Demonstrators staged marches and sit-ins across the United States on Wednesday March 19, to protest the Iraq War and mark the five-year anniversary of the beginning of the conflict. In Portland, several events were organized, including a Day of Action that involved events at the Terry Schrunk Plaza, the World Trade Center and the Federal Courthouse, downtown.
A candlelight vigil was set for 7 p.m. in Jamison Square Park on N.W. 9th and Johnson. Organizers said the vigil would remember those killed in the war.
A day of action Saturday attracted hundreds of protesters to Portland's park blocks. The event was peaceful with no arrests.
It was a different story in Washington D.C., Wednesday. The day started with the arrest early on of more than a dozen people outside the IRS headquarters. Meanwhile the 100-strong crowd chanted "You are arresting the wrong people."
The demonstrators said they chose the IRS building because of its role in collecting taxes to pay for the war.
William Seaman, a longtime organizer with Portland Peaceful Response Coalition, said working to bring America out of the war is a moral obligation.
"It is really difficult when you are having trouble making ends meet or raising your children to focus on things on the other side of the world," Seaman said. "But other people like myself are privileged … there is a moral imperative on us to bring this war to an end."
As of Monday, March 17, at least 3,990 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of war, according to figures from the Associated Press. The figure includes eight military civilians. At least 3,241 died as a result of hostile action, according to the military's numbers. More than 100 people in Oregon and Southwest Oregon have lost their lives in the war.
Iraq Body Count, a group set up to track civilian deaths in Iraq estimates between 82,000 and 89,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed. And Reuters news agency reports more than 4 million Iraqis have been forced to flee their homes.
In Washington, President Bush spoke Wednesday at the Pentagon, reiterating his commitment to stay in Iraq until the government is stable. "Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, and this is a fight America can and must win," he told an audience of military personnel.
"The battle in Iraq has been longer and harder and more costly than we anticipated — but it is a fight we must win."
Bush contended that sending 30,000 additional troops to Iraq, the "surge," has been effective.
The death toll in Iraq has levelled off in recent months, but on Monday 50 people died in a suicide attack by a female bomber, and six others were killed Tuesday
According to the U.S. House Budget Committee, the financial cost of the war is about $608 billion in taxes spent. However that figure doesn't include the productivity lost to the U.S. economy when young men and women are fighting overseas, or the impact of injuries and trauma on the working lives of veterans.
Seaman said that blaming President Bush or Vice-president Cheney was too simplistic a way to view the war.
"There are institutional forces that drove us to war," he says. "They need to be confronted and it's not the kind of thing that can be changed overnight. I think we are kidding ourselves if we don't look at the fact that Iraq holds the richest energy reserves on the planet at a time when people think that our oil reserves are peaking.
"The interests that drove us to war are not about to give this up without a sustained fight. …They not only want access to that (oil) they want to control it. That's what we are up against." Portland Peaceful Response Website is www.pprc-news.org/.