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Hundreds gather to protest war


Vigils called after 2,000th soldier died in Iraq
By Dick Stanley
AMERICAN-STATESMAN (Texas)
Thursday, October 27, 2005

About 250 Austinites marked the deaths of 2,000 soldiers in Iraq with silent protest at two vigils Wednesday night.

They gathered separately at the Capitol and the Pfluger pedestrian bridge to register their opposition to the war, bearing signs calling for the United States to bring its troops home.

"How many more?" and "Support the troops, bring them home," read some of the signs at the Capitol.

At the bridge, candles were held in front of banners and signs with the names of some of the 2,000 American troops who have died in Iraq.

The anti-war movement, alerted by Web sites such as MoveOn.org, planned the vigils around the country when the number of dead American troops in Iraq hit 2,000, which it did Tuesday.

Austin organizers such as Delwin Goss, 54, drew people to the Capitol. His e-mail said the event was "to remember the lives of the 2,000 American soldiers and countless Iraqi men, women and children who have died in this war over weapons of mass destruction and the link between Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, of which neither has ever been proven to have existed."

Travis County Republican Party chairman Alan Sager, who was not at either vigil, said it would be more appropriate to notice the new Iraq constitution, ratified this month by 80 percent of Iraqi voters, and plans for the first free Iraqi parliamentary election in December.

"Three years ago, if you would have said Iraq was going to have two democratic elections and be setting up for a third one, people would have said you were from another planet," said Sager, who also is a lecturer in government at the University of Texas.

The 2,000 number was arbitrary, said Army Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, director of the coalition force's combined press center in Baghdad, Iraq.

"It is an artificial mark on the wall set by individuals or groups with specific agendas and ulterior motives," he told The Associated Press.

The agendas of the three groups that organized the bridge vigil, however, are stated on their Web sites.

The Austin chapter of Veterans for Peace opposes all U.S. wars. So does the Austin Center for Peace and Justice. The third organizer, the American Friends Service Committee, wants Congress to cut off funding for the war in Iraq as it did 30 years ago for the Vietnam war.

Sager said it was ironic to protest a war that is being fought to create a safer planet.

"It's making a more democratic world," he said. "Which will be a more peaceful world."

But Carol Walker, 70, a retired Methodist missionary who attended the Capitol vigil, said 2,000 Americans dead was plenty.

"It's ghastly enough," she said.

dstanley@statesman.com; 445-3629

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