Beginning March 19 with nationwide lobbying of members of Congress, moving to vigils, marches and demonstrations on March 20, and culminating in a national call-in to Congress on March 24, Americans across the nation are mobilizing to say “no” to war.

Along with up to 200 events in places as varied as New York City, Mobile, Ala., Chicago, Akron, Wichita, Kan., and San Jose, Calif., protests will also take place in 50 countries around the world, under the banner, “The World Still Says No to War.” The events come on the one-year anniversary of the U.S. attack on Iraq.

Military families and veterans will play a big role in a March 20 march and rally in Fayetteville, N.C., adjoining Ft. Bragg, one of the nation’s largest military bases. With a population of 40,000, Ft. Bragg is home to the 18th Airborne Corps, the 1st Corps Support Command, the JFK Special Warfare School, and the Joint Special Operations Command.

Organizer Lou Plummer, a Fayetteville native and third-generation veteran, thinks this protest will probably be one of the largest in a military town since the Vietnam War. The event is geared toward countering the idea that military families blindly support war, Plummer told the World.

“I know the support is not unswerving,” he said. As the purpose for the war has come under question, disillusionment often focuses on practical matters, like lack of information about loved ones, and cuts in services. Military spouses are very concerned that they can’t get solid information from the military hierarchy about when their husbands and wives are coming home, said Plummer, whose 20-year-old son is a Navy enlistee.

Privatization of the military is another sore point, he said. When Plummer’s father served in Vietnam, it took two to three weeks for mail from home to reach him. Now, mail services have been contracted out to Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown & Root. Today, it takes four to six weeks for mail to reach soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While President Bush talks about supporting the troops, the Pentagon is planning to close schools for children of service personnel, Plummer said.

In addition to the regular Army troops at Fort Bragg, the area has been impacted by the call-up of 5,000 National Guard reserves from eastern North Carolina last fall. These reservists started shipping out to Iraq last month. Their departure is impacting the economies of the rural towns that dot this region. Farmers have to sell their cows when they are called up, Plummer noted, and small-town lawyers have to shut down their practices.

The slogan of the Fayetteville march and rally is, “We Demand Real Support for the Troops: Bring them Home Now! Money for Jobs and Education, not War and Occupations.” The event, sponsored by over 100 peace and justice groups from across North Carolina, is expected to draw people from throughout the Southeast.

In Texas, peace caravans from Dallas, Austin and other areas will converge on President Bush’s hometown, Crawford, for a parade and rally, where speakers will include military families, civil liberties and immigrant rights advocates, and Texas State Rep. Lon Burnham.

In Seattle, a morning interfaith service at First Baptist Church commemorating the American and Iraqi dead will be followed by a march to the downtown waterfront for a rally featuring actor Ed Asner along with military families, veterans, and others. The event is co-sponsored by the Church Council of Greater Seattle and SNOW – Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War – an umbrella of three dozen neighborhood peace groups formed in the fall of 2002.

The largest event is expected in New York City, where tens of thousands will converge from throughout the Northeast for a noon march and rally beginning at Madison Ave. and 23rd Street.

This year’s actions, sponsored by some 650 organizations under the nationwide umbrella group United for Peace and Justice and other groups, come one year after the Bush administration attacked Iraq, claiming Iraq had weapons of mass destruction that were an immediate threat to the U.S. But no such weapons have turned up, and the administration’s manipulation of intelligence to sell the war is facing tough questioning.

Some 600 U.S. troops have been killed and thousands badly injured; tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, wounded, and left orphaned; Iraqi cities and infrastructure have been devastated; and the U.S. Treasury is being drained to pay the bill.

On “Iraq Advocacy Day,” March 19, the day before the nationwide protests, UFPJ is calling on voters to schedule face-to-face meetings with their congressional representatives, who will be home on recess, to press Congress to take action to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

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Susan Webb
Susan Webb

Susan Webb is a retired co-editor of People's World. She has written on a range of topics both international - the Iraq war, World Social Forums in Brazil and India, the Israel-Palestinian conflict and controversy over the U.S. role in Okinawa - and domestic - including the meaning of socialism for Americans, attacks on Planned Parenthood, the U.S. as top weapons merchant, and more.