutting some funding for them. They certainly get a lot of money from the United States. So, it would be good to try to use that as leverage to move forward with peace in the Middle East.”

Later that day, as I bicycled through a part of downtown D.C. where the march had been, I saw signs along the side of the road, apparently left there by counter-demonstrators. One sign read “Build Bibi Build.” This is a reference to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu aka 'Bibi' and the announcement earlier this month of Israeli plans to build 1,600 new settler homes in an area of the occupied West Bank. The Palestinian Authority as well as the US State Department say those plans are damaging to peace negotiations.

Morosky said corporate interests motivate the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Anyone who thinks the wars in Iraq were not about oil is crazy. The reason the U.S. military is still there is they want to maintain security so that the private oil companies who have now inked deals with the Iraqi government can continue to pump oil for profit. Saddam wanted to nationalize the oil or he wanted to trade oil using the Euro instead of the U.S. Dollar. This was just not acceptable to the corporate oil industry or the US government.”

Morosky said he was for many years complacent about U.S. foreign policy.

In an email message a couple of days after the protest in D.C., he wrote : “It was somewhat a self-imposed denial of what my government was actually about. It is very difficult for a patriotic American to truly look at our government without the nationalistic lens. I guess things really jelled for me when I saw what our government was heading toward after 911.”

While at the protest he said, “I woke up quite a bit , mostly because I couldn't understand what the rush to war was all about. I felt like the weapons inspectors were on the ground in Iraq. They were getting unfettered access to all of the sites. Hans Blix, the chief weapons inspector, was saying that there was nothing blocking them from getting into these sites. And as we know, nothing was ever found after the invasion. It looks like they (the weapons inspectors) were right.

“Meanwhile, four point something million Iraqis are refugees and, depending on who you listen to, anywhere from 100,000 to over a million Iraqis dead. Their economy is in shambles there and there's still no peace there and we're no safer than we were before 9-11. We've created more enemies with these wars and this continues today.”

Denis Heretz from Boston carried a sign that read “ Empire Kills Democracy.”

“It's hard to maintain democracy when more and more money is needed to fund overseas adventures...Ancient Greeks more or less---the Athenian Republic sort of segued into Alexander's empire and we got the Romans as the obvious, classic example of a nice republic that suddenly goes down the tubes because of their expansionist tendencies. The French Republic, of course, was eliminated by Napoleon and his ambitions and Weimar Germany to some extent was a republic and then Hitler and his fascist tendencies –so there's many historical precedents for this.”

Heretz said he is not against all wars or against violence in all cases, but that he is against wars that are waged for the wrong reasons.

“The only war that you could argue was really necessary for America was the War of 1812. Basically, that's the only time we've been invaded—maybe World War II, though the start of that war was kind of suspect as well. m

Dressed in an orange jump suit, working with World Can't Wait was Rich Mareney

“We're here with the orange jumpsuits to say 'stop occupations and torture for empire.' We have Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib, and they're enlarging the Bagram Prison, where they basically indefinitely detain all these prisoners without any actual evidence that they've actually been involved in anything. But more importantly, we're also out here, asking for an end to empire building. Basically, our country is sending all of these troops out there to play pipeline police , to guard these pipelines they want to put through Afghanistan to take the oil to the sea and we think that's wrong.”

To people who may say that the US military occupation of Afghanistan is necessary because our nation needs access to oil, Mareney says “we should be investing in options other than oil.”

When I mentioned renewable energy, alternative transportation and local food, Mareeney said “ we need to go back to farming.”

I asked him who he thinks benefits from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“Obviously, the oil companies and people like Dick Cheney, and Halliburton, and the people who work in these buildings around here in Washington, D.C.

He said Obama is maintaining the status quo with U.S. foreign policy on Afghanistan because “ it's not really the emperor, it's the empire, (that's the problem).”

Mareney Regardless of the face that they put into the White House, the mechanisms of the machine are still at work. So, it really has nothing to do with Obama personally. It has to do with the system that's in place in this country. “

Ordinary people may be able to change that system by “staying away from the corporate crap,” Mareney said. He said as consumers we can invest into our local economy, to lessen our dependence on multinational corporations. But that by itself won't be enough.

“On a larger scale we need to do away with the whole capitalist system,” Mareney said. Referring to a fellow World Can't Wait activist standing nearby in an orange jumpsuit, “ some people like Bob over here would argue that there needs to be a revolution to overthrow it (the capitalist system.)”

Mareney said people he's spoken with have differing opinions on whether it should be a violent revolution, with some of them thinking that an armed revolution “opens up a lot of doors.” He also said “ I personally would fight for more of a peaceful revolution.”

