Peace vigil held to protest war against Iraq

February 17, 2003|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

Carrying signs that read "Drop Bush, Not Bombs," "No Blood for Oil" and " 'Might Makes Right' Got Us Here," about 35 people held a peace vigil in Chambersburg Saturday morning.

Standing on all four quadrants of Chambersburg's square on a cold, slushy morning, the peaceable assembly protested the impending war with Iraq.

Many members of the group are affiliated with the Carlisle Peace College.

Rob Wheeler, of Scotland, Pa., a member of the group, said the local protest was linked with more than 600 rallies held around the world Saturday under the auspices of United for Peace.

Maria Erling of Gettysburg, Pa., wearing a sign reading "It's Always About Oil," said it was an important day to register with other citizens.


"It's not the right time for us to be solo cowboys," she said.

As she stood on the square, a man slowed his truck, read her sign and shook his head.

"There have been some honks and salutes, and some people are surprisingly angry," Erling said. "One person yelled, 'If you think it's about oil you should go over there and be with them.' Talk about peace can rile people up."

Wheeler claimed that since sanctions were imposed on Iraq in 1991, half a million Iraqi children have died from lack of sanitation, clean water and health care.

"None of this needed to happen," he said. "Serious negotiation needed to happen. The U.S. backed away from this in 1998. This war is about U.S. domination, militarily and economically, around the world."

At noon, the group gathered in front of the Franklin County Courthouse to sign a letter to President Bush that stated in part, "President Bush, if you attack Iraq without the full support of the U.N. Security Council, we will hold you and your administration personally responsible for the deaths of thousands, if not tens or hundreds of thousands, of innocent Iraqi civilians."

The letter said the group would support legal efforts to try Bush for "crimes against humanity and the violation of international law under the Geneva Conventions and U.N. charter."

After the vigil, about a dozen people met at Coyle Free Library to discuss the issue.

Wheeler said the Carlisle Peace College's message is "Peace on Earth" and "There are better ways to solve conflicts than war."

Two Waynesboro (Pa.) Area Senior High School juniors, Brittany Breslin and Mike Bloom, attended the discussion group and talked about their involvement in the peace movement.

Brittany, 16, said she and several other students made their views on peace known at school and received many negative comments from other students.

"But through the negative comments, we actually educated people," Mike, 18, said.

"I am scared for the Iraqi children more than anything." he said. "What right does our institution have to take their lives? I can't stand by and not do anything about that."

Sana Gill of Waynesboro, Brittany's mother, fled Palestine with her family at the age of 6 when her town was bombed. She said that investors in England and Saudi Arabia are pulling their funds out of the United States because of the possibility of war.

She does not think the United States will start a war with Iraq.

"I think Bush will wake up because the whole world is against it," she said.

Dr. Laszlo Madaras of Greencastle, Pa., a physician at Keystone Health Center, said he has helped to fix up the "collateral damages" of war, and that he never again wants to see what he saw in southeast Asia, Africa and Central America. Madaras has worked with Doctors Without Borders and other humanitarian organizations.

A native of Hungary, Madaras said people who have lived in other cultures need to bring their experiences to the local area.

Peace vigils are held on the square in Chambersburg the third Saturday of every month from 11 a.m. to noon.

Sana Gill plans to hold vigils in the Waynesboro square from 11 a.m. to noon on the fourth Saturday of each month.

On March 1, a vigil will be held at the front entrance of the U.S. Army War College on Route 11 in Carlisle from 11 a.m. to noon.

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