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U.S. veterans, protesters march against war in Afghanistan


10:10, October 08, 2011

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- A couple of hundred U.S. veterans and protesters on Friday marched to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington D.C., marking the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan, calling for the United States to stop the war and focus on human needs at home.

Carrying a huge earth model and banners demanding the end of the Afghanistan war, the protesters shouted slogans and beat drums in a noisy demonstration. They say funding the war is killing troops and the economy at home.

Michael McPhearson, national coordinator for United for Peace and Justice, said the beginning of the Afghanistan war is also the beginning of endless war, endless suffering, endless spending and endless death.

He said the over a trillion dollars spent on the wars is why the United States finds itself in debt crisis, and why human services at home were being cut.

"This is militarism at its worst," said McPhearson.

Many veterans were also present at the rally. Brock McIntosh, an Afghan war veteran from Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, said when he joined the army in high school, he thought war was the only way to "solve the problem," but what he experienced in Afghanistan changed his opinion, as it only channels problems elsewhere. He said if the United States had spent a fraction of the money it uses to fund wars on the human needs in Afghanistan, the problems there would be long gone.

"It's crazy. It's insane. It got to stop!" he said.

His point was echoed by Suraia Sahar, an activist with Afghans for Peace. She said what Afghan people need is self determination, and basic stuff such as food, shelter and education.

"Those are the issues to be focused on," she said.


Ten years of war took a heavy toll on all military families around the country. Pat Alviso, a Marines mom whose son Beto has been deployed four times -- twice to Iraq, and twice to Afghanistan -- said the war left deep scars on his son.

"Every time we see him, he is different," Alviso said. "We don' t know what's wrong with him." She said Beto was really upset after his second deployment in Afghanistan, and now he just says " It is what it is. I don't want to talk about it."

According to a recent a Pew Research Center poll released on Wednesday, 37 percent of servicemen who fought in the wars after 9/ 11 believe themselves to be suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and 44 percent said they have had difficulties readjusting to civilian life.

Ben Kessler, a former Marine who fought in Afghanistan from 2002 to 2004, said he had trouble readjusting. "A lot of alcohol" was how he coped with it.

"Fortunately my family was very supportive," said Kessler. He is now a college student.

As military moms and veterans pleaded the government to stop the war, and bring troops home, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta issued a statement Friday saying over the past ten years, U.S. men and women in uniform and their families have "borne a heavy burden to protect our country. Nearly 1,800 U.S. service members have lost their lives in Operation Enduring Freedom, and more than 14, 000 have been wounded."

Earlier in the day, President Barack Obama said in a statement that the administration is "responsibly ending today's wars" after "a difficult decade."

By Xinhua Writer Wang Fengfeng


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