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Friday, March 21, 2008

03/21/08 - “This is incredible,” Ms. Tamm said. “To see all these people come out in the pouring rain to say no to war and to hear all this honking me

Despite the pouring rain, a large group turned out to mark the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War including, at front from left, Peter Berg, Susan Bernstein and Malcolm Decker.

— Ken Borsuk / Greenwich Post photos

Vigil participants mark war’s anniversary with call for peace

The five-year anniversary of the beginning of the United States-led invasion of Iraq was marked Wednesday evening by a vigil on Greenwich Avenue outside of the Post Office where close to 50 people turned out despite a pouring rain. Rain didn’t do anything to damper the resolve of those campaigning for peace, however, as people young and old held up signs urging the government to bring the troops home and asking passing drivers to honk for peace, which many enthusiastically did.

he loud and supportive response caused one participant to remark that when the peace vigils first began several years ago only drivers of hybrid vehicles would honk and now those in trucks and SUVs do too.

The peace vigil was organized by Samarpana Tamm, who said it was important to mark the anniversary of the war because it was no longer a topic in the front of everyone’s minds.

“People seem to have forgotten about the war and that’s a terrible thing,” Ms. Tamm said. “Veterans are coming home without limbs. They have post traumatic stress syndrome and no one’s paying attention to them. The soldiers are coming home asking why are we fighting and it’s so sad. We’re not taking care of our veterans and because of this war we’re not able to take care of our own country. We’ve spent $3 trillion and we don’t have enough money for health care and education in this country.”

Estimates have placed the cost for the war as high as $5 trillion. There have been close to 4,000 soldier deaths since the war began and an unknown number of Iraqi deaths. Ms. Tamm said she wishes the voices speaking out against the war had been heard and listened to in 2003 so it could have been prevented.

Ms. Tamm praised the efforts of American soldiers in Iraq, saying they were doing “a great job,” but she insisted war “is never the answer” and its continuation would only provoke more violence.

Ms. Tamm was just one of many who got soaked by the pouring rain on Wednesday. Many wondered how big the crowd would have been if the weather had been better and others thought the rain was appropriate for such a solemn anniversary.

“The rain is like tears from heaven for all the soldiers that have sacrificed their lives,” Patricia Eggert said. “And for what? It’s heartbreaking.”

Ms. Eggert, a British native, said she attended the vigil because she was ashamed both of how the American and British governments had behaved.

“We’ve had enough of lies and distrust and mistrust of our government,” Ms. Eggert said, later adding, “We’re all paying the costs of this war. Every single person is suffering from this and the impact it’s had on the economy.”

Regular vigils have been held weekly throughout Connecticut, including one on Saturday mornings in Stamford from 11:30 to 12:30 outside of the Ferguson Library. Greenwich resident Frank Scanlan, a former Marine, has been one of the regular attendees of the vigils and has seen how public opinion has shifted in five years to being strongly against the war and for withdrawing the troops.

“It’s so discouraging that we have to still be out here,” Mr. Scanlan said. “The attitude has changed considerably though. We get a lot more people honking their horns in support now. A few years ago we would get nothing and if anything they’d give us the bird. Now we have people honking their horns and giving us the V sign. It’s not getting through to Washington though and that’s the problem.”

Bob Flenner said the from the very beginning the war has been “an absolute blunder of historic proportions” that has created more terrorists and less safety in the world while damaging America’s standing in the world for at least a generation.

“We’ve lost too many people,” Mr. Flenner said. “There are hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who are dead and millions of people who have been rendered homeless.”

The people being honked at in support at the Post Office were branded anti-American at best five years ago, but John Howard said he didn’t want to dwell on the past. He said the important thing now is to look ahead and “stop the bleeding” by bringing the troops home and using the money spent on the war to restore the economy.

“We made a big mistake as a country and now we have to fix it,” Mr. Howard said. “That’s why I’m standing in the rain.”

The vigil attracted people of all ages to call for an end of the war, from veterans to teenagers, including 16-year-old Liana Mehring and her 14-year-old sister Devon, who came with their father, Edmund. Both said they wanted to see more teens step forward to oppose the war’s continuation....

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