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Vigil to mark milestone in war

Courier-Post Staff


Peace activists plan to gather today near City Hall to mark another grim milestone in the war in Iraq.

The U.S. military reported Thursday that the death toll among American troops serving there has reached 2,500.

"Can we even imagine the number of Iraqis killed?" asked Bob Smith, leader of the Brandywine Peace Community, which is staging what it calls a solemn vigil at noon on the west side of City Hall.

The anti-war group is based in Swarthmore, Pa., but is active throughout the Delaware Valley, including South Jersey. It has demonstrated outside Lockheed Martin in Moorestown.

George Willoughby, a Quaker and longtime peace activist from Deptford, said he could not attend today's vigil, but stressed the importance of citizen involvement in such demonstrations.

"We need to get our troops back," said Willoughby, whose wife Lillian was jailed in the fall of 2004, at age 89, for participating in an anti-war demonstration that blocked the entrance to the federal courthouse in Philadelphia.

"As long as our troops are there, the fighting is going to continue," Willoughby said. "Americans have tried, but at the end of three years the situation is worse than ever."

Smith said it is important to remember the toll that war exacts and to exert pressure on those with the power to end it.

"Increasingly our efforts are focused on Congress," he said. "If it doesn't happen there, the war is going to continue until Bush leaves office, and that's unacceptable."

Smith said the challenge for the anti-war movement now is to motivate the convinced.

"We've reached the tipping point, where the majority of Americans favor withdrawal," he said. "The peace movement is mainstream."

"What we need now is to translate that anti-war majority into a vocal, focused campaign."

Willoughby acknowledged that opposition to the war in Iraq has not been as demonstrative as that to the Vietnam War.

One factor, he said, is an all-volunteer army.

"Eliminating the draft took the college kids out of the picture," he said.

But he said he is convinced that beneath the surface of society "there is a growing opposition to the war."

Reach Richard Pearsall at (856) 486-2465 or rpearsall@courierpostonline.com
Published: June 16. 2006 3:10AM