Anti-War Activists Mark Fourth Anniversary Of Iraq War

Saturday, March 17th 2007, 2:19 pm
By: News On 6

On Tuesday, it'll be four years since the U.S.-led coalition invaded Iraq. On Saturday, anti-war protesters turned out in Washington DC and here in Oklahoma to protest the war. Armed with signs and in costume a crowd gathered at the All Souls Unitarian Church to denounce the war and to show support for our troops. Some of the protesters wore sack cloth as a biblical symbol of mourning.

"And the universal message is that life is precious and that we want to make sure that we are paying attention to this war that is happening on our behalf in our name and with our money," said Reverend Marlin Lavanhar.

In Oklahoma City more than 200 people, many carrying signs that read "We Need Our Troops Back Home" and "Bloody War on a Pack of Lies," denounced the conflict and mourned the deaths of more than 3,200 U.S. troops since the invasion of Iraq began on March 20, 2003.

Flanked by dozens of empty combat boots that symbolized the dead, war protesters read the names of 57 troops from Oklahoma who have died in the conflict, including Spc. Jeffrey Henthorn of Choctaw, who committed suicide in Iraq during his second tour of duty there.

"I don't want families to have to suffer like we have," said his father, Air Force veteran Warren Henthorn. Standing before the flag that draped his son's coffin, Henthorn led the crowd in chanting: "Support our troops, bring them home."

Nathaniel Batchelder, director of the Peace House in Oklahoma City, said rally organizers were motivated "by a love of our country." Batchelder and others rejected criticism that their anti-war sentiment reflects lack of support for U.S. troops.

"We are the ones who really support the troops," said the Rev. Robin Meyers.

President Bush has proposed sending more than 20,000 more troops to Iraq. Meyers said the move defies the political message voters sent to Washington in November when they gave Democrats control of Congress.

"We voted for a new direction in November and you have ignored us," Meyers said, prompting cheers and applause from the crowd. "We are not winning in Iraq and we will not win in Iraq.

"It was a war born in deception and now sustained by delusion," Meyers said referring to assertions at the start of the war that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. "We are out of patience. We are out of time. The game is up."

Many in the crowd echoed Meyers' words.

"We're sick and tired of the war," said Mark Derichsweiler of Oklahoma City, who wore a T-shirt speckled with peace symbols. "We're doing what we can to bring the troops home."

"The war was based on lies," said David Lammon of Oklahoma City, who held a sign that read "America Deserves Better."

As they spoke, a rock band played the anti-war anthem "Give Peace a Chance" and another song that included the lyrics: "No one wants to be the one to have to die young."

Dr. Katherine Scheirman, a retired Air Force colonel and former chief of medical operations for the Air Force in Europe, said she was troubled by the continuous stream of troops she saw who had lost limbs and suffered traumatic brain injuries.

"Day after day, the carnage tears at the hearts of these doctors and nurses," Scheirman said. "It would break anyone's heart to see the human cost of this war. These brave men and women are people.

"I am trying to end it and I can no longer remain silent."

The rally coincided with protest marches and demonstrations in Washington and elsewhere and was held one month after hundreds of veterans converged on the Capitol to show support for U.S. troops.

Contacted following Saturday's rally, retired Army Lt. Col. Steve Russell, chairman of Vets for Victory and an organizer of the veterans' rally, said the Iraq war is part of a broader war on terror.

"The notion that this war can't be won is not shared by the vast majority of soldiers who have fought in this war," said Russell, whose unit played a key role in the capture of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein on Dec. 13, 2003.

"There's real progress being made in Baghdad," Russell said.