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Antiwar march protests defense contractors

Published: Monday, March 23, 2009

Updated: Monday, March 23, 2009 05:03

Symbolic of the lives lost throughout the past six years from the U.S. military occupation in Iraq, 160 coffins were delivered this weekend to the steps of four major defense contractors in Washington, D.C.

Late Friday night, 46 antiwar protestors from UT, Bowling Green State University and the surrounding community boarded a charter bus headed toward the nation's capitol to join the roughly 10,000 other protestors for the March on the Pentagon, sponsored by ANSWER — Act Now to Stop War and End Racism. Many of the local protestors were members of the International Socialist Organization, UT Anti-War or the Toledo Coalition for Justice. 

"We came together for a march to protest the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and show support for the Palestinian people in their struggle against Israel," said Alex Read, a member of the ISO and a UT alumnus who graduated in 2003.

Protestors in the March on the Pentagon started in the National Mall by the Lincoln Memorial and marched past the Pentagon to deliver the 160 coffins to the steps of the Lockheed Martin Corp., General Dynamics Corp., Boeing Co. and KBR, Inc buildings.

"It's a symbolic display," said Derek Ide, a junior majoring in education and history and a member of ISO. "Obviously those companies know what they're doing. To them, it doesn't matter; it doesn't matter how many people they kill, how many soldiers die, how many Iraqi civilians are killed; it doesn't matter the conditions of the people that are living there."

The coffins symbolize the millions of deaths these companies have caused through the arms trade, Read said.

Ted Reinhart, a senior majoring in communication and member of UT Anti-War and the TCJ, said the War on Terror is an illegitimate and illegal act of the U.S. government. In addition to the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, Reinhart said he would like to see reparations paid to the Iraqi people.

"A crucial part is reparations paid to the Iraqis, because we did, after all, pretty much ruin their country, their infrastructure and kill over one million civilians in the process of our illegal invasion," Reinhart said.

Read said he wants to see an immediate withdrawal from U.S. military forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and an immediate cease of U.S. funding to Israel. Furthermore, to end America's "imperialistic" foreign policy, Read said he would like to see a withdrawal of U.S. troops from every country it's stationed in throughout the world.

"The American foreign policy is such that it's there to burst open doors of other markets, install dictators or any kind of regime that's friendly to the U.S. and to exploit the resources and the people in those places," Read said.

According to Read, politicians such as Woodrow Wilson have publically stated the U.S. uses its military forces to open up markets abroad.

"It's not just conspiracy theory stuff, the people that are doing this have actually admitted that's what they're doing," Read said.

Although many Americans hope the election of President Barack Obama will bring U.S. military efforts to an end overseas, Read said Obama is not taking any action to de-escalate American military operations in the Middle East, but instead he is fighting the war in a different way.

"In my opinion, it's not a huge change if you're simply going to redirect troops from one country in the Middle East and send them somewhere else so that you can maintain your dominance in the region," Ide said.

According to Ide, America is just as guilty of terrorism as the suicide bombers who attacked the U.S. on 9/11, and the distinction is that U.S. military actions have different labels. Terrorism is born from people reacting to the oppressive conditions they live in, Ide said.

"Suicide bombers don't just exist because they're crazy, insane extremists; they exist because there are material conditions that have pushed them in that direction, and they feel that's the way out," he said.

Ide said he is not justifying the actions of terrorists, but he said he believes the way to end terrorism throughout the world is to stop participating in it.

"The United States has committed acts of terror all around the world, so it's quite ironic when they're going to fight a war on terror when they're so heavily indebted to it and its use," he said.

Ide said protests such as the March on the Pentagon help unify the antiwar movement and create community support for soldiers and veterans to stand up against the war and refuse to participate. Read said the March on the Pentagon was important because, historically, change in America has derived from people standing up and voicing their opinions.

"In order to change things such as American foreign policy et cetera, it takes a lot more than an election or writing to a congressman or something like that," he said. "It actually takes people going out in the streets and protesting and letting their voices be heard."

According to Reinhart, the "corporate-driven media" system blinds Americans to "the atrocities that have been committed in our name around the world."

While Americans may be uninformed about the War in Iraq and other military efforts, Read said it is not a result of "stupidity or willful ignorance" of Americans.

"The media is controlled by just a few corporations; corporations want this system in place," Read said. "The American people in a lot of cases don't know what's going on because the sources that they look to, to tell them what's going on, aren't doing that."

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