Peace groups gather to mark anniversary of war in Iraq

Posted: Sunday, March 20, 2005

A crisp wind stiffened American flags Saturday at Marine Park downtown as about 250 people gathered to mark the second anniversary of the Iraq war.

Two men stood beside a coffin-like wooden box draped with an American flag. One man lofted a United Nations flag. Others held signs saying "War is terrorism" or "Support our troops. Bring them home."

The memorial, sponsored by the local chapter of Veterans for Peace and Juneau People for Peace and Justice, was marked by similar events across the nation - part protests, part prayers.

"We are here today to honor our troops, to mourn those who died, and to stand in solidarity with the men and women who serve their country courageously every day, and to remember all the Iraqis who have suffered at our hands," said Ed Hein, a member of the Veterans for Peace.

Sean Daugherty, whose daughter served a year in Iraq, said he became involved in the antiwar movement "because President Bush put my daughter in harm's way and I kind of got mad about it."

About 1,520 American troops have died in the war, as well as 176 other coalition troops, according to the Armed Forces Relief Trust, which monitors governments' sources of information.

About 11,300 Americans have been wounded. An unknown number of Iraqis have died in the war.

In a radio address Saturday, President Bush cast the war as one of the "landmark events in the history of freedom."

"Only the fire of liberty can purge the ideologies of murder by offering hope to those who yearn to live free," he said.

Bush said the overthrown Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, was a brutal dictator who posed a grave danger to the world.

"Because of our actions, freedom is taking root in Iraq," Bush said, "and the American people are more secure."

Those weren't the sentiments at Marine Park.

"I oppose the war and I believe that the road to peace is not through violence and death and loss of life, especially loss of innocent life," said Katie Cranor, a Minnesotan who volunteers at a Juneau homeless-family shelter.

With a Scottish lament, bagpiper Rob McMahon called people to the memorial on a cold, cloudless day as winds whipped off Gastineau Channel.

Vietnam veteran John Dunker, president of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace, said attendees came because of their love of country, moral outrage, sense of duty, "and a silent promise made in a long-ago war."

Retired Methodist pastor Tom Dahl read a prayer, saying to God, "We are here because we have nowhere else to go."

Dahl said they came in anger, railing against the arrogance of the government and hating the carnage.

"We come in pain," he said. "We feel so feeble against the onslaught.

" ... We come in shame. We would like to be proud of our nation, this great nation," he said. "We have lost so much and so quickly."

Dahl said they came in repentance and in hope.

Attendees sang the antiwar song "Last night I had the strangest dream." They chanted in Gurmukhi, a Punjabi language, to tell those who died that they are infinite. They heard Mark Twain's "The War Prayer," and taps.

• Eric Fry can be reached at eric.fry@juneauempire.com.



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