He agreed that a violent revolution would likely lead to a police state, saying also “we'd wind up with a civil war.”

I spoke with at least one person at this rally who seemed reluctant to rule out violent revolution. That struck me as ironic, if not hypocritical, given that this was a protest against the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

As Mareney and I spoke, a recording of Eminem played on the PA system. I don't know what the song was, but I wonder how his music relates to opposing the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Maybe someone who helped plan this rally picked the song because of Hip Hop being an international genre for various people's resistance struggles.

But someone should clue me in on how Eminem, known for his women-bashing and gay-bashing and shock-appeal relates to standing up for the human rights of those at the receiving end of US military policy.

Mareney agreed that the interests of multinational corporations drive the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but he said ordinary Americans are a part of this hegemonic process.

“Everything we have is at the expense of somebody else. That's the wrong part. You look around and people still have green lawns and they go home and watch that flat screen TV while we're torturing people in other countries to get oil to make these flat screen TVs. So it's just insane.”

Of course, the vast majority of participants in the March 20 protest, including myself, used some form of fossil fuel-based transportation to travel from our home towns to D.C.

Debra Sweet, National Director of World Can't Wait, said

“It's seven years since (the US military tactic of ) 'shock and awe.' With a new administration, I think a lot of people have had their minds changed that somehow that was not a completely aggressive, preemptive, illegal, illegitimate, unjust, and immoral war. And it still is.

“ We know that more than a million Iraqis died, 4.5 million displaced from their homes, civil society completely destroyed. Torture is part of this occupation at Abu Ghraib and other places, spreading to Guantanamo, and under the banner of the so-called global war on terror of the Bush regime, it spread across the world in our names seven years ago.

“We've been protesting this anniversary every year and this year we can truly say that we have two wars going on that are the responsibility of Barack Obama. George Bush started them, but Barack Obama has expanded the war in Afghanistan, an offensive going on right now which is killing civilians, which has nothing to do with protecting civilians, or stabilizing the country.

“It's about sweeping it up more thoroughly for US domination, as part of a plan to carve up and control the whole Middle East. President Obama, unlike President Bush, has been sending even more unmanned drones and secret ops into Pakistan, even more, as we're learning now into Yemen and Somalia.

“So that's five countries, and threats against Iran. This is a package that's going in a very terrible direction. Our organization, the World Can't Wait---Drive Out The Bush Regime, set out to do just that in 2005, to reverse the Bush program and remove Bush and Cheney from office by driving them out (by way of ) a popular movement unhindered by allegiance to these political parties in Congress.

“We were not able to do that and the world is paying a terrible price. We are spreading the idea that American lives are no more important than the lives of people in any other country, that we care about humanity, and that we have the responsibility to stop the crimes of our government.”

Sweet said that during the Bush presidency, protests against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq had a lot more people participating.

“A Presidential candidate and then a president was brought forward who represented on the surface something very different. This was change we were supposed to believe in and huge numbers of people, including anti-war leaders, put all their energy into electing Obama, regardless of the fact that he was promising to expand the war in Afghanistan,” Sweet said.

Perhaps interestingly, as Sweet and I spoke, Public Enemy's “Don't Believe The Hype” played on the PA system.

Also interesting was that Sweet uttered a combination of words Malcolm X used to famous effect, which was made more famous by way of Spike Lee's film about the civil rights leader.

“A lot of people have been hoodwinked and bamboozled. Many of us weren't, but we need to be all that much more visible and protesting now, because even more than ever, we need a movement that says 'no' to this whole package of continuing the Bush direction,” Sweet said.


Brian Becker ANSWER Coalition spoke over the PA system


(Material for separate article—not necessarily useful for article focusing on calls for revolution)

“Many of you know that before this demonstration took place, the ANSWER Coalition received nearly $10,000 in fines in the last two weeks for the crime of putting up an anti-war poster. In Los Angeles, two of our organizers were arrested on felony charges for putting up an anti-war poster.” The crowd booed at this.

“ They face trial. They were given bail of $20,000 each for having put up an anti-war poster. The same thing happened in San Francisco. We had to post $50,000 in bail so that two people could get out of jail for the crime of allegedly putting up an anti-war poster. Now, let me ask you. Why is it that grassroots organizing—the traditional methods, putting up posters, handing out leaflets—have become a crime ? It's because the government fears the people. They know that we can organize. They know we can take this message into our communities, our campuses, into our workplaces, and yes, right into the rank and file of the US military and say 'we won't fight for imperialist wars.'”


The US government spends $1.2 million every two days for war and occupation and right down the street there's a doubling of homeless families in the shelters. In Washington, D.C. there's no money for people's needs but endless money for war and occupation.”


