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War's Fifth Anniversary Draws Cry For U.S. To End Iraq Operation

Home News Tribune — Thursday, March 20, 2008

By TOM BALDWIN
GANNETT STATE BUREAU

Vigil

TRENTON — Among the 75 or so protesters opposed to the war in Iraq who rallied Wednesday in front of the Statehouse was one marking the outset of the sixth year of hostilities by holding up a placard showing her proud, smiling son, who died in action.

"My son was No. 527 or 526," said Sue Niederer of Hopewell. "It is now 4,000. . . . For what? For who?"

Her son, Army Lt. Seth Dvorin, 24, died in March 2004 while trying to dismantle a bomb near the city of Al Iskandariyah, 20 miles south of Baghdad and named for a previous regime-change conqueror of the region, Greek warrior Alexander the Great. "Iskandar" is Arabic for "Alexander."

In September 2004, Niederer had been arrested for disrupting a speech by First Lady Laura Bush in Hamilton Township, outside Trenton. Later criminal charges of "defiant trespass" were dropped.

Niederer and others joined protests across the nation Wednesday for an end to the war that has, to date, been a defining issue in many of the presidential primaries and caucuses. The toll of U.S. deaths is edging toward 4,000.

"I am tired of going to funerals. It's got to stop." said U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, D-Long Branch. "We should be out by the end of the year."

Pallone described President Bush's year-old surge in troops in Iraq as a "tactic" to distract the public's attention from the bloodshed. "You can't let that happen," said the congressman.

"The surge equals 100 more years" in Iraq, said the Rev. Robert Moore, executive director of the Coalition for Peace Action's Princeton group and part-time pastor of East Brunswick Congregational Church.

Pallone predicted the only way Iraq's majority Shiites and minority Sunnites and Kurds will make their peace is when they know U.S. forces, caught as they are between feuding militias and insurgents, are leaving. "That's the only way," Pallone said.

"It is the wrong war at the wrong time. . . . That's what made it so wrong — Iraq was not a friend, but it was not a threat," said Rep. Donald Payne, D-Newark, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Payne accused Bush of employing "scare tactics" to motivate Americans to support the 2003 invasion, and he recalled former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had said he doubted the war would last six months.

Noting that was almost five years ago, Payne asked, "Can you imagine the good things we could do in New Jersey with $12 billion a month," which is one of several figures being cited for funding the war.

Pallone and Payne stood in the distinct minority on Oct. 11, 2002 when the House of Representatives voted 296-133 to hand Bush powers to invade Iraq. The Senate vote was 77-23.

Maureen Glover of Ocean Grove, who lost a cousin in the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, said she planned to hold a candlelight vigil Wednesday night in Monmouth County.

Attendees of the Wednesday rally held aloft a stretched-out line to which were attached the photographs of 69 of the New Jerseyans killed in Iraq, such as Lance Cpl. Curtis Christensen Jr. of Collingswood, Spc. Bryan Freeman of Lambertville, Pfc. Stephen Benich of Clark and and Cpl. Terrence Allen of Pennsauken.

State Police said 75 to 100 people attended the rally.

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