Thousands of anti-war protestors rallied near the Pentagon Saturday, calling on President Bush to pull American forces out of Iraq. Organizers led the march to what was the site of a pivotal rally against the Vietnam war 40 years ago. VOA's Sean Maroney followed the rally from Washington to the Pentagon and has this report.
Demonstrators huddled close to each other against the wind outside the Pentagon.
Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan addressed the predominately young crowd. Sheehan's son was killed while serving in Iraq. She invoked the memory of another demonstration outside the U.S. military headquarters decades ago against the Vietnam war. "Forty years ago, there was a march on the Pentagon," she said. "And here we are, 40 years later, marching on the Pentagon in another illegal and immoral war. When is it going to stop?"
Veterans and other activists also took the stage, calling on the Bush administration to change course. "I will be brutally honest, it is insane to believe that more of the same will end it," said one Iraq war veteran. "Our clever signs, our passionate speeches and our large crowds alone -- if that could end the war, we would not be here today."
The protesters had marched across the Potomac River from Washington's Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Many held signs calling for the United States to pull out of Iraq and for the impeachment of President Bush.
Across the street, a sizable gathering of counter-demonstrators waved their own placards that read "Peace Through Strength" and "Win the War or Lose Jihad."
Jane Johnson was among them. Her 22-year-old son was killed while serving in Baghdad. "To me, they are basically spitting on my son's grave," she said.
Juan Torres led the anti-war protesters during the march. His son also died while deployed overseas. "I come from Argentina to this beautiful country for my American dream. And my American dream is destroyed forever. My only son is dead now. This is why I came here. Because I don't want to see any more kids die," he said.
Police arrested a number of people assembled outside the White House Friday evening after an anti-war religious service ended at the Washington National Cathedral.
Protests are expected to continue in the coming days in the United States and elsewhere in the world ahead of Tuesday's four-year anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.
President Bush has repeated his pledge to veto an emergency war spending bill that the House of Representatives is set to debate next week, if it sets a deadline for the removal of troops from Iraq.
In his weekly radio address Saturday, Mr. Bush said proponents of the bill are using it as an opportunity to micromanage U.S. military commanders and add domestic spending that has nothing to do with the war on terrorism.
He repeated a statement that Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently made to Congress - that setting a fixed troop withdrawal date would tell the enemy how long it has to wait until U.S. soldiers leave the country.
In its current form, the House bill would set a September 2008 deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq.
In the Democratic response today, Senator Patty Murray from Washington state said it is time to bring the war to a close. She said the Iraqis should step up and take responsibility for their own future.
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