As I listened to some of the speakers, and saw the White House across the street, I wondered whether Obama could hear some of what was being said over the load speakers.


Mickey Huff, Project Censored.


“ One of the biggest problems going on in our country is that people can't get factual information to understand how much is going on and going on so wrong, though I don't need to tell that to everybody that's here today.


It is March Madness. This is March Madness that started seven years ago in this recent incarnation of an illegal occupation and illegal invasion and the destruction and racist decimation of the country of Iraq and the people of Iraq, as well as Afghanistan and other parts of the world.”


Huff said mainstream media outlets are inadequately reporting on what the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have done to US service members and to Afghan and Iraqi civilians.


“We don't want to talk about the cost of occupation and I don't just mean the economic cost and the money going into bombs and missiles and death and destruction that takes money away from healthcare and from education. I'm talking about the death of over a million Iraqis. That's one of the most censored stories about this war. We don't get to hear about the death of over a million people.”


Huff continued, “the Associated Press in this country, a year ago this coming month, April, published stories claiming that 87,000 Iraqis have died, and they ran it three times, knowing that it's completely false. The Iraqis need us to stand up. We need to stand up against this illegal occupation. We need to fight for freedom of the press and free speech.”


Vice Chair of the National Council on Arab Americans, Mounzer Sleiman: " It's time to liquidate the military project. It's time to liquidate the empire. We spend $1 trillion on national security state [sic] for security, military, and four wars overseas. The war that destroyed the country of Iraq—we commemorate seven years of destruction. Don't be fooled by the circus of elections there. It's only a national census based on ethnic and sectarian lies. They claimed to bring democracy and freedom. We result of destruction in Iraq. We saw the millions of displaced people. We saw the hundreds of thousands of killed and wounded, and don't forget that democracy and freedom does apply to some people. It's good to have a fraudulent election in Afghanistan to illegitimize Kharzai. But it's not good for the will of the Palestinian people who are still under seige now for the past 1,000 days. Lift the seige on the Palestinians. Lift the seige now." He repeated that sentence twice, perhaps in a failed attempt to get the crowd to chant it.


" It's time to liquidate this empire or we'll be forced to liquidate it by the will of the people throughout the world. It's better to spend a trillion dollars on education, on fighting poverty, on healthcare, fighting the degradation of the environment...This is the change that we can believe in, not the change of the course of the same [sic.]---continued escalation, and continuing to put Arab and Muslim comunities in this country under seige and under fear, and continuing to have the Arab world and the Muslim world a killing field for the war machine. It's time to stop the war machine and bring the troops home."


The Raging Grannies sang and dedicated the song to Doris "Granny D" Haddock who died  in March-and who walked across the United States  in order to raise awareness about campaign finance reform.  Haddock ran for public office though she did not win the election. 


To the tune of Roll Out The Barrel they sang Follow The Money:


Follow the money

To see why we go off to war

For seven long years now

It's not freedom we're fighting for


Follow the money

It leads to those corporate whores

They've gone and bombed the Iraqis

So Halliburton can get more.


Pfizer and Walmart

Bechtel and Citigroup too

Reap all the profits

And don't give a thing about you


While folks go hungry

In D.C. and in New Orleans

They're at home counting their money

To support their war machine.


Follow the money

It all leads to corporate greed

The poor and the homeless

When will they get what they need


Big money interests

Dictate our government's plan

It's time to take back our country

And give folks a helping hand.


Bail out the people

And give them the money they need

To hell with the bankers

Who suffer from terminal greed


We've got to stop them

And those who profit from war

Yes, we will follow the money

Let's buy peace instead of war




Joe Lombardo, a member of the National Assembly, a network of anti-war groups throughout the country.


“ The flight of US industry from US shores to find cheaper resources and labor with no unions and no environmental, or health, or safety regulations –a process known as globalization—has required new military thinking. To protect US corporate interests abroad we now have our military in over 135 countries with close to 800 permanent foreign military bases. Our now globalized economy will mean permanent war as US corporate-controlled government seeks to protect US corporate interests abroad.


“As national populations in these countries seek to reclaim their national resources and wealth for their own people, they will be accused of terrorism. And so as Bush told us, we will have a permanent war on terror. War will be part of politics in this country from now on. As the US military enters country after country in the interests of corporations and the class that they represent they use a common tactic called divide-and-conquer.


“They seek to divide the population, breaking down their unity and solidarity and supporting one against the other. So, we see Sunni versus Shia, Kurd versus Arab, one tribal leader versus the next. The peace movement in this country has also been divided. We have been unable to find a way to work together, and this has been one reason the peace movement in this country has not approached its potential.


