A group of anti-war protesters are staging a 241-mile march for peace across the Mexico-US border and through California. We speak with one of the march’s key organizers, Pablo Paredes. He is an Iraq war resister who refused orders to board a ship in 2004 heading to Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
On Sunday, a group of anti-war protesters set off on what will be a 241-mile march for peace across the Mexico-US border and through California. At 6:30 Sunday morning the marchers set off from Tijuana Mexico. They crossed the Mexico-US border later that day, and plan to end the march with a rally in the California city of La Paz.
Yesterday we reached one of the march’s key organizers, Pablo Paredes. An Iraq war resister, Paredes was a Navy petty officer who refused orders to board a ship in 2004 heading to Iraq. We reached Pablo by cell phone as the marchers were leaving a Pendleton, California recruiting station. I asked him to talk about the march and one of the other organizers, Fernando Suarez Del Solar who lost his son in Iraq in 2003.
- Pablo Paredes, Iraq war resister.
AMY GOODMAN: Late yesterday, we reached one of the march’s key organizers, Pablo Paredes. He is an Iraq war resister, a Navy petty officer, who refused orders to board a ship in 2004 heading to Iraq. We reached Pablo by phone as the marchers were leaving a Pendleton, California recruiting station. I asked him to talk about the march and one of his fellow organizers, Fernando Suarez Del Solar, who lost his son Jesus in Iraq in 2003.
PABLO PAREDES: We have just finished at the recruiting station here in the Vista area, where we confronted some recruiters for the second time in this march, because part of the march — one of the many facets of it is going to be Fernando’s solemn asking of the recruiters to be more truthful with our youth, as he is the father of a person who died in Iraq and whose son was lied to about the reality of the military by recruiters. So that’s one of the many facets of this effort. It’s a counter-fraudulent recruitment sort of work, and unfortunately, we’ve been met with very rude kind of reactions. Fernando was actually laughed at by military recruiters at the Army Recruiting Station.
We began at the Public School 44, which is where Fernando’s son Jesus first started his school sort of pipeline in Tijuana. And like many immigrants, he ended up coming to the United States looking for a better life, for an education, and like many immigrants, as well, was targeted by recruiters and ended up in the military.
So, part of our march seeks to emulate the plight of the immigrant. We’re going to go — we started in Tijuana, we crossed the border and tried to destroy it, in a sense, with our message of peace that doesn’t have borders, and we go to Camp Pendleton today, which is the end point today, because that’s where a lot of immigrants end up. We end up recruited, and we end up being taught how to kill and die in wars, which is not the best use of our beautiful culture, so we want to redirect it. That’s why the march will go from Camp Pendleton on to a place called La Paz, which translates to "peace." Very symbolically, we want to travel from war to peace, and beyond that, that’s where César Chávez is buried, and he’s also one of the legacies of our culture that we want to resurrect, the legacy of nonviolent civil action in the face of such injustices as this war in Iraq.
This latest idea actually came from the World Social Forum. That’s where we were at when we put this together, me and Fernando, and we decided to take on a march. We’re taking the legacy of Gandhi and the anniversary — that’s the reason the first date of the march being March 12, it’s the anniversary, the 76th anniversary of Gandhi’s salt march. He was an older man, a sympathetic person that people could really identify with, who just really wanted freedom for his country from the British oppression. And so he set out on a very ambitious march, a 241-mile march at age 60-plus, and so Fernando and me, at the third year of this unjust war, decided that something had to be done, that the polls are telling us two-thirds of the country are opposed to the war, and 72% of the troops in Iraq want to come home now. But those are polls. You know, it’s just what people type in the internet and answer phone calls with. It’s not action.
So, we wanted to be the ones to lead the action, especially as Latinos in the Latino community, to try to get the rest of our community and the entire U.S. community that is opposed to this war to take to the streets, to have their voice be heard and not just polled. So that was the inspiration, Gandhi’s salt march, and that’s why we had the same rough number of miles, 240-plus, also because we want to symbolically mirrors the suffering of the American troops in Iraq, which the numbers, unfortunately, are all too easy to predict, and we know that there will be over 2,400 passed by the time we end our march. So we’re going to march as many miles, at least one mile to every ten soldiers that have fallen in Iraq, as a sign of solidarity.
We’re asking everyone and anybody to join us. We’re asking people not to simply, you know, answer the polls when they call you at your house, but to take to the street your message. If you really believe in democracy, then you have to be willing to work for it. You have to be willing to go out in the streets and have your voice be heard. At this point, the country is in agreement. We do not want this war. We find it unjust and immoral. All of the polls show this. Two-thirds-plus of the country, in one poll, are saying they are opposed to this war, but what has it shown us? The government isn’t just going to do something on its own. The Bush administration is definitely not going to roll over and just stop what they’re doing in Iraq. They’re obviously making all kinds of money off of it, and they’ve obviously decided to go through with this, so we have to force our government. It’s sad to say that as a democracy we have to force them, and we have to sacrifice the way we’re sacrificing to be heard, but we do have to. And we call on everyone in every community that really believes that there has to come an end to this war to please join us.
The march ends on March 27th, and the reason for that is because the three-year anniversary of Jesus Suarez Del Solar’s death, that’s Fernando’s son, who stepped on an illegal U.S. cluster bomb, and that’s how he passed away. He was also lied to about that. Fernando was lied to and told that his son came under enemy fire. The reality was he stepped on the only weapons of mass destruction so far found in Iraq, and those were U.S. placed. We invite people to come join us. Our web sites, GuerreroAzteca.org as well as SwiftSmartVeterans.com have all the details about where you can join up. You can do a mile; you can do two miles; you can do the whole thing. Anything that interests people, we invite them to come join us.
AMY GOODMAN: Pablo Paredes, Iraq war resister on his 240-mile walk from Tijuana to San Francisco. This is Democracy Now!, DemocracyNow.org, the War and Peace Report, and speaking of those who lost loved ones, like Fernando losing his son, Jesus, told one thing about how he died and learning it was because of something else, in just a minute, we’ll be joined by NOW producer and correspondent of the PBS show, NOW, to talk about two mothers who lost their sons, what they were told, and what actually happened.