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Rallying the Troups

The largest anti-war protest since Nixon



If the Bush administration attacks Iraq, it will be as expected. But if the growing anti-war effort is any indication, Bush's war won't necessarily be met with approval from across the land.

Last Friday, three carloads of Springs men and women ranging from ages 21 to 77, joined 3,000 Coloradans to confront Bush's pre-emptive strike policy at a rally for peace outside the Adam's Mark Hotel in downtown Denver. There, Bush spoke at a $1,000-per-plate luncheon, raising $1 million for congressional candidate Bob Beauprez.

Another 300 demonstrators gathered in Laramie, Wyo. to confront Vice President Dick Cheney, who was in town to give a speech.

Rally organizers in Denver, used to low postSept. 11 turnouts, expected 50 to 100 dedicated peace activists to show up. Instead, the afternoon marked the largest anti-war demonstration in Colorado since President Nixon invaded Cambodia in 1970.

Nationally, several high-profile former military officials have recently suggested that a possible war against Iraq will destabilize U.S. national security and international peace. A recent CBS news poll indicates that 61 percent of Americans are against attacking Iraq without the support of allies, which is currently lacking.

Springs resident Pamela Walker, who attended the demonstration, said she believes that dissenting voices of common citizens are actually underrepresented in mainstream national media.

For example, there were few reports detailing the 100,000 people who marched for peace in Washington, D.C. on April 20. Nor was there widespread coverage in the United States about the 150,000 marchers in Italy and another 350,000 anti-war protesters in Britain last weekend.

In the aftermath of Sept. 11, many Americans felt afraid to speak out, said Colorado Springs resident Valerie Samuelson.

Often, coverage of dissenting voices has been viewed as unpatriotic, rather than as an indispensable function of media in supporting democracy, she said.

Laurel Guenther, who lives in Black Forest, concurred.

"We are moving from a fear-based society to a love-based one, and it's got to happen at the higher levels from the grassroots up," she said.

Jean Ferguson, a member of the Pikes Peak Justice and Peace Commission, maintains that people need to think for themselves, rather than take cues from people in authority.

But dedicated Bush supporter Robert Moody, who observed last week's protest in Denver, disagreed. The president, he maintained, cannot divulge whatever information he has about Saddam Hussein for security reasons.

However, rally speaker Frank Ohrtman echoed the stance of Scott Ritter, a former Marine captain and the former chief United Nations weapons inspector in Iraq who has maintained that the extent of a credible Iraqi threat is minimal.

Ohrman, a former intelligence officer who served in the 1991 U.S. war against Iraq, told the crowd that the war machine is nothing more than a whipped-up attempt by the White House to distract the American public and win Republican votes in November.

It is crucial, said Guenther and others, for everyday citizens to speak out.

"If we are not politically involved," she said, "then we the people have no power and democracy is a failure."

-- Story and photos by Brian Klocke

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