- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Make noise, not war.

Liberal activists — among them graying leftovers from the Vietnam-era antiwar movement — plan to gather near the Capitol tonight, banging pots and pans to drown out President Bush’s State of the Union address.

Yesterday, opponents of the Iraq war kicked off their latest round of demonstrations with an “Impeachment Forum” held downtown in a private dining room at Busboys and Poets.

Featured speakers were 78-year-old former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark; longtime war protester Marcus Raskin, 71, who is head of the Institute for Policy Studies; and Cindy Sheehan, mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq.

Mrs. Sheehan — who became famous last year for staking out the president’s ranch in Crawford, Texas, and just returned from a visit with Venezuelan anti-American President Hugo Chavez — plans to speak tonight to protesters at the Capitol Reflecting Pool.

Last week, the group “World Can’t Wait — Drive Out the Bush Regime” was denied a permit to gather on the Mall for security reasons. The group won a federal lawsuit and has been given permission to bang away while Mr. Bush speaks to a joint session of Congress at 9 p.m.

The group’s Web site has gathered endorsements from left-leaning celebrities such as Susan Sarandon, Jane Fonda, Harry Belafonte and Sean Penn, but it’s unlikely that any stars will show up for tonight’s protest.

On Saturday, the activists plan to march to Pennsylvania Avenue at 11 a.m. to take their demands to the White House.

“Bush lied, Bush spied, Bush must step down” is the group’s slogan. The group will be joined by organizations such as ImpeachBush.org.

Meanwhile, hundreds of College Republicans nationwide are planning a demonstration today in support of the president. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist plans to address a pro-Bush rally called “Finish the Job, Support the Troops.”

It’s the new “generation gap”: young conservatives versus aging liberals.

And, of course, there’s “Mother Sheehan,” whose book and media tour coincides with the State of the Union address.

Attending yesterday’s private lunch were about 100 anti-war activists, many of them silver-haired, bespectacled veterans of the 1960s in linty sweaters and Naturalizers, nibbling on vegan pizza and bean sprouts. On the wall was a painted collage of slogans (“Make Love Not War”) and nostalgic faces such as Joan Baez, Bella Abzug and a younger, thinner Ralph Nader.

Conversations at the forum centered on the war in Iraq, impeachment of Mr. Bush, torture, eavesdropping on citizens, conspiracy theories, global warming and coup d’etats.

“I’m old enough to remember an op-ed you wrote in March 1974 which appeared in the New York Times, saying the military should intervene in getting rid of Richard Nixon,” one gray-haired woman told Mr. Raskin. She spoke about “criminals, gangsters and thugs” in the Bush administration.

Mr. Raskin seemed confused. “I don’t think I wrote it,” he told the gathering. “I’m not in favor of military coup d’etats.”

Mr. Clark, the Vietnam-era Democratic attorney general who is an attorney for former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, spoke for 10 minutes.

His voice faltered, and he seemed to lose his train of thought. “President Bush is the greatest threat to peace and human rights,” Mr. Clark told the crowd, calling for Mr. Bush’s impeachment, which drew applause.

Mrs. Sheehan, 48, who had a book signing last night, arrived 90 minutes late. She came in and began signing books for her admirers, describing her Venezuela trip as “awesome.”

She apologized for her tardy arrival, saying she missed her flight from Caracas.

“They wouldn’t put my baggage on the plane,” she said. “I asked them if they were Republicans,” she added, drawing laughter and applause.

“Just kidding, media,” she quickly said.

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