PPRC and Peace Community Monday Rally and March Marks Growing Numbers of Deaths, Injuries in Iraq; Condemns Administration's Architects of Quagmire

Event: PPRC and Peace Community Rally and March for Peace
Date: Monday, March 31st, 2003
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Place: Pioneer Courthouse Square

The Portland Peaceful Response Coalition will hold a second Monday 5:00 p.m. peace rally and march at Pioneer Courthouse Square, repeating the solemn memorial to the victims of war that they have held for their anti-war gatherings last Friday and on the previous Monday. The rally is fully permitted and will include a march to the peace camp at Terry Schrunk Plaza. Among additional endorsers for the Monday rally are Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Peace and Justice Works, Portland Buddhist Peace Fellowship, Love Makes a Family, Living Earth, East Timor Action Network-Portland and the American Friends Service Committee of Portland.

"As civilian casualties grow, and as more US and British soldiers are injured or killed, we are learning the horror and tragedy of war, and the complete moral bankruptcy of the Bush Administration," said Mikel Clayhold, a volunteer with the PPRC. "This weekend we discovered how Donald Rumsfeld' s arrogance has placed tens of thousands of US and British soldiers in increasing mortal danger, and may make this war even more catastrophic than anyone could have imagined." Clayhold was referring to investigative journalist Seymour Hersh's latest expose, due to appear in April 7 edition of the New Yorker Magazine.1

According to Hersh's sources, Rumsfeld insisted that the numbers of ground troops proposed by military planners be reduced sharply, and that he succeeded in enforcing his view. An unidentified senior Pentagon planner stated that Rumsfeld "thought he knew better. He was the decision-maker at every turn." With the American military campaign apparently stalled, the planner observed that "This is the mess Rummy put himself in because he didn 't want a heavy footprint on the ground."
"We in the peace movement would also add that the additional cost and impact of a larger American ground campaign might have tipped the debate in this country more decisively against war," said Will Seaman, another PPRC volunteer. "If Americans had been given an accurate idea about what Pentagon advisors thought was needed, and what US forces were facing in Iraq, they might have more strongly opposed this criminal war."

Clayhold added that the best way to support US and British troops was to declare an immediate cease fire, and begin to bring them home. "As bad as the casualties have been so far, it is nothing compared to what we will see when they move into the cities," said Clayhold. "The deaths and injuries of civilians and soldiers alike will mount at an increasing rate unless we put an end to this madness immediately."
Hersh reports that Rumsfeld also decided against the advice of commander Tommy Franks who advocated delaying the attack until alternatives could be found to bring in troops that were not allowed to enter Iraq through Turkey. Rumsfeld also was wrong about the level of resistance from the Iraqis, according to Hersh. Perhaps most disturbing was Hersh's report that a former intelligence official judged that the war was now a stalemate.

Hersh reports that most of the cruise missiles have already been used, that precision guided bombs were also in short supply, and that US forces were facing significant maintenance problems with vehicles and other equipment. The former Pentagon official is quoted as saying "The only hope is that they can hold out until reinforcements arrive." He said that Rumsfeld wanted to "do the war on the cheap" and that the Secretary of Defense thought that precision bombing would lead to a quick victory. With 125,000 US and British troops already on the ground, current US plans call for another 100,000 US soldiers to be deployed in Iraq by the end of April.

"Doesn't any of this sound familiar to Americans who were around in the 1960s?" asked Clayhold. "In Vietnam it was always additional troops, another 50,000 or another 80,000, that would make the difference, victory was just around the corner, a light at the end of the tunnel. But there was no light, only the darkness and despair of an unending, devastating, immoral war." Clayhold cited the increasingly intense bombing of Baghdad and the expanded target list which has now come to include the telephone exchange and Iraqi television broadcasting facilities, saying that any concern to avoid civilian casualties will soon lose out as US commanders become more desperate to show progress.

"Civilian deaths and injuries are already coming in increasing numbers as the predictable 'errant bombs' take their toll," said Clayhold. "And of course our soldiers are also killing innocents in fire fights that involve Iraqi soldiers and irregulars fighting in close proximity to the civilian population." Clayhold cited a New York Times article which quoted on US soldier describing an incident in which US soldiers opened fire on an Iraqi soldier standing near some civilians. The soldier "recalled watching one of the women standing near the Iraqi soldier go down," saying "I'm sorry ... But the chick was in the way."2

Contrary to earlier announcements, the PPRC will not be organizing regular Monday 5:00 p.m. rallies at the Square. "We'll be deciding week-to-week whether it makes sense to do any events in addition to our regular Friday rallies," said Seaman.

1. "Rumsfeld Ignored Pentagon Advice on Iraq", Reuters, New York Times, March 29, 2003

2.. "Either Take a Shot or Take a Chance", Dexter Filkins, New York Times, March 29, 2003

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