Not the Usual Suspects

The crowd at Patriots Square Park resembled that at a Stones concert

That he was standing next to a cadre of Communist party members who'd come over from L.A. really pissed him off. "They should be shot," he spat. "They're giving this [war protest] a bad name."

The Arizona Republic bannered an Associated Press story in its Sunday edition quoting U.N. sources saying that the U.S. and Britain might water down a draft resolution authorizing force against Iraq because of worldwide anti-war demonstrations. The day before the AP story appeared, on the same day as the downtown rally here, an estimated 400,000 people protested in New York and 750,000 protested in London. Could these unnamed sources be manipulating the public by leaking such a story to the mainstream press? Coleburn pretty much predicted such a propaganda move.

When asked if he thought anti-war demonstrations across the planet might get the administration's ear, he said, "Sure, they will come out with some bullshit that they're considering what American citizens think before they stick it up our asses."

Anti-war demonstrators ain't like they used to be.
Emily Piraino
Anti-war demonstrators ain't like they used to be.

According to recent polls, half of Americans favor a war with U.N. Security Council approval. The Republic reported in the Sunday paper that a poll it had conducted showed that almost half of Arizonans think we should attack Saddam even without sanction by the U.N.

If that happens, Phoenix rocket engineer Allan Ostling, 61, thinks Bush should be charged with crimes against humanity. "If you can impeach Bill Clinton for a peccadillo," he said at the downtown demonstration, "you can impeach Bush for war crimes."

Retired Scottsdale science teacher Bob Mier, who admitted sheepishly that he's traditionally voted Republican, carried a sign that read: "Inspections Work, War Won't." He and his wife, Sandy, a Paradise Valley special-education teacher, were among many at the rally who suggested that waging war on Iraq would have the opposite effect to what the president has suggested. "If Bush does what he wants to do," he said, "it will create more terrorist attacks." Sandy added, "What kind of legacy will [starting a war] be for our kids?"

Ann Timmer, 78, who attended the rally with six fellow Sun City residents ranging in age from 67 to 86, doubted that many women, no matter what their political persuasion, support invading Iraq. "This is an issue decided by men that affects women and children profoundly," she said. "Not only could this result in more terrorism, but women are the ones left behind to pick up the pieces when there's a war."

Vietnam veteran Bill Lord, 58, a maintenance supervisor for a Catholic church in Lake Havasu, said he doesn't discuss his belief that a war with Iraq is unconscionable with his Navy Seabee son. He complained that Bush, an evangelical Christian, is pursuing war with a religious fervor. "Bush's using [God] to justify the actions he wants to take."

It was a sentiment expressed by several at the rally. Said retired real estate agent Burt Kiecker of Scottsdale, "The fact that Bush is a born-again Christian is why he's so hell-bent. The Israel connection has been verboten in the news. [Bush] believes that the holy land is threatened, and it must be protected."

In last week's New Times, Tony Ortega wrote about a Phoenix religious group that's challenging pro-life evangelical churches to take a stand against the war. Ortega noted that evangelicals tend to support invading Iraq because they believe that wars in the Middle East are harbingers that Jesus Christ will soon return to Earth. A popular notion among such fans of biblical prophecy is that Saddam is the antichrist, and that he will build a one-world government from Babylon, the ruins of which are only 50 miles from Baghdad. It may seem far-fetched to think that the president, a Yale-educated Methodist, believes waging war against Saddam is the first step toward helping God bring about the end of the world, but Bush has enjoyed the support of millions of American evangelicals who like to think he does.

By any stretch, Saddam is no Great Satan, said Pete Slover, 71, a retired Scottsdale dentist. "He doesn't have weapons of mass destruction. How could he? We've been [isolating] him for 10 years. Starving his country." Slover was another demonstrator who said, "Israel's the real problem. [Israelis] think they are the favored people, but God doesn't have a favored people. The U.S. has been letting Israel murder Arabs and take their property for decades. If I were an Arab, I'd hate the United States, too. The guys who flew those planes [into the World Trade Center towers] were heroes. It was our backing of Israel that caused that."

Continuing in a religious vein, the Korean War vet said, "The problem is that George W. Bush thinks he's Jesus Christ and [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon thinks he's God when they're really more like Hitler."

Too bad for Bush that he can't load the war dissenters into boxcars bound for the camps, or imprison them in designated areas as the Israelis have done to their Arabs. He's been left with trying to persuade the mainstream press that there's no real protest movement in the United States, that the demonstrators are only an amusing gaggle of '60s retreads and naive kids. It was working for a while. Then along came Collins and Mathers and Coleburn and Slover which should get Duh!bya's attention, if he wants to get reelected next year.

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