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Administration 'Mean Spirited, Vengeful,' Fonda Tells Anti-War Throng

  • Monisha Bansal Staff Writer
  • 2007 29 Jan
Administration 'Mean Spirited, Vengeful,' Fonda Tells Anti-War Throng
( - Derided by counter-demonstrators as "leeches on freedom," Members of Congress, civil rights leaders and Hollywood celebrities including actress Jane Fonda, joined anti-war protestors in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, demanding that lawmakers and presidential candidates stop supporting and funding the war in Iraq.

"We want to support the troops by bringing them home," said Medea Benjamin, founder of CodePink Women for Peace.

"We, the women of the United States have a very clear message for every single presidential candidate, including and especially [Sen.] Hillary Clinton -- pull out now. Get out of Iraq now," she said.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, head of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, echoed that sentiment.

"We need -- we demand -- leaders that we can follow, but they must be going somewhere to higher ground without fear," Jackson said.

"Today we march for the soul of our nation, to preserve our nation's honor," he added. "We march in protest against our government's policy, mass action to change the course of our nation."

"The Iraqis don't want us in Iraq, the American people don't want us in Iraq," said Jackson. "This demonstration should embolden us in our quest to reinvest in America and end the war."

Presidential hopeful Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) stumped for his plan to end the war.

"It's time for America to understand and for the president to understand that Congress is a co-equal branch of government, and that Congress has the responsibility now to bring an end to this war, to cut off the funds, [and] to bring our troops home," he said.

"Let us create a chance for peace. The world is waiting for a new America."

Another participant, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.), has introduced her own a href=" "plan to withdraw troops in six months, a bill she introduced on January 17 with fellow California Democrats Reps. Maxine Waters and Barbara Lee.

"Americans don't want to send our young men and women into the middle of a civil war, a war we shouldn't have been in in the first place," Woolsey said.

"We all know it's not about winning or losing, it's about doing the right thing," she added. "Everybody knows this except the president."

Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) was one of many at Saturday's rally pushing for the impeachment of President Bush.

"George Bush has a habit of firing military leaders who tell him the Iraq war is failing, but let me tell you something - he can't fire you, he can't fire us, but we can fire him," Conyers said.

"Today's march is a continuation of the vote on November 7. The founders of our country gave Congress the power of the purse because the envisioned a scenario exactly like the one in which we find ourselves today," he added. "Not only is it within our power to stop Bush, it is our obligation to stop Bush."

'She's betraying us again'

Among the more controversial figures at the anti-war demonstration was Fonda, reviled by many Americans for actions during the Vietnam War regarded as unpatriotic and even treasonous.

"I'll tell you one huge crucial difference [between the Iraq and Vietnam wars]," Fonda told Saturday's protest.

"It took six years for Vietnam veterans, active duty servicemen, Gold Star mothers and military families to come out against the war," she continued. "It is happened now within three years of the war. Their presence here is critical. We should acknowledge their courage."

"I haven't spoken at an anti-war rally in 34 years because I've been afraid that because of the lies that have been, and continue to be spread about me in that [Vietnam] war - that they would be used to hurt this new anti-war movement.

"But silence is no longer an option," said Fonda.

"I'm so sad that we didn't learn from the mistakes of the Vietnam War: blindness to the realities on the ground, hubris and arrogance in dealing with a people and culture far older than we are, and that we understand so little."

She thanked the protestors for their "courage to stand up to this mean spirited, vengeful administration."

Mike Benge, a prisoner of war in Vietnam for five years, took part in a counter-demonstration organized by the conservative Free Republic website.

"We need to come out and support our troops because when you have anti-war demonstrations it encourages the enemy," Benge said. "It just makes it worse for our troops."

"These people come out here and I doubt you'd find any of them who have served our country," Benge said. "They are leeches on freedom, and our troops are overseas fighting for their freedom and their freedom to demonstrate."

Benge described Fonda as "a traitor to our country in Vietnam" saying that as a result of her anti-war activism at the time "we remained behind bars longer."

"She aided and abetted the enemy. She encouraged troops to desert. She betrayed us in Vietnam, and here she is betraying us again," he said.

Javier Sanchez, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq, was also there to counter the anti-war message.

"I am a combat veteran and I work with the combat wounded right now," he said. "The attitude [of the anti-war protestors] is anti-troops."

"To this very day we still have an all volunteer force, nobody is forcing them into the job. Retention is at an all time high, recruitment and enlistment are at an all time high for the military," Sanchez said.

"For us it is very offensive when we take an oath and we take it freely and put our lives on the line that we have people who protest at hospitals," Sanchez said, referring to CodePink's a href=" "protests outside Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital.

"You want to protest, go to the White House, go to Congress, don't bring it over to my grounds," he said. "Not one of my soldiers, not one of my Marines gets any pleasure out of seeing them protest. They find it very offensive and demoralizing."

Sanchez said the counter-protesters wanted "to show that there is support for the troops. There's not just one voice out there. There are many Americans who support our troops."

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