“There is a movement calculus that goes like this. If one organization can bring out a hundred people and another can bring out a hundred people, together they'd bring out a thousand people. Let's bring out tens of thousands of people.”


This summer in Albany New York there will a national conference sponsored by 14 national groups.



One speaker who is a host on WPFW and who is a member of the Muslim Alliance of North America and whose name I could not hear amidst the din of the cheering crowd said the United States and nations in Western Europe are using claims about genocide in Darfur as a cover for an imperialist attempt to divide Sudan.


He also called for the release from prison of Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, fomerly known as H. Rap Brown, whom he referred to as a political prisoner. Al Amin is the author of Die Nigger Die: A Political Autobiography and also Revolution By The Book.


Chuck Kaufman, national coordinator of Alliance for Global Justice
“ It's time for us to stop being so polite. It's time for us to stop thinking it matters who is sitting in the White House or which party controls Congress.” He said that Obama has increased the Pentagon budget and that Obama is escalating the war in Afghanistan, along with keeping 50,0000 troops in Iraq and “who knows how many mercenaries.”


Kaufman said the United States has been taken over by militarism. He said to the crowd “it is up to each of us to be sugar in the gas tanks and sand in the gears of the war machine. Only we can stop the madness.” He said the United States spends more on the war machine than all other nations combined.


Kaufman said Latin America shows promise.

“The hope of the world lies in what's happening in Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, and other places where the people have taken control and they're building real democracies. But the Pentagon, the State Department, the corporations, and yes the president, are not going to allow that to happen without a fight. They're building seven new military bases in Columbia, four in Panama. They're still training soldiers in the School of the Americas.” Kaufman said Latin America is crucial to the freedom of people in the United States.


“We need a movement of massive non-cooperation. We need to shut it down in the schools. We need to shut it down in the factories. We need to shut it down in the cities and towns.” Many in the crowd chanted “shut it down”, howling and cheering.



NLG Executive Director Heidi Boghosian said

“When confronted with a plutocracy, one that thrives on empire and the flagrant disregard for the law, how are the people to respond ? History has shown that when we take to the streets like today, again and again, we can stir the public conscience to act on the side of justice, to stand up and demand that our leadership be held accountable. We are faced with a singular challenge today, a reawakening of a passive public to the atrocities that are now synonymous with the words 'U.S. Government.'---secret detentions, extraordinary renditions, water-boarding, secret evidence, torture, murder.


“With the doctrine of Sovereign Immunity, we have seen it's extension to all government officials and the creation of a two-tiered society: those above the law and those under the law. Those of us who still cherish that rule of law in this country have the duty to fight for its restoration...This country wields major influence over other countries. The lawless policies of the Bush administration and now the Obama administration have imperiled our civil liberties and those of others around the world.


“ By waging illegal and immoral invasions on Iraq and Afghanistan, (the United States ) serves as a lawless yet powerful role model to other countries and as an obstructionist force in the future of international cooperation. We must continue to ignite the hearts and minds of Americans. We must let them forget the unparalleled outrage they felt years ago at seeing the outrages of Abu Ghraib. We must not let them slip back into complacency as our government wages flagrant abuses of thousands of innocents all in the name of empire. We must not let this government depersonalize the war crimes we perpetrate daily that benefit big business with the promise of jobs, homes, and food. For as long as we allow a campaign of disinformation to continue we remain complicit in the deliberate horrors perpetrated in the name of empire.”


A speaker from US Labor Against The War whose name I didn't get because my recording shut off said his organization has brought Iraqi workers to the United States to meet face to face with workers in this country. He said the most telling sign of the US occupation of Iraq was when L. Paul Bremmer, the US Administrator of Iraq, eliminated every Iraqi law except one : Saddam Hussein's law denying the right of workers to organize.

“That law is on the books of the Iraqi legal system. Iraqi unions have continued to organize despite this law. They have endured violence, raids, arrests, seizures of their offices, both by the Iraqi authorities and the US authorities. But teachers, hotel workers, oil workers, dock workers, and factory workers of Iraq have organized . We've been in touch with them. They are progressive. They are secular. They are against the oil stealing there. They are against the privatization. They are a powerful force for the future of Iraq and we all have to support them.”


Kevin Zeese is the Executive Director and co-founder of Voters For Peace.


“The taboo I want to break today is talking about American empire. Do you ever hear that discussed in the media. Corporate media never acknowledges that we're an empire. In fact, we're the largest empire in world history, hundreds of bases around the world, millions of troops, spending as much (on our military) as the whole word combined.


