More than 100 military families will head a US anti-war march near the Fort Bragg military base as part of the global day of protest against the war and occupation of Iraq on 19 March.
Fayetteville, North Carolina, is the home of Fort Bragg, where the US army’s 82nd airborne division and many of the elite units spearheading the war and occupation of Iraq are based. But anti-war campaign group United for Peace and Justice (UPJ) points out, “It is also home to a growing base of anti-war activists and organisations: military folks, veterans, families of active duty soldiers, students, workers, housewives, clergy, educators, all are part of a vibrant and growing statewide network.”
The Fayetteville march is one of hundreds of demonstrations, rallies and protest events planned across the US on 19 March. The first anniversary of the war saw actions in more than 319 different US towns and cities, and UPJ believes there is the potential to organise even more demonstrations this year.
Peace activist Medea Benjamin, who helped bring together the coalition of organisations making up UPJ, says, “People are excited that there are going to be demonstrations in other countries too.”
Michael Hoffman, co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War, will be one of the main speakers at the Fayetteville demonstration. He is a lance corporal in the US marines and fought in Iraq. Hoffman, the son of a steelworker, told the Washington Post he disagreed with the war at the time he was deployed. He said, “But now I can talk about the reality of war, what it’s really like — the lack of support the troops have, the civilians being killed.”
His message is clear — “The biggest problem with Iraq right now is the occupation.”
As well as the main Fayetteville march there will be hundreds of other local protests. “We want to dig deeper into the roots of our communities and bring the cost of the war home,” says Medea.
George Bush has infuriated anti-war activists by seeking $80 billion more for the Iraq war from the US Congress.
He has already thrown more than $151 billion into the war and occupation. Campaigners are also targeting the way the National Guard — supposedly a defence force — has been used in the war.
Medea says, “There’s a lot of enthusiasm for focusing on the National Guard state by state and trying to get each state’s governor to keep the National Guard at home.”
The US anti-war movement is increasing in confidence again after the US elections, which sapped the energy of many activists.
Last weekend, UPJ held its second national congress in St Louis, Missouri, bringing together delegates from the almost 1,000 member groups in St. Louis, Missouri, to set their strategy for 19 March and beyond.
Progressive US thinktank the Institute for Policy Studies sponsored a “cities for peace” initiative that saw resolutions opposing the invasion of Iraq passed by 165 city governments across the US.
Now it has launched a second resolution calling for US troops to be withdrawn. A majority of people in the US now believe the invasion of Iraq was not worth it, but most are yet to be won over to the view that the troops should be brought home. The institute’s Phyllis Bennis says, “We have to convince people that the US troops are the problem, not the solution. As long as they’re there, they’re providing the largest direct target and the largest indirect target. But it doesn’t mean that pulling out the troops is the end of our obligations. We owe a huge debt to Iraq. We owe reparations.”