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Foes of War in Iraq Rally for Teach-In

Some at GWU Protested Vietnam

By Allan Lengel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, March 25, 2005; Page B08

Forty years ago, the first anti-Vietnam War teach-in was held at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, triggering an educational campaign nationwide that some credited with helping end the war.

Last night, similar antiwar teach-ins were held in Washington, Ann Arbor and San Francisco, with similar hopes -- this time, to end the Iraq war.

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In Washington, about 300 people, most older than college age, gathered in the George Washington University campus auditorium for two hours to hear an antiwar panel that included a former U.S. soldier in Iraq, a woman who lost her son in battle and an author-filmmaker.

The gathering, sponsored by the think tank Institute for Policy Studies, was reminiscent of the Vietnam era: people with antiwar buttons and antiwar passions.

They were young and old, but their concerns sounded familiar.

"If it was wrong of us to go into Iraq, it's wrong of us to stay," said Patrick Resta, who served in Iraq last year as a member of the Army National Guard.

Resta also took a swipe at Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, saying he and the administration sent troops to Iraq "without equipment, without a plan, without a mission."

Unlike in Ann Arbor 40 years ago, cell phones occasionally went off and C-SPAN televised the session for thousands more to watch. Some who attended had also protested the Vietnam War.

Among them was Marianne Ross, 70, of Glen Echo, who afterward expressed a little disappointment that more college students did not attend. She said it was, in part, because there is no draft and students feel less threatened and less concerned.

"Campuses are much more quiet," she said.

Perhaps some of the most compelling remarks last night came from panelist Celeste Zappala, founding member of Gold Star Families for Peace, whose son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, 30, was killed in Baghdad last year.

She recalled that when a soldier with medals came to her door, "all I could do is scream and scream."

She said she vowed to spread the word that "this war is a lie. We all know there were no weapons of mass destruction. There were no ties to al Qaeda."

"How can we give up the lives of all these precious people in the name of a lie?" she asked. "It's incumbent upon all of us to keep speaking the truth."

Naomi Klein, author and filmmaker, said the antiwar movement needs to do a better job than the Bush administration in articulating U.S. responsibility to the Iraqi people.

She pointed out that the Bush administration repeatedly says this nation cannot leave the Iraqi people hanging.

She said the antiwar movement needs to send a message of concern. "We need to leave because we're escalating the problem," she said.

Afterward, some felt optimistic about the antiwar push.

"I think this was great. I think the speakers" were powerful, said Renee Collins, 35, of Takoma Park.

She said she was also buoyed by the fact that protests against the Iraq war, unlike the Vietnam War, surfaced before the first bomb was dropped.

Of the movement, she said, "I think it has potential to move further, faster."

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