Protests mark 5th anniversary of Iraq war, 4,000th U.S. troop death

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WASHINGTON — “How many more must die in vain for a lie?” That was the question asked by Joan Kosloff, whose stepson, Sgt. Sherwood Baker of the Pennsylvania National Guard, died in Iraq in 2003.

“Congress should not appropriate a penny more except to bring our troops home and provide reparations for the people of Iraq,” she said.

Kosloff was reacting to news that the toll of U.S. war dead in Iraq has now surpassed 4,000. The grim milestone was reached when a bomb blast in Baghdad killed four more soldiers over the weekend, pushing to 38 the death toll for March.

It coincided with the fifth anniversary of the war observed by tens of thousands who marched, rallied and stood vigil for peace across the nation March 19.

Nearly two hundred tourists stood in line outside the National Archive Building here, waiting to view the founding documents of American democracy: the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and the U.S. Constitution.

Protesting military veterans interrupted their quiet and cool morning, climbing the steps waving an inverted U.S. flag, a signal of distress. Security guards moved to block the protestors, but three Iraq vets and a Vietnam veteran jumped a tall fence and climbed onto a ledge 40 feet above the crowd. “We love our country,” one of the vets shouted as he waved the flag.

“Stop the war! Stop the war!” chanted hundreds of members of Veterans for Peace (VFP), Iraq Veterans against the War (IVAW) and Military Families Speak Out gathered below.

“We took an oath to protect the Constitution from enemies foreign and domestic,” said Tarak Kauf of VFP via bullhorn from the ledge. “Especially domestic.”

The vets presented a citizen’s warrant calling for the arrest of George W. Bush, Richard Cheney and Condoleezza Rice for war crimes and violation of constitutional rights. Other veterans handcuffed themselves to the flagpole on the archive lawn, risking arrest.

On the ledge, former Marine Adam Kokesh, a decorated Iraq war veteran, began reading the Declaration of Independence, bringing tears to the eyes of many in the assembled crowd. “You are here to view the U.S. Constitution,” said Kokesh. “We are here to defend and protect it.” He went on to detail the torture, extrajudicial “renditions,” loss of habeas corpus and other violations of international and domestic law committed by the current administration.

Police raced to the scene. When police attempted to lure the protestors off the ledge into the hands of officers with handcuffs in hand, the crowd chanted, “Arrest Bush, not them!” After negotiations, Archive officials granted the vets safe passage away from the building. After nearly an hour of defiance, the protestors came down off the ledge to triumphant applause.

The assembled crowd continued marching its way to the White House and the Veterans Administration to join Grannies for Peace, who knitted socks for wounded soldiers there.

Scores were arrested when they sat down, blocking the doors to the IRS in Washington to protest the squandering of $500 billion in tax dollars in Iraq. Hundreds dressed in black and wearing white masks staged a “march of the dead” past the Pentagon.

United for Peace and Justice reported anti-war protests in 1,000 cities, towns, colleges and universities in every state in the nation in observance of the anniversary.

“I think people are energized by the elections,” said UFPJ National Organizing Coordinator Judith LeBlanc. “People really think we can bring this war to an end. They want to make a statement.”

Baltimore United for Peace and Justice and Vets for Peace sponsored a rally at a church the night of March 19. City Councilmember Bill Henry spoke of his unanimously adopted council resolution calling for an end to the war. Baltimore schools and water mains each need $1 billion to rebuild, he said. “It turns out there is a pot of money to do that. It’s being spent in Iraq.”

In Tucson, Ariz., 600 rallied outside the Federal Building to protest the “Bush-McCain War.” Hundreds marched outside the Phoenix office of Arizona Sen. John McCain, the GOP presidential candidate, to protest his plan to stay in Iraq “a hundred, a thousand years.”

MoveOn.org staged hundreds of vigils and rallies across the country.

San Francisco Bay Area protesters staged a “surge for peace” March 15 at Walnut Creek’s Civic Park. Others rallied outside a huge Chevron refinery in Richmond, Calif., to protest Chevron’s war profiteering and befouling of the environment. Many thousands marched in a “World Without War” procession through downtown Portland, Ore. March 15, chanting, “Bring the troops home.”