On the seventh anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, thousands of people from across the United States on Saturday converged on Lafayette Square, opposite the White House in Washington DC. The rally then marched through downtown DC, halting en route at the premises of military contractor Halliburton, the Mortgage Bankers Association and The Washington Post offices.
While the protest drew a smaller crowd than the tens of thousands who marched during the final years of the Bush administration, the ANSWER coalition, the main organiser, said momentum was building due to disenchantment with President Obama's troop surge decision for Afghanistan. Other participating groups included Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out and the National Council of Arab Americans and activists such as Ralph Nader and Cindy Sheehan.
In a statement the ANSWER coalition said,
“People from all over the country are organising to converge on Washington, D.C., and on the West Coast to demand the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan and Iraq.”
Instead of war, we will demand funds so that every person can have a job, free and universal health care, decent schools, and affordable housing, said the coalition statement.
According to some reports the rally could prove to be significant as it was the “first massive, nationally coordinated effort to challenge U.S. foreign policy since President Obama took office.” Though the costs and scope of U.S. military engagements have expanded under Mr. Obama, the anti-war movement has thus far been largely silent since January 2008.
However with Saturday's protest march, the movement signalled that it had revived and was capable of challenging the Obama administration on its foreign policy strategies.
The ANSWER coalition said though “the enthusiasm and desire for change after eight years of the Bush regime was the dominant cause that led to election of a big Democratic Party majority in both Houses of Congress and the election of Barack Obama to the White House… [it was now] obvious to all that waiting for politicians to bring real change… is simply a prescription for passivity by progressives and an invitation to the array of corporate interests from military contractors to the banks, to big oil, to the health insurance giants that dominate the political life of the country.”
It is time to be back in the streets, the ANSWER 0statement added.