Antiwar protesters filled the streets of Washington on Saturday in one of the largest protests since the invasion of Iraq. Veterans and military families joined lawmakers, peace groups and celebrities to urge Congress and President Bush to bring the troops home now. Protest organizers United for Peace and Justice estimated 500,000 took part in the demonstration. In California, smaller rallies were held in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento. In Washington, marchers converged on the National Mall for a two-hour rally. The crowd included people who came on 300 buses from 40 states. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: Well, the estimates varied from tens of thousands to half a million protesters who took to the streets of Washington, D.C., Saturday to call for an end to the war in Iraq. Veterans and military families joined lawmakers, peace groups, celebrities to urge Congress and President Bush to bring the troops home now. Protest organizers United for Peace and Justice estimated 500,000 people took part in the demonstration. In California, smaller rallies were held in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Sacramento. In D.C., marchers converged on the National Mall for a two-hour rally. The crowd included people who came on 300 buses from 40 states.
SEAN: My name is Sean, and I’m from New York. I represent the Ya-Ya, Youth Activists-Youth Allies, Network. I’m here to support everyone trying to stop the war and to bring the soldiers home.
OLIVIA: Hi. My name’s Olivia, and I’m from Maryland, and I’m here to support the people in Iraq.
MATT CARSON: My name’s Matt Carson from Toledo, Ohio, here to protest the war. Bring the troops home now.
TEDDI FISHMAN: I’m Teddi Fishman. I am from South Carolina. And when South Carolina is against the war, you know that it’s gone too far.
ALI SADR: My name is Ali Sadr phon.. I’m from Iran, Tehran, Iran. I was born in U.S. I was raised in Iran, and I left Iran after revolution. And I’m here to protest.
AMANDA: Amanda. I am a Spanish people. And then, I’m not agree with this war, so I want to say just one thing: Bush, he can send his kids. His two girls, he has, right? I want to see how he will feel when they send over there to Iraq, and then I will see how he feel like a parent.
PAM CANINE: My name is Pam Canine phon.. I’m from Yellow Springs, Ohio, home of Antioch College, and I’m here because I am sick of the lives wasted, the money squandered. It is time to bring our troops home and get down to sensible domestic and foreign policy.
KWALI ABDUL MOHAMMED: Yes, my name is Kwali Abdul Mohammed phon.. I’m here from Philly. I’m here to represent my family. Two of my fathers — my grandfather and my father both died in a war. I have a nephew that’s there now. I’m giving support to let Bush know that it’s no more war, no more war, no more war.
AMY GOODMAN: Among those protesting were a number of lawmakers who opposed President Bush’s escalation of the war, calling on the president to bring the troops home. Democratic Congressmember Maxine Waters of California was among them. She had sent a letter to every other member of the House, urging them to participate in the antiwar march. Congressmember Waters is a co-founder of the Out of Iraq Caucus. She addressed the crowd on the National Mall.
REP. MAXINE WATERS: You have come here today to save your country, to change the direction of this country and to tell George Bush, “Hell, no, we won’t go!” I stand firmly with you. My name is Maxine Waters, and I’m not afraid of George W. Bush. My name is Maxine Waters, and I’m not intimidated by Dick Cheney. My name is Maxine Waters, and I helped to get rid of Rumsfeld. My name is Maxine Waters, and Condi Rice is nothing but another neocon, and she doesn’t represent me!
George W. Bush led us into this immoral war. He tricked the American people, and he told us there were weapons of mass destruction. He did not tell the truth. He came out on the battleship and said, “Mission accomplished.” He misled us again. He said we were working with the coalition of the willing. It was only a figment of his imagination. He said that we were moving forward with training the Iraqi soldiers who would take over the security. Where are they? They are nowhere. As a matter of fact, they’re undermining our soldiers in this civil war. He said we were going to get proceeds from the oil that would be pumped back into Iraq so that it could be reconstructed. As a matter of fact, he told us he made these decisions; he said he is the decider. But you know what? He’s not the decider. He is the liar!
Thank you for being here today. I want you to come to Capitol Hill and lobby on Monday and put some starch in the backs of the members of Congress and give them the courage that they need to do the right thing. It is all right to have some resolutions that are not binding, but the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and that will come when it’s time to decide whether or not we’re going to fund this immoral war. I will not vote one dime for this war! And when you come up here to lobby, you ask these members, “Are you going to support an appropriation to continue this war, to expand this war?” And you can tell the difference between those who are ready to bring our soldiers home and those who are only paying lip service. Don’t forget, he is not the decider. He is the —
REP. MAXINE WATERS: He is not the decider, he is the —
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Bring our troops home!
