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Peace Activists to March on Washington Saturday


Peace activists have announced they will hold an anti-war rally on the National Mall in Washington Saturday, the first since Democrats assumed control of Congress. Organizers say they have given up on swaying President Bush and plan now to take their demands to the halls of Congress. VOA's Marissa Melton reports.

The anti-war group United for Peace and Justice is organizing Saturday's march on the National Mall. Veteran activist Jane Fonda and Hollywood actors Susan Sarandon and Danny Glover are slated to speak, as well as an active-duty member of the U.S. Navy and a retired Army colonel and U.S. diplomat. Organizers say they expect thousands of demonstrators from all over the nation.

This is the first peace march in Washington since Mr. Bush made the call earlier this month for an additional 21,000 troops to be sent to Iraq, in a new push to end sectarian violence there. Tuesday in his State of the Union address, he defended his plan, saying the new troops are necessary to win the war.

"This is not the fight we entered in Iraq, but it is the fight we're in," said President Bush. "Every one of us wishes this war were over and won. Yet it would not be like us to leave our promises unkept, our friends abandoned, and our own security at risk."

California Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, who is scheduled to appear at Saturday's rally, said the president's new plan shows he is not listening to the American people even though they made their opinions clear in November's congressional elections.

"On November 7th, the American people spoke and they said we trust Democrats to run this country because they will get us out of Iraq," said Lynn Woolsey. "That was the mandate and it must be heard. First and foremost, we know the president won't hear it ... but the senators and representatives must."

Organizers of the peace rally are calling on demonstrators to remain in Washington through the weekend and visit the offices of their members of Congress on Monday, to demand legislation that would end the war. The Senate Armed Forces committee is discussing a nonbinding resolution criticizing the president's plan to send more troops to Iraq, but Tom Andrews, national director of the Win Without War organization, said stronger action is needed.

"This is all about Congress now," said Tom Andrews. "We have a system of checks and balances in this country, and this system provides for relief when the president so defies the will of his people. We are not going to be satisfied until there is binding action by this Congress to turn this situation, this disaster, around and bring our troops home."

Congressman Woolsey says she has introduced just such legislation: a binding resolution that would bring troops home, provide a framework to bring stability to Iraq, and fully fund the veterans' health care system. She says the bill has 27 co-sponsors; all are Democrats.

However, the Democratic leaders of Congress, Senate Majority leader Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have proposed a third option: the phased redeployment of U.S. forces out of Iraq over the next four to six months.

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