4 Years After Start of War, Anger Reigns
Sunday, March 18, 2007
Thousands of demonstrators protesting the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq marched on the Pentagon yesterday, jeered along the way by large numbers of angry counter-protesters.
Organizers billed the antiwar rally as marking the 40th anniversary of the 1967 march on the Pentagon. At times, verbal clashes during the cold and blustery day demonstrated that the bitter divisions of four decades ago sparked by Vietnam are very much alive in the debate over Iraq.
The march, part of a weekend of protests that included smaller demonstrations in other U.S. cities and abroad, comes as the Bush administration sends more troops to Iraq in an attempt to regain control of Baghdad and Congress considers measures to bring U.S. troops home.
Paul Miller, 72, a Korean War-era Marine Corps veteran who flew from California for the march with his brother, was making his first appearance at an antiwar rally. "I was like everybody else. I trusted the people who ran the country, and I'm tired of being lied to," Miller said, standing on a hill overlooking the Pentagon, a beret with a Marine Corps pin on his head. "I feel so bad for the young Marines who are getting their legs blown off and losing their lives."
Organizers said yesterday's march on the Pentagon reflected the public's sense of betrayal over the escalation of the war. As some speakers called for the impeachment of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, others denounced Congress in equally bitter terms for not cutting off funding for the war. Yet attendance at yesterday's march was noticeably smaller than one held in Washington in January, police said.
Much of the passion yesterday was supplied by thousands of counter-demonstrators, many of them veterans who mobilized from across the country to gather around the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Some said they came in response to appeals on the Internet to protect the Wall against what they feared would be acts of vandalism; no such acts were reported.
Others said they were tired of war protesters claiming to speak for the country. "I'm here because I think we need to commit to our troops in the field," said Guy Rocca, 63, a veteran who drove nine hours from Detroit.
Some counter-protesters yelled obscenities and mocked the marchers as traitors. War protesters responded with angry words of their own, and police intervened at times to prevent shouting matches from escalating.
The counter-demonstrators ringed the Lincoln Memorial and continued along portions of Arlington Memorial Bridge. "You've got no pride and no honor," yelled Kenneth Murphy, a Vietnam veteran from North Carolina.
When marchers reached the Virginia side of the bridge, they were greeted by more protesters at the traffic circle in front of Arlington National Cemetery, along with a banner that read in part: "You dishonor our dead on Hallowed ground." The war protesters might have found the warmest reception of the day at the Pentagon, where police had the building blocked off, but no counter-demonstrators were waiting.
"It's strange to say, but welcome to the Pentagon," said protest leader Mara Veheyden-Hilliard, speaking on a stage in the north parking lot as the first streams of marchers began arriving.
A group of protesters who tried to reach the Pentagon by charging toward the south parking lot ended up in a tense standoff with police. Five arrests were made in the incident. But beyond shoving matches, no violence was reported.