After holding a rally in front of the White House on Saturday, protesters walked almost 90 minutes through downtown Washington to Rumsfeld’s house, demanding that the Bush administration withdraw US troops.
“The US should leave Iraq immediately,” said Brian Becker, a coordinator for International ANSWER (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), an activist group that organised the event.
Becker said the defense secretary’s home was the target of the march because Rumsfeld had become the “face of this war.”
“Just because Donald Rumsfeld owns an [expensive] house does not mean that the American people do not have a right to go there and point a finger and say, ‘You are accountable’,” he said.
Despite predictions by some foreign policy experts that a precipitous exit from Iraq by US forces could spark a violent civil war, Becker said the ongoing occupation would only deter the country’s fight for political stability.
“The chaos came to Iraq when the US came to Iraq,” he said. “And the chaos will end only when the Iraqi people have full, undiluted control over their own affairs.”
Although some recent polls show that a slim majority of Americans now think the war in Iraq was not worth fighting, 58% of the respondents in an ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted in late May said US forces should stay in Iraq until civil order is restored.
“The transfer of sovereignty is bogus…”They are not handing over anything”
Protesters appeared to reject the US-led plan to “transfer sovereignty” to an Iraqi interim government on 30 June, saying the US would retain the real power as long as American troops remained in Iraq.
“Just like their previous lies, the transfer of sovereignty is bogus,” said Husayn Agrama, a spokesman for ANSWER. “They are not handing over anything. It’s just an attempt to cover up the occupation.”
Speakers at the pre-march rally covered a wide array of global issues, including Iraq, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and US policy toward Haiti.
On a rain-drenched day in Washington, demonstrators listened in hushed silence as Michael Berg, the father of Nicholas Berg, criticised the Bush administration and called for “non-violent direct action” to end the occupation of Iraq.
“Let’s keep acting until we can raise a banner of peace that says ‘mission accomplished’,” said Berg, whose son was kidnapped and beheaded in Iraq while looking for work.
Nicholas Berg’s father, Michael,
Although he said he and his son disagreed about the war, Berg has not hesitated to express his anti-war views since his son’s death.
“I’m wearing my son’s shirt right now and it makes me feel good to wear it,” he told Aljazeera.net. “It’s like he is here saying, ‘Dad, I respect what you are doing’.”
Not everyone felt the same way.
After making their way to Rumsfeld’s home in the exclusive Kalorama section of Washington, demonstrators were met by a small counter-demonstration comprised of people who supported the US occupation.
One of them held up a large picture of someone holding Nicholas Berg’s decapitated head, along with a sign reading, “An American killed by terrorists.” After being informed that Michael Berg was standing just 30 feet away, a few individuals in the counter-demonstration began shouting “Michael Berg is a coward.”
Steve Evans, who showed up to “counter” the anti-war protestors, said the march sent the wrong message to US troops in Iraq.
Protesters accused Rumsfeld and
“You cannot be against [US actions in Iraq] and support the troops at the same time,” Evans said.
While many people at the march held signs and wore t-shirts calling President George Bush a “terrorist” and a “war criminal,” the parents of US soldier Sherwood Baker said they came from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to express a simple message of anger and grief over the death of their son, who was killed in Iraq in April.
“There are a lot of families who are trying to find some meaning in their son’s death by saying ‘he died for freedom and he died for a good cause’,” said Baker’s father, Al Zappala. “But I know that Sherwood did not die for any of these things.”