“Why don't they discuss empire ? Because, if people realized we were an empire they would turn against it. If the American people understood what an empire is and what it's doing to our economy and our democracy and our law, they would say no to empire, no to militarism, and no to war.


“ The absurdity of empire is so clear in Afghanistan, $1 million per troop for one a time when our economy is collapsing, unemployment at record highs, incomes going down, foreclosures and bankruptcies growing, we're spending a million dollars per troop, borrowed from China and Saudi Arabia to fight a war we shouldn't be in.”


A thought that occurs to me is that perhaps it would make sense for an enemy of the United States to seek to provoke this very sort of military action as a way of undermining US power, a sort of jujitsu move. Perhaps other writers have suggested this to possibly be the case, such as Benjamin Barber, author of Jihad Versus McWorld.


Perhaps corporatism is only part of the story behind 9-11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq in that Al Qaeda, regardless of its motivations, may have very well expected and wanted the US to get more militarily involved in Arab nations as a bitter and temporary pill to swallow for the longer term reward of the exhaustion of US power in the region. Further China may be ok with what the US is doing militarily in the sense that its leaders see it as a way that the US is weakening itself politically, economically, and militarily. All the while corporatism facilitates—likely unwittingly—this process of the US stepping into this trap.



Pam Africa of the International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal urged the crowd to fight for Jamal's release from prison, as he faces the prospect of continued life in prison without parole or a death sentence. Pam Africa, who as a member of MOVE takes on the word Africa as a her surname, said the US government is waging a war here in the United States.


“It's 25 years since this government dropped a bomb, killing 11 Black men, women and children of my family. On the 25th anniversary, in Philadelphia, (May 13 ), we're asking everybody to come out to say we oppose the war abroad and we oppose the war here.”


Reverend Graylan Hagler of United For Peace and Justice :


“It's good to see all your faces out here. Folks think we've forgotten that there's a war in Iraq, that we've forgotten there's a war in Afghanistan, that we've forgotten there's a war against working people right here in the United States, but we're here to say that we've haven't forgotten a thing, and that we intend to hold this administration accountable. We intend to stand up until all the troops are brought home.”


“We hear to tell President Obama that when we work to bring change we didn't just change a face in the White House, because if he's going to continue with the Bush policies, we might as well have kept Bush. We want the change, to change the entire paradigm in which this country operates in the world. We organize for change so that working people will not be thrown out in the street. We organize for change so that we can close Guantanamo, so that we can end the war in Iraq, so that we can have no more military adventures around the world. We work for that, Mr. Obama. If you understand the constituency that brought you to the White House then you will begin to bend to be more accountable

to those folks who walked streets and knocked on doors to get your elected. We intend to hold you accountable because we are the change that we can depend on.” At that point the crowd burst into cheering.


Hagler urged the crowd to give money in support of the anti-war movement as red buckets were passed around .


Mike Ferner of Veterans For Peace :

“ There's an enormous cost to this war. We know that. I want to use just one example. I come from a small town, Toledo, Ohio---300,000 people. Our citizens since the invasion of Afghanistan, have sent to these wars $750,000,000 of tax money just to these wars. Last week the mayor tells us we're laying off 20 percent of our police officers. Firefighters are next. Our city parks and swimming pools are going to be closed this summer. The list goes on and on in every city across this country.


“The other cost of course, is the cost of human suffering. I worked as a hospital corpsman for 3 years during the Vietnam War. I worked in a Navy hospital, trying to put young men back together when they returned from Vietnam and Cambodia, and I can tell you one thing, that anybody in this town ( Washington, D.C.) before they vote one more nickel for war or order one more troop into war ought to have to work for a couple of months in the back wards of a VA hospital and find out what it's like to take care of men and women who can no longer get up and go to the bathroom,”


Ramsey Clark


“On Hiroshima Day of 1990, we enforced the United Nations to impose genocidal sanctions on Iraq. I guess we chose Hiroshima Day on purpose. That one act took more than a million and a half lives, according to every organization that deals with health and food and children—UNICEF, Food and Agriculture (FAO), World Food Program, and all the rest. A million and a half lives were taken by sanctions imposed on the people. Half of the million and a half were children under five. It wasn't a neat division with a million and half suffering and everyone else living happily ever after. (There has been) a generation of stunted children, impaired health on the general population. We came in there like gangbusters and it's been hell on earth ever since. And there has to be accountability for it. Without accountability America will never stop warring. We have to believe we can do it. We have to begin hearings. There have to be hearings in the House Judiciary Committee and the Senate Judiciary Committee. The Department of Justice has to investigate. We have committed extreme international crimes and those responsible for it have to be held accountable by the people of the United States. We can't look to the Hague or some other organization to do it. This is our responsibility. We let it happen. … The children can be out of school, the sick can die, but we cannot touch the military budget because our war machine and our military industrial complex and the rich of the nation depend on it. We need to cut our military budget by 50 percent right away in the next 5- 10 years. It's the only road to peace on Earth. Then down 75 percent after that and then shortly after that 10 percent left. And we'll be safer than we've ever been. We won't be a menace anymore. We can make friends instead of enemies on the planet. So, let's get up, roll up our sleeves and not rest until we do it.”


