The Pentagon Focus of a Spirited Peace Demonstration

“There was never a good war, or a bad peace.”

— Ben Franklin

Washington, DC – At 12:30 PM, on March 17, 2007, near the Lincoln Memorial, at Constitution Ave. and 23rd St., NW, peace advocates, in the tens of thousands assembled for a “March on the Pentagon.” A blustery wind was blowing in from the Potomac River, which parallels the area. Meanwhile, the Democrats are in almost full retreat to the Bush-Cheney Gang, with respect to the issue of continued funding for the Iraqi War. And, thanks to the Israel Lobby, a restriction on using such funds to launch an attack on Iran was DELETED from a key bill. [1] Opponents of the war, too, were barred from a House Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 15th. A few were arrested, protesting the spineless Congress. [2] Now, it is clear that the people must rely only on their own efforts to stop this war. Congress has, tragically, chosen to ignore the election results of Nov. 7, 2006. March 20, 2007 will be the fourth anniversary of the Iraqi War.

Peace activist Cindy Sheehan was one of the keynote speakers. She said to loud applause from the spirited, and youth- dominated crowd: “Let’s stop this b… s…., now…The reason the U.S. gets into all of these b… s… wars all the time, it’s for the corporations.” Sheehan listed: Halliburton, Raytheon, Exxon and Blackwater, and added it was to “make them rich. It’s to line the pockets of George Bush and Dick Cheney and all the war criminals.” She continued: “We have to stop demonizing other people [and allowing] our leaders to send our young people off to kill them…to send our young people off, like my son, Casey, to die for nothing, to die for the War Machine…The Pentagon exports death around the world. We need to shut it down…We [the People] are the deciders. And, we have decided that we want George Bush and Dick Cheney impeached…indicted…and imprisoned…This is America and nobody is above the law.”

The protesters carrying signs, posters and banners, paraded across the Arlington Memorial Bridge, into Northern Virginia. They chanted: “We’ve got to fight back,” as they traveled the span. Then, they took a left turn onto Washington Blvd. and walked about one mile east, to a massive parking lot, next to the Pentagon–the control center for a War, Death and Mayhem Machine. It is wasting about $8.4 billion a month on the Iraqi conflict. Veterans for Peace took up the front line of the demonstrators, with a police motorcycle escort in the vanguard.

It was also 40 years ago, in 1967, when a huge march on the Pentagon, helped to galvanized opposition to the Vietnam War. That insane and useless conflict was hatched by another egomaniac from Texas–President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Today’s rally was organized by the ANSWER coalition. [3] There were a handful of counter-demonstrators on the bridge, who seemed to be getting a lot of attention from Fox News. One elderly man complained to me that he was kicked, without cause, hard in the rear end by one of these characters. He had been carrying a sign while standing on the northern end of the Arlington Memorial Bridge. It stated: “Impeach Bush-Cheney.”

Cynthia McKinney, the former Congresswoman from Georgia, a Democrat, was another of the 30-plus riveting speakers on the afternoon agenda, which included the likes of Lennox Yearwood, Sunsara Taylor, Brian Becker, Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, Liam Madden, Peta Lindsay, Eric LeCompte and Michael Berg. McKinney said: “Our country has been hijacked…It’s bankrupt. Yet, this institution, the Pentagon, has lost $2.3 trillion dollars. I want that money back for jobs, for health care, for education and for our veterans.” McKinney posed these questions: “What about a livable wage for American workers? What about the right of return for Katrina survivors? What about repealing the Patriot Act, the Secret Evidence Act and the Military Tribunal Act? And in a poke at the timidity of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), she also wondered: “Why is impeachment off the table?” She added: “The story is the same–more money for war, but we can’t feed the poor…Now, the Democrats are full partners in George Bush’s War. Congress is explicitly complicit…in War Crimes…in torture…in Crimes against Humanity…in Crimes Against the Peace…The FBI spied on us and Condoleeza, Dick and George lied to us…Our struggle is nothing less than for the soul of our country…We will win. And, we will take our country back.” [4]

The former U.S. Attorney General, Ramsey Clark, also addressed the crowd. He said: “We’ve got our work to do…If we don’t act, now, there will be a big buildup of U.S. troops in Iraq. That is what the ‘surge’ is all about–it’s a permanent surge.” Clark is convinced that the oil and gas in Iraq will soon be privatized to benefit U.S. energy firms. He continued: “This is where they were going when they started this criminal adventure…The U.S. is building a new ‘Star Wars.’ He added that the U.S. Constitution, Bill of Rights and Habeas Corpus mean “nothing” to the operatives of the Bush-Cheney Gang. The U.S. Justice Department will soon be “totally politicized,” he charged. Clark said: “We have to go to every member of the House [of Representatives] and say we want you to begin impeachment proceedings, now, no delay…We can’t rest until we have impeachment [of Bush and Cheney.] [4]

Just before the rally broke up, I noticed a police line, manned by Pentagon cops, with “Billy Clubs” in hand, and with gas masks on, on top of an overpass near the speech site. I went up to investigate. This road, the Washington Blvd., leads directly to the “Pentagon Metro” stop, a short hop away. For some silly reason, the cops decided to forcefully block it off to the now chilly pedestrians, requiring them to use the “Arlington Metro” stop over a mile away and in the opposite direction. The cops were moving towards the crowd in a very menacing manner. Some folks had their little children with them. Fortunately, there was no incident while I was there. But, I couldn’t help but think how provocative the cops were acting, with apparently no justifiable reason, and how this kind of unnecessary posturing could have easily gotten out of hand. I was advised later that there was, in fact, an incident and a few arrests at the scene.

Dr. Esam Omesh, President of the Muslim American Society, (MAS), was also a speaker at the event. With his young son standing by his side, he said: “Let us stop this war, today. Let us bring our troops home, today…We join the voices of morality…reason…compassion all over the world, Muslims and others, Americans and others; to say: End the war today!” He labeled the Iraqi War launched by the Bush-Cheney Gang as, “illegitimate.”

Finally, my hat goes off to all the activists who showed up on a day where the temperature hovered mostly around the freezing mark, with a 9 mph wind beating down on them. Kudos, too, to the ANSWER Coalition and to all of the volunteers for a job well done. My fondest hope is that this rally will spark a persistent movement that will result in the impeachment of Bush and Cheney and lead to ending this disastrous war in Iraq.


[1]. and