Keith White

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Over 200 individuals held vigil outside the White House, protesting President Bush’s plan for a troop escalation in Iraq. Organized by DC for Democracy, Moveon.org lent its support, inviting their members to participate in the evening rally. The DC event was one of over a thousand anti-escalation events taking place around the country, Moveon.org and Win Without War stated at a press conference earlier today. Speakers at the event included Mike Shore of DC for Democracy, Tom Andrews of Win Without War, and Read Yarrar of the Institute for Policy Studies, with Congressman Lynn Woolsey expected to appear later this evening.

America’s youth were represented within the vigil, but not as much as some hoped for. “I am kind of disappointed, seeing as we’re in the heart of our nation and this whole field isn’t filled,” said Shanna Devine, 20, a student at Occidental College. But Devine continued by focusing on what those present were accomplishing. “If we don’t voice ourselves other people won’t have a chance voice themselves, and then politics will continue rolling,” Devine contended. She bemoaned President Bush’s decision to increase U.S. troops in Iraq at a time “when they have soldiers in Iraq saying we are not helping and we need to leave, when the public is saying we need to leave, when they have reports put together for people who work for Bush Senior saying we need to pull out of Iraq. And still he’s [George W. Bush] saying we need to send more troops.”

For others, the Bush administration’s policies in Iraq had a direct impact on their families. “I personally have a cousin who is in Afghanistan, and I’m supporting him,” said. Monica La, 24. “This is a show of support for him, but it’s also a support for what I think is right. We have to stop this escalation; I want to bring him home.”

Connie Clayton, 18, spoke of her brother who just returned from multiple tours aboard. “I have a brother who’s already been in Iraq twice and Afghanistan once,” Clayton said. “For him to get deployed again is not really something any of us want to go through and I think everyone knows that this isn’t what Americans want right now.”

When it came to stopping the President’s Iraq strategy, there was both hope and pessimism within the crowd. “I understand the reality of not being able to realistically just stop the war,” La said. “But we can stop escalation?that’s a first step. I think that’s a realistic request for Congress.” “Saying your fed up is probably the first part of it,” Clayton contended. “You might as well try because that’s the only thing people can do.” Josh Tong, 22, added, “There are very few people that want to send troops, and I think it takes some people to stand up and speak out before other people have the confidence to stand up too.”

While falling far short of the projected 500 attendees, the vigil was a clear statement to anyone watching inside the White House. Whether this is just the beginning of a vibrant anti-escalation movement to consummate during the national march on January 27, or merely the reaction of a vocal few has yet to be seen. But with 60 percent of the American public against the troop surge after President Bush’s speech last evening, the ranks of the Iraq anti-war movement are growing.

Note: This report was compiled and published before the vigil’s conclusion.