By Luis Alonso Pérez
March 19 marked the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion to Iraq, a “preemptive war” that has taken the lives of more than 2,300 American military deaths and caused over 33,000 Iraqi civilian deaths, not to mention $225 billions of taxpayer’s dollars.
This sorrowful commemoration drew tens of thousands of protesters around the world demanding the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
In San Diego a group of around 500 demonstrators gathered at Balboa Park on Saturday March 18 for an anti-war rally and peace festival.
But there was nothing to be festive about, because in spite of every peace effort by the American and global community the only thing it has achieved so far is a drop in Bush’s approval ratings, yet more troops are being deployed to Iraq and the senate is considering spending another $72 billion on war.
The San Diego mobilization began with a march from the Santa Fe train station and worked its way up to Balboa Park, where a group of speakers took the stage to address the human and economic cost of the invasion.
One of the key speakers of the event was Remondre’ Boyd, a six year veteran of the United States Marines, currently seeking separation from the military as a conscientious objector to war. But his separation has been long and hard process and he has endured the criticism and harassment from the military, but he believes in peace and will stand firm and see the process through.
“It’s hard because the military doesn’t follow their own rules. They set certain guidelines to meet in order to be separated, but once you meet those guidelines, often times they still won’t separate you. The process has taken more than nine months, when it should have taken three to four months.”
Another important speaker was Gloria Verdieu from the International Action Center, who addressed the issue of the war at home. “Hurricane Katrina and Rita exposed the fact that the United States government does not care about the lives of poor people, because they had no evacuation plan envision. This war is sucking billions of dollars from the budget, which can be used to rebuild their homes and their city.”
Verdieu also spoke about the importance of including immigration and border issues in the fight against militarism because the United States is taking advantage of the public’s fear and developing anti-immigration bills like HR4437, which will turn millions of immigrants into felons for crossing the border without permission and criminalizing people who help them.
“African-Americans and immigrants make up the majority of the poor and working people in the United States, yet we continue to pay with our tax dollars the huge cost of the Iraqi occupation, and with the lives of our sons and daughters who join the military because they see no other alternative for taking care of their families” said Gloria Verdieu.
But anti-war protestor weren’t the only ones in the park. Around 20 war supporters attended the event as their thanking the military and their families for making that “maximum sacrifice.”
Lynne Meyer was one of the few showing their support to the invasion, and considers that the troops shouldn’t leave Iraq until the job is done. “I think that the evidence is very clear that there are some connections (between 911 and the Iraq war), not necessarily a lot of connections, but they did train terrorists.”
Meanwhile in Washington President Bush stated the anniversary was a time to reflect on the sacrifices of the men and women who wear the uniform, and by all means avoided the word “war”, replacing it with the term “liberation of Iraq.”