Protesters near MacDill AFB bash military for spending to much money on Iraq War and lying
Ten years ago, the United States invaded Iraq under the pretense that the nation was harboring Al-Qaeda and weapons of mass destruction. Tuesday, fifteen peace activists including Veterans for Peace organizer Jay D. Alexander protested the invasion and occupation just a mile and a half from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
“We staged an immoral and illegal invasion of that country ten years ago.”
He wasn’t the only who felt deceived by the actions of the U.S. military. Walt Seely, a peace activist from Tampa asked people to sign a petition demanding an investigation of the 2003 Iraq invasion.
“I mean, you don’t have to be a genius to realize we were lied to as a country, the Congress was lied to, there were incredible amounts of lying going on about weapons of mass destruction and Al-Qaeda in Iraq. We invaded – we lost 4,500 of our troops, we’re in debt for almost three trillion dollars, we destabilized the country – even today as I speak they’re having problems now again – and there’s been no investigation to find out, how did we allow this to happen.”
The group stood on the corner of Dale Mabry Highway and Gandy Boulevard in front of a gas station. They waved American and Iraqi flags as cars passed. Activists wore stickers with the number of U.S. casualties – nearly 4500. But they’re protesting more than just the loss of American lives. Anita Stewart is organizing a Tampa chapter of Veterans for Peace. She is angry that President Obama failed to deliver on promises of withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.
“People have forgotten what endless war costs and right now we’re going on four trillion dollars. I mean, we could have fed every person on the planet and given everybody a home with that kind of money.”
It is estimated that the U.S. has spent $1.6 trillion dollars on the Iraq war, and according to a study by the Brown Institute that will eventually balloon to more than $6 trillion because of interest. And an AP study shows that wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf are costing the U.S. another $12 billion a year for things like healthcare and survivor benefits. Anti-war protests are often criticized as being unpatriotic and demeaning to soldiers who are heralded as protecting American citizens. But Stewart said the perceived threats don’t really exist.
“I think the threat is totally made up. I mean, I spent four years in military intelligence and the theatre I worked on was the Middle East and I never heard the term Al-Qaeda. It’s a made up term that means absolutely nothing and then the former Congresswoman and presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney says Al-Qaeda is nothing more than CIA’s rolodex.”
Other protesters worried about the cost of the Iraq war on civilians. Lynn Lague is with the group St. Pete for Peace and has been protesting the Iraq war since day one.
“What we’ve done to their culture and their people, they’re not better off now after we invaded their country and, we just really had no business going in there in the first place.”
Today ABC News reported that recent across-the-board budget cuts known as sequestration have caused college grants to children of soldiers killed in combat to be slashed by nearly 40%. Though the GI Bill which pays tuition for active military is safe from the March 1st mandatory spending cuts, John Alexander, a Coast Guard Veteran, said a lot of soldiers who join the military for that benefit will never use it.
“I used to be a recruiter back in the 80s and I know what you had to say to get people in and they’ll say anything. If they want you and you’re within the parameters of the needs of the service, they’ll say whatever it takes. I mean, I did – I’m guilty of it.”
The protesters later displayed a Palestinian flag over a sign that said “enough is enough.” Jay D. Alexander, the organizer speculated that Palestine might be the U.S.’s next target.
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