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US Protesters Mark Iraq War Anniversary

  • Michael Bowman

Demonstrations against the war in Iraq have been held across the United States on the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion. VOA's Michael Bowman reports from Washington, where several thousand protesters gathered near major landmarks and federal buildings.

In a rolling flourish of activity, protesters gathered near the White House, the Capitol, the Internal Revenue Service, and the American Petroleum Institute among other well-known landmarks to voice their anger over the continuing war in Iraq. Among them: New York resident Jim Anderson, who traveled to Washington to take part in the demonstrations.

"There are a lot of people out there who have no idea how much the war is costing us in terms of lives, in terms of damage to the Iraqi people and their culture, and in terms of direct cost to the American people in both appropriations and economic stress," he said.

Polls have shown a gradual erosion of popular support for the war effort in Iraq since Saddam Hussein's ouster. The low-point for approval of the war came a year ago, when opinion surveys showed roughly seven of 10 Americans opposed.

Although a majority of Americans continue to disapprove, pessimism over the war's chances of success appears to have moderated slightly since President Bush ordered a troop surge that is believed to have brought about a decrease in bloodshed in Iraq over the last nine months.

But improvements on the ground in Iraq do not impress Sheila Morris, an educator from Minnesota who stood with a group of demonstrators near the White House.

"I know three people who have died in Iraq: a friend of mine's son and two of my son's friends," said Morris. "I blame the [Bush] administration and I also blame the Congress for just laying low [not acting to end the war] and not paying attention."

Polls show a majority of Americans favor withdrawing from Iraq. But surveys also show that, among those who want to bring the war to an end, opinion is split on whether to withdraw immediately or do so gradually over a period of months or years.

Asked about warnings by analysts that a sudden U.S. troop pullout could trigger a bloodbath in Iraq - and asked whether the United States bears responsibility for the safety of the Iraqi people in the post-Saddam era - she says, "I do not know."

She does, however, believe that it is important to voice her opinion through demonstrations.

"I do not know if it [demonstrating] affects public opinion, but it keeps the awareness there," she said.

Similar protests were mounted in cities, towns and college communities across the country.

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