Cindy Sheehan : “Is the honey moon over with that war criminal in the White House ?” Honestly, what I hear when I play and replay the audio is mixture of voices in the crowd shouting “yeah” and some shouting “ no”.


Sheehan continued, “ He became a war criminal when he was in the Senate voting for funding these illegal wars. He became a criminal against our constitution voting to extend the Patriot Act, voting for the FISA Modernization Act, voting for the bailout. He's never been for us. And why were we giving him a free pass ? He didn't deserve it. So we're out here now. We have to shut it down now. We can't make anymore excuses. We can't make more excuses for our government. We can't make anymore excuses for the president, no matter what party that president comes from. The Democrats and the Republicans are the War Party and we have to get that through our heads. They're the War Party.


So we need you back here after the march to surround that White House and say 'we're not for your crappy healthcare bill'” the crowd cheered and whistled, “ ' but you have to bring the troops home now. We need money for education and for jobs and for healthcare, not for these wars of empire.'”


It's great to see everybody. These are people—some of them—that are camping with me across the street from the White House and it's great to be here on a Saturday. It's great to feel the energy, but we're not going to change real problems by marching on a Saturday and shaking our fists at empty buildings and going 'you stupid buildings, if you don't change your ways, we're going to march by you again next year.' No, we have to do what Mario Salvio said back in the 60's. But before I close with that---be here at 3:30 to help us surround the White House. Come out to Camp Out (Now) at 8 because the Po po is trying to shut down our camp. So be there at 8. We need everybody. The camp is at 1600 Constitution. We on are Constitution and they're trying to taking away our constitutional rights...”


Juan Jose Gutierrez, director of Latino Movement USA said the Latino immigrants are a key part of the working people of the United States.

“ The struggle to end the war is the same struggle to win full rights or comprehensive immigration reform, if you will, for the millions of people that today constitute an army of modern slaves and we intend to bring an end to it as soon as possible. Therefore we're to say that we will remain with this movement the war is ended and the troops are brought home.” Gutierrez promised the people in the crowd that Latino Movement USA would raise the anti-war issues at the national rally for immigration reform that took place in D.C. the following day.”


Debra Sweet, World Can't Wait : “Don't look to the White House to solve it. Don't look to Congress to solve it. The solution to this terrible direction of society is right here. Beginning right here today. We have the responsibility. If our friends tells us 'well, I don't know, I think Obama is ending the war in Iraq. I believe the hype.' We have the responsibility to say 'No, 17 permanent bases in Iraq—this is a permanent occupation. Get your butt out in the streets and protest.'


If our friends say to us 'Well, I don't know. I thought torture was wrong under Bush. But now Dick Cheney is making an argument for maybe [sic] we need to torture, maybe it will keep us safer,' you tell your friends 'Hell no, torture for any reason is wrong. It's against the interests of humanity and we will not allow it to be carried out in our name.' The crowd cheered and whistled.


“ If your friends say ' Well, I would have objected if drones were dropped on Pakistan by George Bush, but I'm kind of in to it with Barack Obama. Maybe he has a point. Maybe we should make war on Yemen, Iran, and Somalia, and continue the occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan.' What are you going to tell your friends? 'Hell no. Get your butt out in the streets and protest.'


And most especially, if your friends say ' I wouldn't have signed up with the US military with George Bush, but I don't know, I'm kind of in to fighting for Barack Obama.' What are you going to tell them ? 'Hell no. ' Bring the We-Are-Not-Your-Soldiers tour---Iraq vets and Afghan vets—into high school classrooms.


Anne Wright, US Army veteran with 29 years of active and reserve duty who resigned from the US State Department in 2003 in opposition to the US invasion of Iraq was also at the protest.



Ralph Nader spoke to the crowd saying that the US war in Iraq has not only killed more than a million Iraqis but that it has also resulted in contamination of that country's air, soil, and water. Nader also said the objective to fight a 'war on terror' entails never-ending military conflict.

“ There are less than 100,000 Al Qaeda in Afghanistan...the rest of them have moved into Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, (and other parts of ) Africa, and into Southeast Asia. Are we going to go to war against these countries as well ? Where's the end here ? The end is a mobilization for peace. The end is to come back to America and pay attention to the 45,000 people dying every year because they can't afford health insurance.”


