Protesters prepare for Saturday's antiwar demonstration

The protest, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will begin with a noon rally in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House on Friday.

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By Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 18, 2010; 6:43 PM

Maggie Pondolfino has a 24-year-old son who is a soldier serving in Afghanistan -- "he's honorable, courageous, has a lot of integrity and he loves his mother," she said.

Which is why, in part, she said she will be marching in an antiwar demonstration Saturday to bring him and other soldiers home from what protesters Thursday called America's "illegal war for empire."

The protest, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will begin with a noon rally in Lafayette Park across the street from the White House. The march will follow.

Organizers said at a news conference Thursday that the Afghanistan conflict has become "Obama's war." They criticized the continued fighting there and in Iraq, and said the president's war policies were just like former President George W. Bush's.

"Same soup, just a different bowl," said Mahdi Bray, executive director of the Muslim American Society Freedom. "This is Obama's war. This is not Bush's war."

Brian Becker, national coordinator of the antiwar ANSWER Coalition, which called for the demonstration, said: "There is growing body of sentiment in the country . . . that opposes the expanding war in Afghanistan, the continued occupation of Afghanistan, the continued occupation of Iraq."

Cindy Sheehan, the veteran antiwar activist who in 2005 camped out near President Bush's Crawford, Tex., ranch after her son was killed in Iraq, said: "Some people have abandoned the antiwar movement, have abandoned peace, since Obama's been president. But we need to re-create a movement."

Pondolfino, a representative of Military Families Speak Out, had a catch in her voice as she stepped to the microphone and said: "I'm the proud mother of an active-duty infantry soldier. . . . We love and support our troops. And it is because we do that we will vocally show our opposition whenever our government sends them to ill-advised, immoral, unwinnable wars."

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