Thursday, March 18, 2004




By Marlon Vaughn


What: Michigan Citizens for Peace is sponsoring an anti-war demonstration and peace march on the eve of the one-year anniversary of the war in Iraq. The demonstration begins at 6 p.m. Friday at McFarlan Park downtown at the King Avenue-N. Saginaw Street split. A march and an all-night candlelight vigil will follow. A memorial service is planned for 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Woodside Church, 1509 E. Court St.


Flint -- Protesting the Iraq conflict was a lonely endeavor last year for anti-war activists, with public sentiment overwhelming in favor of the U.S.-led invasion.

But a year, thousands of military and civilian deaths, and shifting public opinion later, members of Michigan Citizens for Peace aren't feeling so lonely.

"It's a year later, and there's still not at all any more peace," said Visakha Kawasaki, a member of the Flint-based organization. "I think a lot of people realize that now."

A Jan. 29-Feb. 1 CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll taken last month showed the public split 49 percent-49 percent on whether the Iraq war was worth it. That's a nearly 20 percentage point swing from a poll taken March 24-25, 2003, when 68 percent said the war was worth it and 28 percent said it wasn't.

"Quite a few people have signed up for our e-mail list," Kawasaki said. "I'm finding there are lots of people who feel the same way. When I'm in Borders and other places and I hear people talking about the war, they're always speaking against the war."

Kenneth Bruning of Davison isn't one of them. He remains staunch in his support of the war and thinks it will ultimately be successful.

"It needed to be done. Saddam Hussein was one of the great threats to the world," Bruning said. "You can't say you support freedom and argue against getting someone like Saddam out of power. You can't tell me he wasn't aiding a lot of the terrorism in the world."

The one-year anniversary of the start of the war is Saturday, and anti-war organizations all over the world are planning marches, speeches and vigils, according to the Web site for United for Peace and Justice, a national organization.

Michigan Citizens for Peace plans to get started Friday with a 6 p.m. demonstration at the War Memorial in McFarlan Park in downtown Flint followed by a candlelight march to Woodside Church. A service at the church at 4:30 p.m. Saturday will follow an all-night vigil.

"There will be singing, there will be speeches, and we'll read the names of the American dead and the Iraqi dead that we know of," said Ken Kawasaki, Visakha's husband. "We'll also have two tombstones."

More than 560 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the start of the war. Iraqi civilian death estimates range from more than 8,500 to more than 10,000, according to an organization called Iraq Body Count, a group of professors and researchers from several countries that runs a Web site called

"Those estimates are conservative," said Joe Stornello, another Michigan Citizens for Peace member.

But others assert that the continuing loss of U.S. soldiers in Iraq is cause to rally and support them, not protest.

"I can't turn my back on them -- I've got to keep going," said Cheryl Molloseau of Genesee Township, who has sent more than 650 care packages to troops since the war started.

"The letters and e-mails of thanks I get let me know I can't stop," said Molloseau, whose brother, 1st Sgt. James Lemon of the 101st Airborne Division, recently returned from Iraq.

"I don't want them to get down."

Anti-war activists say their protests are not aimed at the troops, but at the Bush administration for sending them off to fight in a dubious war. They point to coalition's failure to find weapons of mass destruction -- the administration's stated reason for war -- and the continuing violence and instability in Iraq as indicators of the war's failure.

They also worry about potential by-products of the war, such as last week's deadly bombings in Madrid. Al-Qaida, the organization suspected in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States, became a major suspect in Madrid after a note was found asserting the acts were payback for the Spanish government's support of the U.S.-led Iraq war. Analysts said the bombings led to the ouster of Spain's ruling conservative party Sunday by citizens who were overwhelmingly opposed to the war.

"What this country does affects the whole world," Visakha Kawasaki said. "So we march and we demonstrate, and we keep on going."