Nader said there is no way for the United States to win in Afghanistan.

“ 25 to 35 thousand Taliban with no air force, no navy, no tanks, no artillery, no drones, are tying down the most powerful military force in the world. I wonder why. It's because military occupation does that to people. They want to drive us out, as would be the case if the shoe was on the other foot.”


Nader said the “culture of imperialism” is expanding, regardless of what major party controls the White House, the Senate, or the House of Representatives.


“ Some of you voted for Obama as the least worst” he told the crowd which was noticeably quiet and attentive as he spoke in a relatively low volume of voice, though they were quick to answer his calls as he spoke. “ But what difference in foreign or military affairs is there between Barack Obama and George W. Bush except for the rhetoric?” The crowd answered “none.”


“An Associated Press reporter (while speaking on) C-SPAN some months ago said, 'there's really no difference.' Look, is there really any difference ---with the military-industrial complex, the Lockheed Martins that Eisenhower warned us about---between Obama and Bush?” The crowd answered “no”


Nader continued, “Does Obama meet with any dissenting and peace groups—Veterans for Peace, and all the various church groups, women's groups, and student groups. He hasn't met with any of them in the White House, nor did George W. Bush. He still is using indefinite detentions and excuses like state secrets to block lawsuits the brutalization and the torture. He's still violating our treaties and our constitution and he's still refusing to condemn the brutal Israeli blockade and siege of 1.5 million people (in Gaza). Let's stop talking apartheid. This is the largest open-air prison in the world, an international crime by all international law observers.”


On these issues, Nader encouraged the crowd to inquire into the campaign of New York Democratic Candidate for U.S. Senate Jonathan Tasini. He also said “we have to invoke constitutional accountability for Congress to control the declaration of war authority and not give it up to an imperial presidency. We have to demand that John Conyers and his associates in the House Judiciary Committee immediately move for an investigate hearing here about the fugitives from justice, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. And we need a simple law to force Congress to obey the Constitution and the declaration of war authority. Here it is, a simple one paragraph law: ' anytime Congress and the White House wants to plunge the United States of America into a foreign war, all age-qualified sons, daugthers, and grandchildren of all members of Congress will be immediately drafted into the armed services.' That will call their attention to control the Executive Branch, the military-industrial complex, and the imperial presidency. Go back home, please, and double, triple, and quadruple your members. Start small Congress agitation groups, surround the offices of the senators and representatives and build, build, build, and build. ”


Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice, the organization which spear-headed the successful lawsuit against the Washington D.C. police department for their mass arrests during protests against the World Bank in 2002. The organization is currently defending the ANSWER Coalition in court.


“There is nothing that we could be doing that is more important than what we are doing right now. The way that you know that—think about the intense pressure that is coming down, the effort to silence this movement at the moment it's resurging into the streets.”









One protestor at the rally had a sign that read “ When The Rich Wage War, It's The Poor Who Die.”

“When the people in power wage war against other people in power it's the civilians who die and suffer the brunt of it. When you try to kill a tyrant, you only kill the people that the tyrant has tortured and oppressed. That seems to be perpetuated right now.”

His sign had messages on both sides. The other side read “Please don't participate in the violence. Please don't volunteer.”

Hardnet a student at Wilmington College who is an activist with Friends Committee on National Legislation, “I'm against these wars. I'm not against all wars. Sometimes war is necessary, but not in this case. We need to talk to these people. They hate us. Bombing them is not going to make them not hate us. It's going to make them hate us more.”

Hardnet said he voted for Obama and still likes him as the president. But he said Obama is under political pressure to continue to wage the wars.

Harnet said a socialist revolution is not the answer for ending these wars.

“ I'm not for socialism. I believe in capitalism. The answer to the war is to talk to people, sitting down having conversations. Bombing them is not going to solve anything. 


Some of the people I spoke with at the protest said that Obama would likely be assassinated if he were to immediately end the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Imperialism is something we want to bring an end to. Resources that are spent on war by the United States and by other countries are resources that could be used by humanity to better their lives. Our foreign policy in the United States is basically pillage and expand empire or profit. Mainly, we want to end that. As socialists we think that the profit motive is something that pretty much causes all of the world's evil. That includes men, women, and children dying, and it's eventually going to kill our planet if we're not careful. So, that's one reason why we're here. We think we have more in common with the civilians in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and the world over than we do with our government or anything like that. We want to bring an end to the wars so that we can work together collectively.”