AMY GOODMAN: California Congressmember Maxine Waters was joined by another founder of the Out of Iraq Caucus, Lynn Woolsey. In January 2005, Congressmember Woolsey became the first member of Congress to call for withdrawal from Iraq. She called for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq.
REP. LYNN WOOLSEY: Thank all of you. Your very presence, your passion has taken us this far, and we are not going to stop until we end George Bush’s immoral Iraq War. Americans don’t want to send our young men and women into the middle of a civil war, a war we shouldn’t have been in in the first place. We’ve injured — over the last four years that we’ve endured bloodshed and mayhem, more than 3,000 American lives lost, countless physically and mentally wounded, tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens killed, hundreds of billions of dollars wasted, our global credibility shattered, terrorists emboldened rather than defeated.
We all know it’s not about winning or losing. It’s about doing the right thing. Everybody knows this. Everybody knows this, except the president. He asks us to sacrifice more of our tax dollars so he can win in Iraq. You know what they say. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results.
Fortunately, we have an antidote to this insanity. It’s not another Iraq Study Group. It’s not a new committee to debate what to do next. It is what you sent us to do last November. It’s called H.R. 508. It’s long title is the Bring Our Troops Home and Iraq Sovereignty Restoration Act, and it would end the U.S. occupation in Iraq within six months, saving lives and limbs and money and America’s standing in the world. H.R. 508 is the only comprehensive legislation that puts us on the fast track to a fully funded military withdrawal from Iraq. Congresswomen Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee and I have introduced H.R. 508 in the Congress, but you are the true authors of this legislation. It is your will that H.R. 508 carries out.
So when you go to the Capitol on Monday, when you go to Capitol Hill, and when you contact members of Congress in the coming weeks and months, and they ask you, “Well, what is your plan?” tell them, “Pass H.R. 508!” When they tell you they are against the war but don’t know how to leave, tell them, “Pass H.R. 508!” When they tell you they would like to help you out, but, you know, the president has all the power, you tell them, “Pass H.R. 508!” Your voices have not gone unheard. They have life in H.R. 508, and I pledge all of my heart and all of my soul to this cause. In the name of national security, fiscal sanity and calm and decency, together we will bring our troops home. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Lynn Woolsey. Coming up: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Susan Sarandon, Jane Fonda at the national march on Washington. Stay with us.
AMY GOODMAN: The House Speaker Nancy Pelosi led a delegation to Iraq and Afghanistan. She has said that impeachment is off the table. But that’s not the same message that John Conyers shared, the House Judiciary chair, when he addressed the rally in Washington on Saturday.
REP. JOHN CONYERS: Brothers and sisters, I’m so glad that you’re all here. We’ve got to hold more of these, just like on Election Day, November 7, until our government gets the message: Out of Iraq immediately, this year, we’ve got to go!
Hello, Detroit. You came all the way in buses for 10 hours. I hear you. Hello, CodePink, I hear you. Hello, Institute for Policy Studies, I hear you. But George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq War is failing. But let me tell you something. He can’t fire you. He can’t fire us. But we can fire him! We can fire him! Maureen Dowd said this this morning: “Has anyone in the history of the United States ever been so singularly wrong and misguided about such phenomenally important events and continued to insist he’s right, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary?” Has there ever been anybody in America history? There certainly hasn’t.
Now, we marched and protested and legislated against segregation, and then against the Vietnam War. Today, we march and protest and legislate against the war in Iraq, and we continue the great tradition of struggle of the people. Today’s march is a continuation of the vote on November 7. The history is clear. When our country is at a moral crossroads, it takes the cries and the outrage of American people to force Washington to do the right thing. That’s why we’re here.
President Bush is the commander-in-chief of the military, but he is not the commander-in-chief of the citizens of this country. He is not. Vice President Cheney has said repeatedly, “Congress can’t stop me.” But we must stop him! We’re going to stop him. And so, the founders of our country gave the Congress the power of the purse, because they envisioned a scenario exactly like the one in which we find ourselves today. Not only is it within our power to stop Bush, it is our obligation to stop Bush. The founders of our country gave the Congress the power of the purse, because they envisioned a scenario exactly like the one in which we find ourselves today. Not only is it within our power, but we’re going to do it by holding rallies every week, every month, every day, until we stop this illegal, immoral war in Iraq. We’ve got to do that.
