- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 22, 2009

Thousands of antiwar protesters from across the country marched over the Memorial Bridge and past the Pentagon on Saturday, directing their ire at a new commander in chief - President Obama.

“Barack, Barack, Barack, Afghanistan is the same as Iraq,” they chanted, marking the sixth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

“I’ve been against the war in Iraq since it started, and I’m not satisfied with Obama’s timeline [for withdrawal],” said Medea Benjamin, 56, co-founder of the antiwar group Code Pink. Calling for “more diplomacy and less war,” she added, “There’s no military solution in Afghanistan.”

At a pre-march rally near the Lincoln Memorial, Miss Benjamin said she hoped the Obama administration would be more open-minded and listen to groups such as Code Pink more than the George W. Bush administration did.

Last month, Mr. Obama said his Iraq pullout would take three months longer than he promised on the campaign trail. He also announced the deployment of 17,000 additional troops to Afghanistan.

“Obama seems to be led somewhat by the bureaucracies. I want him to follow up on his promise to end the war,” Perry Parks, 66, of Rockingham, N.C., told the Associated Press. Mr. Parks said he served in the Army for nearly 30 years, including in Vietnam. “But the longer it goes, the more it seems like he’s stalling,” he said.

With police in riot gear standing by, the demonstrators were met by a small group of counterprotesters as they crossed the bridge toward Arlington National Cemetery. War supporters held a large banner that read, “Go to hell, traitors, you dishonor our dead on hallowed ground,” AP reported.

Marchers proceeded past the Pentagon to the Crystal City section of Arlington, home to the offices of many defense contractors.

U.S. Park Police and Arlington County police reported no arrests.

The protest was organized by the far-left ANSWER coalition with support from other groups. Protesters carried about 100 flag-draped coffins to represent “the victims of war from Iraq to Afghanistan, Palestine, Pakistan, Lebanon, Somalia, Yemen and the U.S. GIs who have been killed,” according to ANSWER’s Web site.

Speakers denounced Mr. Obama’s decision to deploy more troops to Afghanistan and said money spent on the wars should be used to create jobs instead.

Dan Fein, 63, Socialist Workers Party candidate for New York City mayor, said he never supported former President George W. Bush or Mr. Obama.

“I was 100 percent against Obama, and I was 100 percent against Bush,” he said.

The United States should bring all of its troops home, Mr. Fein said, adding that “U.S. troops are the cause of war.”

“I’m for a working-class revolution,” he said. “The only way to eliminate war is to eliminate capitalism.”

Alan Kline, 17, of Fairfax said his future depends on “the state of this country.”

“I don’t want to be part of country that is sponsoring genocide,” he said.

He said U.S. support for Israel is “ridiculous because it is never questioned.”

Mr. Kline cited the failure of Charles W. “Chas” Freeman Jr.’s nomination to head the National Intelligence Council, which he said fell through because Mr. Freeman “expressed a moderate amount of dissent toward our stance on Israel.”

Mr. Freeman withdrew from consideration earlier this month under bipartisan pressure as questions mounted over his ties to Saudi Arabia and China. He accused pro-Israel groups of sabotaging his appointment. The intelligence council prepares U.S. intelligence estimates.

Stewart Robinson, 75, of Cleveland, who said he was arrested years ago for protesting the Vietnam War, said opposition to the wars is a “matter of morality” and that his tax dollars are “paying for people to get killed.”

The United States is a force for bad in the world, rather than good, he said. “If you go to another country, you’d be spit on or have food thrown at you. I think our administrations are the real ones who are unpatriotic.”

Meanwhile, in California, hundreds of protesters gathered in Hollywood, AP reported. Among them was peace advocate Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq, as well as Oscar-winning screenwriter Paul Haggis and Ron Kovic, a paralyzed Vietnam veteran whose story was chronicled in the book and film “Born on the Fourth of July.”



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