Tampa Bay groups protest Iraq War anniversary listen03/19/09 Seán Kinane
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On March 19th 2003, then-President George W. Bush ordered the “Shock and Awe” bombing that began the military attack known as Operation Iraqi Freedom. Today, six years later, two people held signs in South Tampa asking people to honk for bringing all U.S. troops home. Veterans for Peace member Jay Alexander cites the number of active duty U.S. military personnel that have died in combat as the reasons for today's mid-day demonstration.
“Well, there’s 4,259 reasons and six years on, of why we’re out there. That’s the killed in action. And 667 – it was  yesterday - in Afghanistan. … Also to bring the troops home. These wars are unnecessary right now and the Iraqis want us out.”
The numbers Alexander cited do not count the number of Iraq War veterans who have died after returning home, including by suicide. They also do not include any private contractors or mercenaries. Estimates of the number of Iraqis killed during the U.S. occupation range from the tens of thousands to over a million. More than four million have become internally and externally displaced refugees. Even the members of the U.S. military serving in Iraq, Alexander says, want the occupation to end
On the corner of Gandy Boulevard and South Dale Mabry, north of MacDill Air Force Base, Alexander and his fellow Veterans for Peace member Bud Holle placed four flags, signs, and posters calling for an end to U.S. wars.
MacDill Air Force Base is the home of CENTCOM, the United States Central Command. CENTCOM’s “Area of Responsibility” includes countries from Egypt to Pakistan, including Iraq and Afghanistan. As the seventh year of the U.S. occupation of Iraq begins, Alexander hopes the demonstration will influence some people who work at MacDill.
Most of the reactions to the two demonstrators were positive. The pair did receive at least one middle finger, from a middle aged man driving by in a sedan with an Air Force license plate and bumper sticker.
Bud Holle is also a member of Veterans for Peace.
The U.S. expects to reduce the number of combat troops in Iraq from 138,000 to 120,000 by the end of this year. President Barack Obama pledged earlier this month to remove all but 35,000 to 50,000 by August of next year. But Holle is not impressed with the slow rate of withdrawal of U.S. personnel from Iraq under Obama’s plan.
Even though only one other person showed up to his demonstration near MacDill on Thursday, Jay Alexander says he will continue to protest every other week, until the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Two other Tampa Bay-area demonstrations noting the anniversary of the Iraq invasion occurred on Thursday. One was in front of the Federal Courthouse in downtown Tampa. The other continues until 7:00 pm near the Largo Library on the southeast corner of East Bay and Missouri.