And with your help, the people can prevail. We stopped the war in Vietnam, didn’t we? With Dr. Martin Luther King, we did the civil rights movement, and with marches, we did it, and we’re going to do it again. Thank you for being with us today. All of these members of Congress are with you. Victory.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Conyers was joined by veterans, active-duty soldiers, military families. This is Iraq War vet Garrett Reppenhagen.
GARRETT REPPENHAGEN: I was a sniper in the First Infantry Division. I served one year in Iraq. Now I’m home. I’m still serving my country. I’m still serving my brothers and sisters and trying to get them home alive.
Iraq Veterans Against the War is the most progressive veteran organization in America right now. We’re growing. We’re quadrupled in size in the last year. Men and women are coming home, and they’re pissed off. I listened to the State of the Union address, and in the 50 minutes of rambling, George Bush not once mentioned the word “veteran.” Not once. So that leads me to understand that, you know, where the intentions of this administration is. You know, our elected officials are no longer representing us as a majority of the country.
When I served in war, I thought I was serving honorably. I thought I was going because our country needed its defense and because there was an injustice in the world that needed to be stopped. Instead, I was sent to war without proper planning, without proper training, without proper equipment, and for causes that have proved fraudulent.
We need to put pressure on our elected government and force them to represent us as a country and bring the troops home legitimately. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Earlier this month, a group of 50 active-duty servicemembers visited Capitol Hill to call for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The soldiers presented a petition, known as an “Appeal for Redress,” signed by over 1,000 troops, mostly enlisted servicemembers. Liam Madden is a co-founder of Appeal for Redress. He served in Iraq as a Marine sergeant. He spoke to the crowd.
JONATHAN HUTTO: No justice! No war! More death, no peace! More imperialism, no peace! We come here today on behalf of 1,223 active-duty members of the United States military, Reserve members, National Guard members who are using their constitutional rights to speak out against this war, an imperialist war, a war for profit, not for people, a war for death, not for people, a war against the working class, not for justice. We thank you.
I’m going to be very short, but a couple things I want to say. Number one, this is a very great turnout that we have, and we have to continue to build this mass movement. We have to understand that this current war is going to continue. Many people who are here are veterans of the GI movement from the Vietnam War. And the reason why they’re here, back again 35-40 years later, is because we have got to keep the mass movement going, no matter who’s in office, a Democrat or Republican. We’ve got to keep the mass movement going against the system. It’s a systematic war.
All right, finally, I am going to end with a chant. All right, I want you all to say it with me, OK? When I say, “racism means,” you say, “got to fight back.” Racism means we got to fight back. Racism means we got to fight back. Oil war means we got to fight back. Imperialism means —
AUDIENCE: We got to fight back!
JONATHAN HUTTO: Imperialism means —
AUDIENCE: We got to fight back.
JONATHAN HUTTO: Iraq war means —
AUDIENCE: We got to fight.
JONATHAN HUTTO: Occupation means —
AUDIENCE: We got to fight back.
JONATHAN HUTTO: No justice, no peace!
AMY GOODMAN: That was Navy seaman Jonathan Hutto, who together with Liam Madden, was co-founder of the Appeal for Redress. The families of soldiers also spoke out. Brenda Hervey’s stepson Michael was injured while in Iraq. This is Brenda Hervey.
BRENDA HERVEY: My name is Brenda Hervey. I’m a member of Military Families Speak Out from Sioux City, Iowa. On November 2nd, 2006, my stepson Michael was seriously injured when an IED exploded near his Bradley vehicle in al-Anbar province, Iraq. He was on his second deployment, serving on stop-loss orders. In November, the American people made clear their overwhelming opposition to the war in Iraq, but the question remains: Will the newly elected Congress take swift and firm action, or will President Bush be allowed to continue the occupation unchecked?
In February 2007, the appropriations bill will come before Congress, seeking a hundred billion dollars to continue this war. We need our senators and members of Congress to understand, you cannot both oppose and fund this war.
