200 Protest in Midtown over US Occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan
(APN) ATLANTA — Yesterday, Saturday, March 19, 2011, on the 8th anniversary of the criminal US “shock and awe” attack on Iraq, 160 Atlantans marched in Midtown to bring awareness that the US still has troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that these continued occupations will cost Georgia taxpayers five billion dollars in 2011.
“Bring the Troops and War Dollars Home!” “Money for Jobs and Education not War and Occupation!” the crowd shouted as they marched to the music of the Atlanta Sedition Orchestra from the Midtown MARTA Station to Piedmont Park.
“These wars have gone on far too long and we cannot continue because it’s driving the country deep into debt,” Betsey Miklethun with Atlanta Grandmothers with Peace said.
It was eight years ago the Bush administration launched an illegal invasion on Iraq based upon fraudulent representations that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (WMD) or were aligned with al Qaeda.
Scott Ritter, a former US Marine and UN weapons inspector in Iraq, said that Iraq did not have WMDs. Richard Clarke, a counter-terrorism expert who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, resigned over misleading statements, out and out lies, and false premises for invading Iraq.
Many people thought the election of President Obama would signal the beginning of the United States withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan. Now under Obama, the US has 50,000 US military in Iraq, and at least 50,000 US contractors. The Obama administration has increased U.S. military presence in Afghanistan by 50,000 for a total of 100,000 military, plus 70,000 U.S. contractors.
Add in NATO military and Afghan security, and you have 510,000 forces charged with Afghanistan’s national security, states an email from Col. Ann Wright who resigned as a U.S. diplomat in opposition to Bush’s invasion of Iraq.
The CIA says there are perhaps 50 al Qaeda and at most 15,000 Afghan Taliban in Afghanistan.
“The long-term costs [interest on war debt and veteran healthcare] of these wars and occupations are estimated to be between three to four trillion dollars,” said Tim Franzen with Georgia Peace & Justice Coalition (GPJC).
“I was in Viet Nam and I am against all wars,” Balewa Alimayu, Director for the Homeless and Re-entry Veterans Program, said. “War is no good for human beings, especially the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with all the deaths of troops and killing of people. War dehumanizes people. Americans should be up in arms about all the deaths and the lost of jobs and health insurance because all the money goes to war.”
The US is still in a recession, with high unemployment, skyrocketing foreclosures, about 50 thousand people dying each year because they can’t afford health insurance, and the main growth area is the homeless population.
Since 2001, the United States has spent a total of 1.6 trillion dollars on the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Georgia’s cost of this total was 33.5 billion dollars which should have been spent in our communities.
Georgia currently has a 1.7 billion dollar deficit and state legislators are taking a meat cleaver to cut social programs and services, especially for poor people, the elderly, children, and students.
At Piedmont Park, Dawn Gibson with GPJC led the group in a rousing chant. “If education is under attack, what do we do? Stand up and fight back!”
Students from different colleges and high schools carryed a black octopus that represented war with long tentacles reaching into different areas of our lives.
“We have seen how the war has depleted all our resources with the budget cuts and increasing tutuion,” Caitlin Barrow with Georgia State Progressive Student Alliance said.
The Georgia House’s proposed Department of Human Services (DHS) state budget cuts for fiscal year 2012 total 153 million dollars. Since FY 2009, state funding for K-12 education has been cut 1.2 billion.
US military spending represents a whopping 58 percent of discretionary budget expenditures. While health care and education only represent five and four percent, respectively, of the discretionary budget.
Last year was the deadliest year since the occupation of Afghanistan began in 2001, with 711 US and allied soldiers killed. Also, US unmanned drones have resulted in at least 581 Afghan and Pakistani civilian deaths.
Estimates of 6,000 US troops have been killed and tens of thousands have been crippled for life.
Just Foreign Policy estimates over 1.4 million civilians have been killed in Iraq and millions more have been forced to flee their homes. All for an invasion based on fraud.
Ayv Viola, a 12 year old student at Marrietta Middle School said, “I have friends who are Iraqi and I would feel bad if the U.S. killed them.”
The United States has occupied Afghanistan for almost 10 of her 12 years of life. It is the longest war in US history.
(END / 2011)