Left Justified: 250,000 strong

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At least 250,000, maybe half a million, demonstrated this last Saturday, Jan. 27, in Washington, D.C. against the Iraq war. At least that is what the demonstration leaders said. The police said “tens of thousands.” I wouldn’t know, for I couldn’t count that high. All I know is that the demonstrators filled the Mall, surrounded the Capitol and went on for blocks.

Rockford had 12 representatives I am aware of, and I met someone from Nora, Ill., west of Stockton. She will try to get an appointment with our congressman, Donald Manzullo, to speak about ending the war quickly and bringing our troops home. I won’t go with her, for I’ll be meeting him, along with other Rockfordians, Feb. 22, at 1 p.m., in his Rockford office. But while I am here, maybe senators Barack Obama and Dick Durbin will see me, along with the 45 other Illinoisans who stuck around after the march to lobby.

The peace groups that sponsored this march are well organized, but you can see they never expected this many. Our meeting rooms are overflowing and too crowded, there is little food, barely enough coffee and no handouts. But everyone is beaming, and someone said they could see a light at the end of the tunnel. I responded that my Congressman may not see the light, but he sure will feel some heat.

The big event for me was marching with the veterans for peace. And I might add that the veterans are getting younger while I am getting older. I saw fresh, yet determined faces of Iraq vet troops just returned, angry as hell, and fit to fight another war at home to stop the stupid one overseas. Behind them were masses of Vietnam veterans who all had stories as to why Iraq was dumber, more dangerous, crazier and will be more costly. Then, there were vets barely able to walk from every conflict and in between.

The speakers were great. I saw Jesse Jackson, a bunch of Hollywood stars, and some buddies I hadn’t seen since the last big domonstration. Not everyone was on the same page. Some people just wanted President George W. Bush to pull the troops out, others wanted him impeached for lying about the war.

I saw a young 10-year-old carrying a sign that said “I get in trouble when I lie.” Other signs said: War Is Terrorism With a Bigger Budget; Send the Twins; A Bomber is A Terrorist without an Air Force; Don’t Iraq Iran; and “I Smell Sulfer [sic] too”; a reference, I think, to Venezuelian President Hugo Chavez’s joke at the United Nations (he spoke after President Bush). The truth is, everyone knew Bush could keep this war going for another two years, and even expand it into Iran and Syria, if not every other country he didn’t like. So behind the applause and pats on the back, there was, and is, a serious dread that this is all for naught, that we are in for more death, more stupid manuevers, more wishful thinking, and more kids coming home in a box. The smell of sulphur is almost palpable. Sorry for the short column, but I am on my way to try to douse some hell.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

From the Jan. 31-Feb. 6, 2007, issue

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