To mark the first anniversary of the beginning of the war in
Iraq, Ann Arbor residents joined others around the world to honor
the victims of the war and to protest the United States’
continuing involvement in Iraq.

Mira Levitan
Niraj Patel, 9, counts the white crosses and Stars of David at the rally on the Diag on Saturday. The crosses and stars each represent the death of one American soldier out of the 578 killed in Iraq since the beginning of the war. (FOREST CASEY/Daily)
Mira Levitan
Chris Buhalis plays his anti-war song “Washington” as supporters shield him from the rain on the Diag during the “World STILL Says No To War” rally Saturday. (FOREST CASEY/Daily)

More than 2,500 people marched through Ann Arbor Saturday,
packing the Diag for music, speeches and a candlelit vigil.

The rally, titled “The World STILL Says No to War,”
and sponsored by the Ann Arbor Area Committee for Peace, Anti-War
Action! and Veterans for Peace, was part of a greater protest
throughout the world. In London, two anti-war activists climbed the
landmark Big Ben clock tower with a sign reading “Time for
Truth.” In New York City, a crowd of more than 30,000
congregated in Manhattan.

Protesters in Ann Arbor brandished signs with slogans including
“Why Is There Always Money For War But Not For Health
Care?” and “It Sucks When Sauron (Bush) Rules Over
America.”

Ann Arbor resident Scott Alf said he participated in the rally
to raise community awareness of the situation in Iraq. “We
need to reach outward,” he said. “As we march around,
this is to get the word out and create public discourse.”

Alf added that America faces a critical struggle in the future.
“We need to organize and we need to bring the battle
home,” he said. “The real battlefield is here at
home.”

LSA sophomore Pamela Baker, who attended the rally, said
anti-war protest is still relevant even though a year has elapsed
since the U.S. invasion began. “A lot of people think it
doesn’t matter anymore because we already went to war,”
she said. “But it’s important in an election year
because a lot of people are concerned about the direction the U.S.
is going, especially in foreign policy.”

According to Baker, Americans should question the Bush
Administration’s strategies. “Even though it took place
a year ago, students and citizens in general don’t need to be
complacent with our horrible foreign policy,” she said.

Ghanim Al-Jumaily, chief executive officer of Life for Relief
and Development, said the war caused great harm to his native
country of Iraq. “If there is any motivation for people to
stop wars, they should go look at the human cost of war,” he
said.

He described the war-torn city of Baghdad, where he said
children are kicked out of orphanages and forced to roam the
streets, where they become the prey of drug dealers.

Bob Krzewinski, coordinator of the Washtenaw County chapter of
Veterans for Peace, said he was dismayed by President Bush’s
foreign policy in Iraq.

“With the situation in Iraq our commander in chief, urged
on by advisors who never served a day in the military, seemed
almost giddy in his enthusiasm to start a war,” Krzewinski
said. “Indeed, Mr. Bush even encouraged attacks on our troops
by his infamous ‘bring them on’ statement.”

Krzewinski called for Americans to become a force of positive
change by writing letters to Congress and the president.
“Tell our leaders that soldiers are not playthings like
figures in a video game,” he said. “War is real; it
hurts and should be avoided at all costs.”

Veterans for Peace constructed a symbolic cemetery on the grass
of the Diag, with a cross, Star of David or other symbol for every
American soldier killed in Iraq. At sundown they held a candlelight
ceremony and read the names of American soldiers killed in
Iraq.

Yesterday’s rocket attack in Baghdad brought the number of
American soldiers killed in Iraq up to 578.

SNRE junior Elizabeth Graham, who attended the rally, said she
was opposed to the war in Iraq. “I’m kind of disgusted
that we’ve been there for a year and haven’t really
accomplished anything,” she said.

Graham said the allegation that war protesters are unpatriotic
is false. She said the majority of Americans were against the war
in Iraq.

“It’s pretty ridiculous that right after we invaded,
everyone said, ‘Even if you don’t agree with the war,
you should support the president.’ This is a democracy. If he
is not going to support the feeling of the people, I’m not
going to support him.”

U.S. Rep. John Dingell (D-Michigan) issued a statement to Ann
Arbor residents in which he criticized the Bush
administration’s policy in Iraq.

“I do not believe the administration made an adequate case
for war, which is why I voted against authorizing the use of
military force in Iraq,” he said in the statement. “In
my letter to President Bush, I requested that the Administration,
among other things, make a clear and convincing case that Iraq has
weapons of mass destruction — biological, chemical or nuclear
— and the means to deliver such agents. I asked that the
Administration explain why it believes Iraq will employ these kinds
of weapons in imminent attacks on other nations.” Dingell
said that he never received a response to his letter.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), who spoke in the Michigan
Union’s University Club yesterday, said oil was a deciding
factor in the Iraq war.

Steve MacGuidwin, president of College Republicans, said the
Iraqis have approved a constitution and are on their way to
becoming a democracy. “The worst thing we could do right now
is to take our military out of an unstable region,”
MacGuidwin said.

Meanwhile, Al-Jumaily said the people of Iraq are hopeful about
the fate of their nation. “On the positive side, the Iraqi
people are resilient,” he said.

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