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Peace activists protest US military strategy

CHICAGO, Oct 7 (AFP) -

Shouting "No more victims," and "Justice not war," hundreds of peace activists
marched through the streets of Chicago Sunday to protest US military strikes against
Afghanistan.

Shouting "No more victims," and "Justice not war," hundreds of peace activists
marched through the streets of Chicago Sunday to protest US military strikes against
Afghanistan.

An estimated 700 people turned out in chilly autumn temperatures for the rally, which
-- like half a dozen others across the country -- was scheduled over a week ago, but
by coincidence, fell on the same day that US and British forces launched air strikes
against Afghanistan's Taliban regime.

"I was agreeably surprised that we didn't resort to bombing before this," said Sally
Schreiner, a pastor at a Mennonite church in the city, "but I'm afraid this will only
renew the terrorists' determination to strike back at us."

Like many in the crowd, she argued that the United States ought to work through
diplomatic and legal channels to bring the terrorists who killed more than 5,000
people in the September 11 kamikaze attacks on New York and Washington DC to
justice.

"Our leaders should try diplomacy. They should try the International Court of Justice
in the Hague."

The US government paid "lip service" to such concepts, added Roger Hansen, a
53-year-old bereavement counselor, but in the final analysis, "there is an assumption
that we can do what we want without working through international channels."

"It just seems like there was never a pause where alternative strategies were
considered," complained Megan Wade, a 23-year-old health care worker.

"The rhetoric has been all about war from the beginning," she said, attacking US
media coverage for "encouraging the public's desire for retaliation."

"There is a reflex patriotism that kicks in at times like these, even though in general
Americans are cynical about their government," was the way Hansen explained the
public mood, but he lamented the missed opportunity to re-examine the "less than
even-handed," US foreign policy in the Middle East, notably towards Israel, and
Iraq.

"It's a wake-up call to look at the policies that created a climate where this could
happen."

Jessica Tulloch, 25, also made the connection between the terrorist attacks on the
World Trade Center and the Pentagon -- which US authorities allege were
masterminded by Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda
organization -- and the role the United States has played in the conflict in Israel and
the occupied territories.

"It's been brought home to some Americans that some people abroad have issues
with US foreign policy," she said. "But there are a lot of people who don't want to
hear that right now."

Many of the marchers acknowledged that their views put them on the margins of
public opinion right now, but argued that the rallies in Chicago, Washington and Los
Angeles were important, if only symbolically, to show that the views of the Bush
administration did not reflect those of all US society.

"We need to show people who are sitting on the fence right now that there is an
alternative to the blood-lust of our government," volunteered David Wolf, a
22-year-old carpenter.

At a small rally in Los Angeles, Magda Miller called on the Bush administration to
stop supporting Israel.

"Bombing Afghanistan is not going to solve the problem of terrorism. Instead, the US
should get out from the Middle East, completely, and stop arming Israel."
 
 

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