When, exactly, does war become personal?
When the notice comes that your unit has been called up? When the youngest of your four sons is told his tour in Iraq has just been extended? When your 30-year-old child is killed in a mortar attack in Tikrit?
When war hits home like that, they say, you can't just accept it, sit with it, wait for a resolution. You have to get up, move, take it somewhere. So they came yesterday, about 1,300, with their outrage and their slogans, marching to the doorstep of the seven-bedroom, $3.5 million brick home of the architect of the war in Iraq.
"How many more families like mine will have to suffer?" demanded Michael Berg, the father of Nicholas Berg, who dreamed of building transmission towers in cities all over Iraq. Michael Berg was against the war from the very beginning. His son wasn't. But Nick Berg died at 26, his head displayed as a trophy by five masked captors, his execution shown all over the Internet.
Cheered on by the antiwar demonstrators, Berg rasped, "When will it end?"
This is personal, Michael Berg wants Donald Rumsfeld, the secretary of defense, to know.
One down, who will be next? Slam-Dunk Tenet -- that's George Tenet, CIA chief -- resigned Thursday, citing personal reasons. Rumsfeld, said the protesters, should follow suit. So make it personal.
Bring it home.
March to pin oak-lined Kalorama Road NW, where war is part of the political cacophony. At the Chinese Embassy, at the end of the street, Chinese dissidents protest nearly every day. But Rumsfeld House is a hot spot. There have been bike rides, as many as 100 people pedaling past. Carolers came at Christmas to sing "Jingle Bombs." Last August, protesters delivered the nonexistent "yellowcake" uranium to Rumsfeld's address.
But the large-scale invasion yesterday, "that's classless -- totally unnecessary," said Courtney Dodson, pushing a stroller with 19-month-old Charlie napping in it, around the neighborhood.
In the Kalorama neighborhood, home to diplomatic and consular and embassy offices, some of the residents are for the war. Some are against it. And some of them, like Dodson -- who favored the goal but questions the results -- fall somewhere in between.
"This is a good area," said Dodson. She pushed some more, walked a few feet more, and stood a few doors from Rumsfeld's house. Charlie woke up.
"I mean, there's a way to protest without invading someone's personal dwelling place," she said. "That's where he lives; a line has to be drawn."
The Wentzels live next door to the Rumsfelds and were invited over for tea -- "for an hour and a half, starting at 4 on a Sunday afternoon," Volkmar Wentzel said. They see Rumsfeld leaving for work early in the morning, sometimes walking his little black dachshund, Reginald.
"He is delightful. Indeed very low-key," said Viola Wentzel, 64, in a phone interview on Friday.
"A great guy," interjected Volkmar, 89. "Just a great guy. . . . He answered the door and says, 'Everybody knows us, but we don't know our neighbors.' He's civilized. I don't know about these protesters. It's their right to protest. But they're a bunch of misguided people."
Outside the house yesterday, the crowd chanted, "Murderer! Murderer!"
"Donald Rumsfeld shouldn't just be fired. He should be put to trial," shouted Brian Becker, a national organizer for ANSWER, an antiwar coalition that staged the event.
Clyde M. Neck was disgusted. It was his first day in Washington; he's here for a convention. "And what's the first thing I see? These protesters," he said, shaking his head. The 66-year-old from Marksville, La., is a Republican. "You see, I don't support the war in general. I don't. But we're in it, so we've got to finish it. This kind of protest is an affront to the troops who are sacrificing their lives over there, an affront to the country." He shook his head again. "I support Rumsfeld. I appreciate what he's doing."
Larry Syverson of Richmond had a different take. He's a military dad -- all four of his sons, ages 25 to 32, have served in the military. The baby, Bryce, 25, is an Army gunner in Baghdad. His tour recently was extended. Syverson marched to Rumsfeld's house because he couldn't wait at home.
"Where's Rumsfeld in all of this?" asked Syverson, 55, a geologist. "He doesn't have a son or a daughter over there. What does he have to say for himself?"
But yesterday Rumsfeld was in Singapore, at a security conference about Southeast Asia.
"That's far," said Syverson, "far from where we are."