by Chris Freiberg
FAIRBANKS - Today marks the sixth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
Members of the Alaska Peace Center and the Fairbanks Coalition for Peace erect a banner reading "end the occupation" Wednesday, March 18, 2009, in Veterans Memorial Park to protest the war. Thursday marks the sixth year of the war in Iraq. ( Photo by Sam Harrel)And as they have done periodically since even before the war began, the Alaska Peace Center and the Fairbanks Coalition for Peace and Justice met in Veterans Memorial Park to protest the war.
About a dozen people braved single digit temperatures to erect a banner that read simply, "END THE OCCUPATION."
"One of the things we've said since the very beginning is that this was an illegal attack," one of the protesters, David Koester, said. "It was a hostile action, and it was fiscally irresponsible as we now see."
As in many cities across the country, the peace movement in Fairbanks began about 2002 when the Bush administration began pushing for a regime change in Iraq. The peace movement in Fairbanks brought together several hundred people at various rallies throughout the years, though only a handful showed up at the park Wednesday evening.
Nearly everyone in attendance remembered those early protests and how many people who drove past would display a more-than-unfriendly one-fingered gesture. Traffic was light after the group put up its banner and waved peace flags, and those who drove by did not seem to pay them much attention.
"I understand why we need to keep troops there to stave off disaster, but ultimately, the Iraqi people will need to solve their own problems," said Don Ross, one of several Vietnam veterans who attended Wednesday's rally.
Ross enlisted in the Air Force voluntarily during the Vietnam War but said he grew disenchanted with war after witnessing it first hand.
"From a moral and spiritual standpoint, I understood after Vietnam that violence is self-perpetuating and nothing good can come from it," he said.
There has been some good news for peace activists recently. On Wednesday, the Department of Defense announced an end to its stop loss policy that required enlisted troops to serve longer than they had signed on for.
Those at the rally said they were hopeful President Barack Obama would do more to end the war than his predecessor, President George W. Bush. Obama has suggested that all combat brigades will be out of Iraq by August 2010.
"There's a lot of inertia for Obama to keep this going according to plan," Koester said. "It's really important for people concerned about Iraq to let the administration know how they feel."
© 2009 Fairbanks Daily News-Miner