Hundreds of protesters on Saturday afternoon gathered outside the White House in Washington DC to demand a stop to endless United States (US) wars and the "War Machine," two days before the 20th anniversary of the US-led invasion of Iraq.
The anti-war demonstration was the second of its kind in the American capital in less than a month.
“It’s just a terrible mistake. We attacked a country already destroyed by years of sanctions. The Iraqis are still suffering the consequences There is neither work nor infrastructure,” Claudia Lefko, a protester from Northampton Massachusetts told Xinhua when asked to comment on the Iraq War.
“On March 20, 2003, the US and some of its allies launched a bombing campaign in Iraq under the false claim that the country was manufacturing weapons of mass destruction (WMD).The Iraq War not only caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, extensive destruction and political turmoil in Iraq, but also resulted in the increase of sectarian politics and widespread violence in the country, as well as the rise of the Islamic State militant group which has been launching terror attacks throughout the Middle East,” a study by the Costs of War project at USA’s Brown University showed.
The eight-year war costed the US nearly 2 trillion dollars, the lives of more than 4,000 troops and caused the country's polarization to gather pace.
"There are strong connections between the decision to invade Iraq and the structural divide in US politics," Molly Reynolds, a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, remarked on Friday during a seminar at the Washington DC-based think tank.
No WMD found
While Saddam Hussein's government in Iraq was overthrown, no stockpiles of WMDs or active WMD programs were ever found in Iraq. "The principal reason for invading Iraq, that Saddam had WMD, was wrong. The war, with its cost in lives and treasure and security, can't be judged as anything other than a mistake, a very serious one," late US senator John McCain wrote in a book published in 2018.
American journalist and activist Eugene Puryear, also an organizer of Saturday's anti-war rally north of the white house said that the invasion of Iraq was twenty years ago, but the US government had not learned a single lesson. "The American public was told that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, but that was a complete lie with no evidence. Now we're being lied to again. We must put a stop to endless war,” Puryear underlined.
A student in Williamsburg Virginia, who described himself as Esteban to Xinhua, opined that the Iraq War was only part of long history of the US invading, bombing and meddling with other countries. "It was a horrible tragedy. We destabilized the entire region all for profit. It was based on a lie," Esteban said.
Similar demonstrations were held in some other cities in the US as anti-war protesters and activists have ratcheted up criticism of the US role in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, which escalated more than a year ago.
"We must have a negotiated settlement to this war," a Washington DC resident Bob told Xinhua. "A negotiated settlement is something we have to talk about now and get it done. The immediate problem is that the US government does not want to negotiate a settlement," Bob said, adding that Washington was driving and pushing that war, even though they wouldn’t say it publicly.
2023 budget proposal
US President Joe Biden announced his budget proposal for the fiscal year 2024 earlier this month, which includes $886 billion for military and defence activities. The US Pentagon's spending would surge to $842 billion, a 26-billion-dollar or 3.2 percent increase from the fiscal year 2023 enacted level.
“The budget continues its support for Ukraine, the US strong alliance with the states of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato), and other European partner states by prioritizing funding to enhance the capabilities and readiness of US forces, Nato allies, and regional partners," the white house said about the proposed military spending.
William Hartung, a senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft (a Washington DC-based think tank), wrote in an analysis that the proposed budget was far more than is needed to provide an effective defence of the US and its allies. "As military spending soars towards $1 trillion a year, it is long past time for US Congress to take a critical look at the Pentagon budget with an eye towards aligning it with a reasonable defence strategy, rather than piling on weapons we don't need based on pork-barrel politics rather than strategic necessity," Hartung pointed out.
Protesters on Saturday urged the US government to fund people's needs instead of the "War Machine," given that American families and consumers were still struggling to address high inflation amid a banking crisis that has rekindled fear of an economic recession. “The military budget is way too high. We don't need this. We don't need this kind of spending on war. We have people camped out around this city who don't have a home and are living in tents," Bob argued.
Lefko agreed, labelling the US as a war-mongering country that should cut the military budget because security was food and housing for people."