Iraq anniversary sparks protest

Dozens gather in Baltimore, calling for an end to the war and the return of U.S. troops


They stood in solidarity, forming a line along North Avenue behind a row of boots and assorted footwear that symbolized the loss of life, among Maryland troops and Iraqi civilians, during the war in Iraq.

They stood, as did others throughout the country and the world, in protest as the third anniversary of the U.S. invasion passed yesterday.

The dozens of protesters who waved signs of peace and protest in front of the city's Board of Education building all said they want the war to end and for the troops to come home. But their thoughts on how best to do that varied - even between husband and wife.

"The result of getting out now is disastrous," said Walter Shook of Baltimore, "but it's no worse staying there, either."

His wife, Megan Shook, said an immediate U.S. pullout "will lessen the anger and frustration of the people in Iraq."

Others, such as Wendy Rambo Shuford of Baltimore, said they are drawn by the position of Rep. John P. Murtha, a Pennsylvania Democrat who voted in support of the Iraq invasion. Murtha has recently called for a pullback of U.S. forces to neighboring countries as a way of reducing regional tensions while keeping forces close enough to assist the fledging Iraqi military.

One point several made is that despite their opposition to the war, they are firmly in support of the U.S. troops.

"We must let them know that we care about them," Shuford, a nurse in the National Guard for 21 years, said while holding up a sign that read: "Support Our Troops - Bring Them Home - Now."

Organizers of the event, sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and the Baltimore Area Coalition for Truth in Recruiting, placed 34 pairs of black combat boots on the sidewalk, each pair representing a Marylander who has died in Iraq. Fifty more pairs of footwear, from slippers to sandals, were put alongside. They represented the tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens who have been killed.

In a speech in December, President Bush put the death toll among Iraqi citizens at about 30,000.

The third anniversary of the Iraq war drew tens of thousands of protesters around the globe, from hurricane-ravaged Louisiana to Australia, with chants of "Stop the War" and calls for the withdrawal of troops.

Katrina Weber, who represents the AFSC, a Quaker social justice and peace organization, said the boots display in Baltimore tells the story of loss on a personal, more visceral, level. She said government efforts to minimize the human cost of the war have misled the country.

"You don't see the coffins. You don't hear a lot about the wounded," Weber said. "It's unseen."

Fred Ceo, who lost a son in October in Iraq, called yesterday's event "a proud and a sad occasion."

He said he hoped "the Iraqi people get what they want," yet he no longer saw a purpose for the U.S. military to remain in Iraq, even after his son Cpl. Bernard L. Ceo, an Army National Guardsman, was killed in a Humvee crash.

Bush has said the U.S. effort in Iraq must succeed to show that the fallen troops have not died in vain.

Ceo said: "We don't [want] people to die in vain, so we are going to send more people off to die? It just doesn't make any sense."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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