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Bring Them Home Now Tour Links Iraq, Katrina


Minneapolis Star Tribune
September 4th, 2005
War protesters link Iraq, Katrina
Robert Franklin, Star Tribune

Under an "Impeach Bush" banner on a wall of the Minnesota State Capitol, anti-war speakers tried Saturday to link the Iraq war to a slow response to Hurricane Katrina.

It was part of the "Bring Them Home Now" national bus tour initiated by Cindy Sheehan, the mother who camped near President Bush's Texas ranch to demand that he talk with her about the death of her soldier son.

Sheehan was in the South on another bus Saturday, but about 350 people showed up in St. Paul to hear out-of-state speakers, along with local legislators, candidates and clergy members decry the war and question the president's moral values in waging it.

Several speakers suggested victims of Hurricane Katrina would have been better off had National Guard forces, and the money used to send the troops to Iraq, been here to help them.

"People are dying in Louisiana and New Orleans right now" because Bush, a "warmonger," is intent on "looting" oil in Iraq, said state Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minneapolis.

After the rally, representatives of several military families held a news conference nearby to say troops need to stay in Iraq to support the war against terrorism and a future for the Iraqi people.

Kelly Freudenberg, of Forest Lake, whose soldier son was buried Friday, later disagreed with a link between Iraq and slowness of hurricane relief.

"Maybe that's where the people who are here have to step up to the plate," said Freudenberg, whose son, Pfc. Elden D. Arcand, was killed last month in Iraq. "Do our troops have to do everything? ... Do we always have to depend on the government to provide everything?

"There are still young people today joining the Army, just like Elden, with their eyes wide open" because they believe in the cause, she said. "People still believe in the war," and it may take a generation or two to create an Iraqi government that won't be overthrown.

Litany of complaints

The anti-war rally was held amid a display of white crosses, empty black military boots and signs such as "Bush lied / thousands died."

Speakers cited a litany of complaints, including lack of training, equipment and medical care for troops and costs they said could reach $1.3 trillion.

The war is "immoral, illegal, irrational," said the Rev. Lowell Erdahl, bishop emeritus of the St. Paul Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Other speakers included Dave Foster, district director of the United Steelworkers of America, veteran anti-war activist Polly Mann, and two women who had been with Sheehan in Texas: state Sen. Becky Lourey, DFL-Kerrick, whose son was killed in Iraq, and Coleen Rowley, the former FBI agent who is running for the DFL nomination for Congress in the Second District.

Several speakers stressed support for the troops but not the war.

However, Kathy Dunaway, of Forest Lake, one of the counter-protesters, disagreed. "How can you support an individual who is laying their life on the line for their country and the Iraqi people, and not support the cause?" she said.

The counterprotesters are part of a national effort by Operation Iraqi Hope, based in Austin, Texas, that seeks to dispute the message of the Sheehan supporters.

Robert Franklin is at rfranklin@startribune.com.

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