Anti-War Activists Losing Patience with Obama

Published on
by
The Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas)

Anti-War Activists Losing Patience with Obama

by
Anna M. Tinsley

Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan leads a demonstration against President George W. Bush’s Iraq policy in 2005. Now she plans to set up an anti-war camp near the Washington Monument to get President Barack Obama’s attention. AP ARCHIVES

Abby Tomlinson voted for President Barack Obama, hoping that he would help end the war in Iraq quickly.

But
the Lubbock woman said she's disappointed in what the "peace" candidate
has accomplished along those lines, nearly a year after taking office.

Two
wars continue. The Iraqi war may soon wind down but the Afghanistan war
is escalating, with Obama's recent decision to send in 30,000 more
troops.

"One of the major platforms of the Obama campaign was the
move to end the war in Iraq. Many voters chose him because of that fact
alone," said Tomlinson, who works in communications and marketing at
Texas Tech University's College of Outreach and Distance Education. "He
ran, whether he meant to or not, on a platform of peace.

"I guess
we probably did put too much hope in him. I know that I did. I feel
disappointed and a bit betrayed by Obama's choice to send more troops
anywhere overseas. I feel like he has turned his back to those that
voted him into office."

Now anti-war protesters - who have been
somewhat subdued since Obama took office - are ramping up protests,
bluntly reminding Obama that they expect him to fulfill his campaign
promises.

They are sending letters, holding marches, even planning to set up an anti-war camp on the lawn of the Washington Monument.

"Our
goal is to remind people that we still have two wars going on," said
Joshua Mayer of Denton, a member of the Campus Anti-War Network at the
University of North Texas. "Perhaps the anti-war movement maybe thought
they could rest with Obama getting elected. A lot of people thought a
Democrat would be the answer.

"But it's more important than ever to keep the movement going."

Troop status

Obama
signed off on a controversial decision to send about 30,000 more troops
to Afghanistan, raising the total to about 100,000.

Government
officials say those troops, who will increase efforts against al Qaeda
militants and the Taliban, should be in place by next summer.

Obama
said the troops "will increase our ability to train competent Afghan
security forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get
into the fight. And they will help create the conditions for the United
States to transfer responsibility to the Afghans." Defense Secretary
Robert Gates is among those defending Obama's strategy.

"What
the president has announced is the beginning of a process, not the end
of a process," Gates said. "And it is clear that this will be a gradual
process and, as he said . . . based on conditions on the ground."

In a recent New York Times/CBS
News poll, 51 percent of respondents support Obama's troop surge and 55
percent say it's not a good idea to set a date to remove troops. Almost
60 percent say they don't want these troops to stay there for more than
two years, and just over 30 percent say troops should come home within
a year.

"Up through his public statements [this month], people
wanted to believe, they wanted to be hopeful, that he would not
escalate the war in Afghanistan," said state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort
Worth, and director of the Dallas Peace Center. "Peace activists are
going to become increasingly critical of Obama now."

'Dismayed, disheartened'

Mayer didn't vote for Obama, but he said he did have hope that Obama would bring about change.

"He didn't start those wars," he said. "But he is responsible for ending them."

Some
anti-war advocates say they never let up - not when President George W.
Bush was in the White House and not now that Obama is there. They have
been lobbying, e-mailing and visiting legislators, said Desiree
Fairooz, 53, who left her family and home in Arlington in 2007 to
dedicate herself to the cause in Washington, D.C.

Fairooz, a
member of the anti-war group Code Pink, which formed ahead of the war
in Iraq, said she voted for Obama and is disappointed in what he has
done.

"We're dismayed, disheartened and disappointed," Fairooz
said. "We don't feel he is doing too much different than Bush. He
didn't start these wars, but he's continuing them."

Texas-size protests

Cindy Sheehan has long been a larger-than-life anti-war protester, first with Bush and now with Obama.

The
California mother drew national attention in recent years with protests
near Bush's Crawford ranch as she demanded to speak to him about her
son's death in Baghdad. She continued, marching with protesters this
year outside Bush's Dallas home, calling on the former president and
his administration to be investigated and prosecuted for war crimes and
crimes against humanity.

Now she's planning to set up the anti-war camp near the Washington Monument to get Obama's attention.

"My protests have always been against the policies," Sheehan told the Star-Telegram in
an e-mail. "At first I believed that the Republicans were the war
party, but it became increasingly clear to me that it doesn't matter
what party a president is - the policies of war continue on."

Sheehan
said she thinks the war situation would be worse if Sen. John McCain
were president. But now is the time for Obama to take clear action, she
said.

"He should devise a plan for troop withdrawal that is as
speedy as safely possible and combine economic growth and democracy
building in our occupied countries with a speedy withdrawal," Sheehan
said. "No occupations will save billions of dollars a month and maybe
our economy could start to improve, too."

Looking ahead

As
the Afghanistan war stretches out longer than World War I or World War
II, anti-war activists say it's time to bring the troops home.

"If U.S. planners weren't able to get it right in eight years, what
makes them think they will get it right in the next 18 months?" asked
Hadi Jawad, a member of the Dallas Peace Center.

Mayer said he and others just want to call attention to the wars and ask people for their support to end them.

"There's
a stigma that if you don't support the wars, you're somehow unpatriotic
and un-American," he said. "I think the opposite is true.

"My
greatest fear in Afghanistan . . . because it's impossible to avoid
casualties . . . is that for every civilian we kill, I'm afraid it's
going to breed another generation of people who hate our country."

Share This Article

More in: