Some blame war for Gulf Coast damage
NEW ORLEANS – Veterans and war protesters marched past gutted houses and piles of rotting wood and debris Sunday, saying the slow pace of rebuilding the hurricane-ravaged city shows the price the country is paying for continuing to wage war in Iraq.”A lot of people don’t have a grasp of what this war is costing us,” Vern Hall, a Vietnam War veteran from Minnesota, said as he walked by shuttered buildings with broken glass and precariously hanging metal.”Here’s the actual cost of this,” he said, looking around. “Things are not getting done.”The third anniversary of the U.S.-led war in Iraq drew tens of thousands of protesters to cities around the globe for a second day Sunday, with chants of “Stop the War” and calls for the withdrawal of troops.Attendance at the demonstrations worldwide was lower than organizers had predicted, and far short of the millions who protested the initial invasion in March 2003 and the first anniversary in 2004.
While the protests largely focused on the deaths and destruction in Iraq, the march in Louisiana stressed the damage to the homefront as about 200 war veterans, hurricane survivors and others walked from Mobile, Ala., to a rally in New Orleans.They said the military conflict had drained resources needed for rebuilding Gulf Coast cities devastated by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Along with money, National Guard troops and equipment had been diverted to Iraq when they could have been aiding people who lost their homes, they said.”We attacked a country who never did anything to us,” said Philadelphia resident Al Zappala, whose 30-year-old son was killed in Iraq in April 2004.He said his civic-minded son enlisted after being impressed with the way National Guard troops aided a community near a flood-prone river in Pennsylvania with sand bags and other help.The route Zappala and other marchers with Veterans For Peace followed Sunday took them directly past Jackson Barracks, the flooded-out headquarters of the Louisiana National Guard.Rallies in Japan drew about 800 people chanting “No war! Stop the war!” and banging drums as they marched peacefully through downtown Tokyo toward the U.S. Embassy.
“The Iraq war was President Bush’s big mistake and the whole world is against him,” said organizer Ayako Nishimura. “Iraq must decide its own affairs.”Protesters also gathered outside the U.S. Embassy in Malaysia, and at least 1,000 people turned out in Seoul, South Korea, which has the third-largest contingent of foreign troops in Iraq after the U.S. and Britain.In New York, about 200 people marched down Fifth Avenue with signs including: “We the People Need to do More to End the War.” Seventeen people were arrested for disorderly conduct, police said.President Bush marked the anniversary Sunday by touting the efforts to build democracy in Iraq. He avoided any mention of the continuing daily violence there and didn’t utter the word “war.””We are implementing a strategy that will lead to victory in Iraq,” Bush said in a brief statement to reporters outside the White House.
Veterans For Peace President David Cline, who joined the 140-mile march from Mobile to New Orleans, said the nation can’t have both “guns and butter,” a reference to President Lyndon Johnson’s statement that the country could fight the war in Vietnam and enjoy the good life at home.”The reality is you get either A or B, you don’t get A and B,” he said.Activist Cindy Sheehan, who last summer energized the anti-war movement with her protest outside Bush’s Texas ranch, also marched with the group before heading to Washington on Sunday.”Katrina only happened because of the incompetence and callousness of the (Bush) administration, just as we’ve seen in Iraq,” Sheehan said.”The rest of America is on board with ending this war,” she said.
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