“It's a world struggle for the working class,” Collins said. “We need to present a real threat. Dealing with things like permits (for protests) is a bad move. I think we need to go outside the comfort zone...They like to say we have free speech and that democracy's working. Well, obviously, democracy's not working.

So we need to find ways that free speech can be made without being told where and when to protest, and to present an actual threat to the ruling class. Some of those things would be occupying our workplaces, and general strikes. Voting is not really getting anybody anywhere. Showing up for a protest is great, but we need to find a way to present some kind of threat to the system to get them to listen to us.”

Collins continued, “I think direct action on a larger scale would be good--occupying spaces . The Camp Out Now thing seems to be a pretty good idea. I'm not sure”

The police broke up Camp Out Now. Protesters relocated to another part of town.

“ We need to rethink what's going on here. Just being told that democracy's somehow working when we all show up here and demand an end to the wars---we've been doing this for a long time and nothing's changed. It's gotten worse, so we've got to find a better way to deal with this.”

Collins said the risks of a crack-down that may result from intensified activism are less than the risks of continued ineffective activism against the US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“We already have a full-on assault on our civil liberties. There's always a backlash. When you make headway, there's going to be a backlash. We have to be strong. If things really were to start changing –backlash or no backlash—we'd be doing a fine job of it and I think people would join in the struggle more and it would get us somewhere. We need to rock the boat or else nothing's going to happen. We need to present a real threat to the ruling class so they'll take us seriously and be scared and make some changes ,” Collins said.

Holding a pole with a giant skull of Uncle Sam in a top hat with white hair and a goatee was Juan Hernandez, an electrician from Harlem who has been unemployed for two years and who is currently homeless.

“ I am hear to educate my ignorant brothers as to the real nature of our country. The United States is an evil,fascist, murdering, cowardly country. We're no different from the Nazis. We only have a few cosmetic differences. For instance, the Nazis used to get rid of their bodies, but we don't. And here we have a domestic parliamentary facade, but are actually just as evil and murderous and cowardly as the Nazis. Look how many people we've murdered in Iraq for oil. How many have we murdered in Vietnam ?”

Hernandez there are two kinds of citizens: one that knows what's going on and one that's “watching (American) Idol.”

“The ones that know what's going on have to educate their idiot brothers. That's what they got to do—political education. There's a great book by Ho Chi Min called On Revolution another by (Vo, Nguyen) Giap , The Military Art of People's War That will tell you how they started by educating the people.

Hernandez said he thinks there will be a revolution within the United States, but not until our “brainwashed” brothers are educated. He said it won't be a violent revolution in its intentions but that “the violence is going to come from the capitalist pigs.”

He added, “today, the people that want to make socialism, they don't need violence anymore. If you look at South America, they're being voted in. Why are they being voted in? The people are being educated first as to what's going on and now they don't need arms anymore—you know communist revolution, socialist revolution.”

Hernandez gave Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and Uruguay as examples of peaceful socialist revolutions.

“That's the new path. But of course, there's going to be violence from the capitalist pigs.”

“This country is going downhill real fast. The dollar is going to be worth a quarter soon. You're going to reap what you sow. You want to watch American Idol, you want to watch a ball game instead of finding out what's going on ? You're going to pay for it because this country's going to be destroyed if it is not already, by the unchecked greed of it's fascist capitalist rulers and my complacent jackass countrymen. The only way we're going to live decently in this country is through socialism. You got to change your system ...When socialism fell in Europe, they asked Erich Honecker 'do you think socialism will come back?' You know what he said ? (He said) 'What's the alternative ? '

Hernandez dismissed Margaret Thatcher's slogan of There-Is-No-Alternative (to capitalist globalization) with this : “ She was a Nazi. She protected that piece of sh-- Pinochet when he was arrested.” 

A young woman with Black Is Back Coalition whose name I did not get spoke over the loud speakers.

“As indigenous folks fought and died, millions were being imported from Africa and being kept as beasts of burden to build the cities of this economy and this country. Now our indigenous brothers and sisters are relegated to modern day concentration camps called reservations as capitalists continue to encroach on their land and independent wealth of Blacks is still being repressed as publicly evidenced through the USDA's treatment of Black farmers. Now we must call an end to it all and watch with gleeful eyes as this imperialist empire crumbles at our feet. We understand that if we'd want this government to succeed we'd be wanting a continuation of bloodshed and turmoil being carried out on our behalf and I'm not comfortable with that. Are you?” The crowd answered back “no.”

“ This is a game and this country must continue to revolt not only to let this government know we're unhappy—because they already know we're unhappy—but to let the rest of the world know that the citizens of this country do not condone what the US is doing. We stand in solidarity with oppressed people fighting for peace, a return of all resources, and a rightful revolution.”