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U.S. Antiwar Protest to Invoke Images of Vietnam

Thousands of protesters against a U.S. war on Iraq plan to meet in the U.S. capital on Oct. 26, arriving in 250 buses from states as far afield as Texas, Vermont and Florida. Georgetown University students hold a 'die-in' protest against the possibility of the United States going to war with Iraq, October 23, 2002 on campus in Washington. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)
WASHINGTON - If they do not stop on the way, Chris Pifer, 21, said the drive from the University of Minnesota to a weekend antiwar protest in Washington should take about 24 hours.

The 40 students setting off from Minneapolis are among thousands of protesters against a U.S. war on Iraq who plan to meet in the U.S. capital on Saturday, arriving in 250 buses from states as far afield as Texas, Vermont and Florida.

Organizers say between 50,000 and 100,000 people will gather to decry American posturing against Iraq at the Vietnam War Veterans Memorial, invoking images of the 1960s peace movement.

"People need to keep the Vietnam War in mind. The symbolism is very important," said Tony Murphy, spokesman for the International Answer group organizing the protest.

"The Vietnam War was started on a lie, and we contend the Bush administration is lying when it says Iraq presents a threat to the world, and to this country," he said. "We will show in numbers that (President) George (W.) Bush is not speaking for the vast majority of people when he goes to war in Iraq."

A tandem protest in San Francisco on Saturday expects to draw 50 busloads of peace activists from states such as Washington and Arizona and a group flying in from Hawaii.

"We're pretty sure it's going to be the biggest antiwar demonstration we've had on the West Coast since the Vietnam War," organizer Bill Hackwell said in a telephone interview.

"There is a real groundswell of opposition to the Bush administration. And a lot of people have just lost faith that the Congress, their so-called elected officials, are going to do anything. People really want to 'vote with their feet' as they said in the '60s," he said.

Congress has approved a war powers resolution for the president, backing the possible use of force to rid Iraq of suspected weapons of mass destruction and possibly oust President Saddam Hussein. Bush accuses Iraq of being a threat to the United States and its allies because of its weapons program.

Although Britain has backed the idea of a strike against Iraq, many other countries have criticized the U.S. position, saying a "pre-emptive" strike could disrupt the Middle East and justify other wars.


Antiwar protests are also planned for Saturday in several cities worldwide, including Mexico City, Copenhagen, Seoul, Tokyo and San Juan, Puerto Rico. Last month in London, more than 150,000 people rallied in the city's Hyde Park to oppose a military strike on Iraq.

College campuses in the capital held week-long events to protest American war talk. About 70 Georgetown University students staged a "die-in" on Wednesday, lying limp in a main square to represent Iraqi children who have died as a result of U.N. sanctions imposed after the 1991 Gulf War.

"The Iraqi population has been decimated but still, very few Americans know the situation there," said Laila Al-Arian, a fourth-year English literature student.

"This is an issue that affects us as Americans. Even if we don't give any thought to the civilians killed, we are putting our soldiers in danger."

Shadi Hamid, who studies international politics at Georgetown, said he hoped the weekend protests would set off a peace movement in the United States on the scale of the 1960s.

"In the '60s, before the Vietnam War got started there was very little opposition among Americans. It's different now. People are really worried about Iraq, and we're mobilized already," he said. "All we hear from this president is 'war, war, war' ... We can't let this go on any longer."




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