My stepson is now recovering in Germany, but because of George Bush’s escalation, he may have to go back to Iraq if his unit is extended. The most supportive thing Congress can do now for my son, our troops and the people of Iraq is to stop funding this war. I’m proud to join over 3,200 Military Families Speak Out members across the country when I say, “Not one more dime, not one more day, not one more life, not one more lie! End the occupation! De-fund the war! Bring our troops home now, and take care of them when they get here!”
AMY GOODMAN: Military mother Brenda Hervey was joined by Bob Watada, the father of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada. Watada is the first commissioned officer to refuse to go to Iraq. Last week, a military judge ruled he cannot present evidence challenging the war’s legality nor explain what motivated him to resist his deployment order. His court-martial is scheduled for next week. Lt. Watada faces six years in prison. His father Bob Watada addressed the crowd.
BOB WATADA: Aloha, my dear enlightened friends. I’m so honored to be here with you today. Today, we must challenge ourselves to take this great nation back, back to the democracy that our great leaders once envisioned. This is our country. Let’s hear it. This is our country!
AUDIENCE: This is our country!
BOB WATADA: You and I will not let this country slide back to our barbarian ancestors, the barbarians that lived to plunder, torture, rape and murder innocent people for their bounty. We are a civilized nation. We need to bring an end, an end to blood oil. We need to bring an end to the training of our children to massacre the villages of Iraq for Halliburton’s oil.
My son, Lt. Ehren Watada, as a proud patriotic American soldier, has stood up to say enough is enough. And we have to say enough is enough, and we have to say to Congress, enough is enough. Because he refused to lead his men into the massacre of innocent men, women and children, and lead his men to their own deaths for corporate greed, the military commanders want to punish him and punish him harshly for speaking out and saying that the emperor has no clothes. Lieutenant Watada spoke out and said that the president has been deceptive and that there are atrocities going on in Iraq. These are the words of truth, while the government finds these words offensive and wants to put him into prison for saying the truth. The truth is a danger to the Bush empire.
In 2003, Bush said there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, that there are chemical and biological weapons in Iraq, we know, in fact, that there are al-Qaeda training facilities in Iraq. All lies. In 2004, Bush said the way to make this a safer world is to democratize Iraq — a lie. In 2005, Bush said we are winning this war.
BOB WATADA: In 2006, Bush said we have to stabilize the sectarian violence.
BOB WATADA: In 2007, Bush said we can still win this war with 20,000 more troops.
BOB WATADA: Did you read his lips? The Army wants to make my son a political prisoner, a political prisoner in a country not unlike the dictatorships that we condemn in other countries. My son seeks to give a voice to the thousands of our young sons and daughters who no longer have a voice. He seeks to give a voice to the hundreds and thousands of innocent men, women and children in Iraq who no longer have a voice. He seeks to give a voice to the thousands of soldiers who have come back physically and mentally disabled for life.
Please tell Congress that they have to share my son’s voice. My friends, we have to make a compact to support what my son stands up for: the Constitution of the United States and a democracy. Most importantly, we must tell our leaders in Congress that people, you and I, are more important than corporate profits. Stand up so they can see us. Tell them that this is our country. I close with a quote from Abraham Lincoln: “To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men.” Please tell Congress.
AMY GOODMAN: Bob Watada, the father of First Lieutenant Ehren Watada. Jesselyn Radack was an attorney in the Justice Department’s Professional Responsibility Advisory Office during the case against John Walker Lindh. She also spoke.
JESSELYN RADACK: I am the whistleblower in the case of the so-called American Taliban, John Walker Lindh, the first person prosecuted in the war on terrorism and an American citizen. I was the ethics adviser at the Justice Department who advised the government to allow him his lawyer. When my advice was disregarded and disappeared, I blew the whistle. For that, I was forced out of the Justice Department, fired from my next job at the government’s behest, referred to the state bars in which I am licensed as an attorney, placed under criminal investigation and, like many of you here, share the dubious distinction of being on the no-fly list. My name is Jesselyn Radack, and this is what happens when you trade freedom for fear, confuse dissent with disloyalty and replace democracy with despotism.
When it comes to the Iraq War, we don’t need to increase, we need to impeach. We don’t need a surge, we need some common sense. In responding to terrorism, we cannot trample on the very freedoms for which we are fighting. Public servants and soldiers should not have to choose their conscience over their career. Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Former State Department attorney, Jesselyn Radack.