Tens of thousands took to the streets of Washington over the weekend to make the case against a U.S.-led war with Iraq. In statements made Tuesday, however, President Bush appeared more resolute than ever to remove Saddam Hussein from power by whatever means necessary, regardless of whether the United Nations or U.S. allies will back military action.
In what constituted the largest demonstrations against a possible Iraq war to date, protestors from around the U.S. traveled to the nation's capital to express their opposition and to vent their displeasure with the Bush administration's policies toward the Gulf nation.
"We stand here today, a new generation of anti-war activists," said Peta Lindsay of International Answer, one the event's primary organizers, to a crowd that endured sub-freezing temperatures. "This is just beginning. We will stop this war."
The protests, which began Saturday afternoon and lasted through the weekend, included speeches on the Mall, marches along the streets of the capital and sit-ins in the park directly across the street from the White House.
The U.S. Park Service Police, which oversees the Mall and other grounds in Washington, declined to estimate the overall crowd size. But the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police said that 30,000 protestors took part in the march, which terminated on the Mall. Organizers said a total of 500,000 people participated in all the protests throughout Washington.
Speakers at the rally on the Mall included actresses Jessica Lange and Tyne Daly, Representative John Conyers, Reverend Jesse Jackson, former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, Reverend Al Sharpton, author and Vietnam vet Ron Kovic (whom Tom Cruise portrayed in the 1989 film "Born on the Fourth of July"), and singer Patti Smith. The program also included musical performances from British pop group Chumbawamba as well as Smith.
Organizers said they were pleased by the turnout at the event. "Today's demonstrations shattered the myth of consensus for war," said Mara Verheyden-Hilliard of the Partnership for Civil Justice. "Throughout the whole world, demonstrations today showed the kind of people's power it's going to take to stop the war in its tracks."
The Washington rally was mirrored by other anti-war events staged around the U.S. In Portland, Oregon, police estimated that 20,000 protestors marched through the city's downtown area. Many more gathered in San Francisco's city hall plaza. Smaller protests were held elsewhere throughout the nation. The demonstrations were largely peaceful and resulted in relatively few arrests.
Protestors in the U.S. were joined by others around the globe similarly opposed to American policies. In Paris, 6,000 took to the streets. In Moscow, hundreds marched outside the U.S. embassy carrying signs bearing slogans such as "U.S.A. is international terrorist No. 1." A protest in Cairo drew 1,000 people. Another in Beirut attracted 4,000.
The protests appeared to do little to alter the Bush administration's position on Iraq.
Appearing mildly irritated and impatient during a meeting in the cabinet room at the White House on Tuesday, President Bush said of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, "He's not disarming. This business about more time, I mean how much time do we need to see clearly that he's not disarming?"
"Surely our friends have learned lessons from the past. Surely we have learned how this man deceives and delays," the president continued. "This looks like a re-run of a bad movie, and I'm not interested in watching it."
The president appeared to be referring to the statements in recent days from French officials indicating that they support granting the U.N. weapons-inspection team currently in Iraq several more months to complete its work. The French ambassador to the U.N. Security Council has hinted that his country would veto any resolution that comes before the body that authorizes the use of military force against Iraq. China and Russia have also indicated a desire to let the U.N. weapons inspectors continue their work rather than press for military strikes.
To buttress its hard-line stand against Iraq, the White House released a 34-page document entitled "Apparatus of Lies" detailing examples of ways in which it says the Saddam Hussein regime has deceived the international community. The report catalogs the administration's previous complaints against the Iraqi dictator, though presents no new "smoking gun" proving Iraq's involvement in the production of weapons of mass destruction.
Other recent developments in the standoff with Iraq include:
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has ordered the Navy to double its deployment of aircraft carrier battle groups in the Persian Gulf region and has authorized the Army to mobilize a 37,000-soldier unit based in Texas.ÊA total of 60,000 U.S. troops are now in countries neighboring or near Iraq. Another 120,000 troops are due to arrive in the next week. The British have also pledged to send 26,000 troops to the region.
A new poll indicates that the U.S. public is becoming increasingly uneasy about the prospect of unilateral military strikes against Iraq. Fifty-four percent of those surveyed by ABC and The Washington Post say they fear the Bush administration will move too quickly to take military action against Iraq
— Ethan Zindler