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Fonda Leads Anti-Iraq War Rally

Tim Harper

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e "mean-spirited and vengeful" Bush administration, her first appearance on an anti-war podium in 34 years.

Fonda's appearance was not the only echo of Vietnam as protestors packed the mall area in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol yesterday. Speakers told the crowd the United States has forgotten any lessons learned in Vietnam as U.S. President George W. Bush prepares to send another 21,500 young Americans to Iraq.

Fonda led a Hollywood contingent, which included Sean Penn, Danny Glover, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, joined by veterans of Vietnam and the current war, those with family members serving in Iraq, labour and civil rights leaders.

They chanted slogans demanding Bush be impeached, raised their voices together to brand him a liar and demanded U.S. troops be brought home from Iraq now.

But there was almost as much venom being spent on a new Democrat-controlled Congress which, at least according to the tens of thousands here, was elected in November to end the war and is dragging its feet.

The U.S. military reported the deaths of seven more soldiers in Iraq yesterday, raising to 3,079 the number killed since the war began. In other violence, two car bombs killed 15 people in a crowded market in a mainly Shiite area of Baghdad, Reuters news agency reported.

Other protests were held across the U.S. yesterday. Organizers of the D.C. rally said it drew 100,000, which would make it smaller than protests held before the 2003 invasion.

Police here said they believed fewer than 100,000 attended.

Protestors carried signs urging that Bush's daughters be sent to fight in Iraq and mocking some of his most famous pronouncements during a war approaching its fourth anniversary.

"Civil War Accomplished," said one. "New Jersey Says: Bring `em Back, Mr. Bring it On," read another.

Many danced, others meditated. There was also a strong presence of those who wanted to promote causes ranging from 9/11 conspiracy theories to Bush's failure to rebuild New Orleans.

Many who massed here paid tribute to loved ones serving in Iraq, or who had died in the war.

Laura Dean of Washington carried a teddy bear and a photo of her 25-year-daughter, an Air Force lieutenant who will deploy to Afghanistan. "We always thought this war was predicated on a lie," she said. "Why have our best and brightest become so disposable?"

Lee Zaslofsky was part of a Toronto contingent that came to promote support of American war resisters in Canada. He said his organization, War Resisters Support Campaign, is dealing with about 35 cases.

"This is a good-natured crowd, but there is a strong edge of anger in this crowd," he said. "There is a real sense of anger and frustration."

A handful of congressional Democrats spoke at the rally, but no major presidential candidates. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, who has embarked on a long-shot bid for his party's nomination, stood up and called for his party to end funding for the war.

"The president said he is `the decider,'" said Maxine Waters, a Democratic Representative from California. "He is not `the decider,' he is a liar." She added when it comes to funding this "immoral" war, "I will not vote one dime."

But Fonda, the 69-year-old actor and activist once dubbed "Hanoi Jane" by critics angered by a 1972 anti-war trip she made to North Vietnam, was the star attraction. She drew parallels with Vietnam, suggesting that once again an arrogant American government has intervened in a historic culture of which it has no understanding.

"I'm so sad we still have to do this," she said.

But she said one difference between this war and the Vietnam war is that it took six years for veterans from that conflict to come home and rally against the war. This time, she said, it took half as long and she made a point of praising the service people who attended yesterday.

"Their presence here is critical and we should acknowledge their courage," Fonda said.

In 2004, conservative forces here wounded Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry by linking his anti-war protests during the Vietnam era to Fonda. She said yesterday she had resisted joining anti-war protests because she feared "lies" spread about her would hurt the movement.

Reaction to her presence was swift. Fox News read a bevy of emails excoriating her on its newscasts yesterday and counter-protestors hanged her in effigy at another, smaller rally.