Bush Speech Prompts Strong Reactions
A tiny group of protesters gathered late Thursday afternoon in front of the Southern Pines Post Office to speak out against the escalation of the Iraq war.
About six people showed up at 5 p.m. to voice their opposition to President Bush's announcement Wednesday to send a "surge" of an additional troops to Iraq. He needs Congress to approve the funding.
"We're collectively trying to make our voice heard," said Gloria Orlandi, who organized the rally. "It's time for them (American troops) to come home."
Orlandi asked that The Pilot use her maiden name so that her husband, who is in Special Operations with the U.S. Army, would not face repercussions.
The demonstrators stood at the four corners of Broad Street and New York Avenue. Some cars passed by and honked their approval. Others jeered.
"If they boo you, just smile at them," Orlandi said.
One woman drove by and told Orlandi that her son was in Iraq and that she supported the protesters.
The peace demonstration was part of an effort organized by the liberal political action group MoveOn.org, which held similar ones across the state and nation. Other demonstrations in North Carolina took place in Greensboro and Chapel Hill.
"An escalation in Iraq is the wrong way home," Orlandi said. "It will make things worse, not better."
Moore County resident Nick Hancock said he heard about the demonstration on an anti-war Web site and that he wanted to come "be a body for support."
Charles Ommen came from Fayetteville to hold up a sign that said "Escalation" with a line through it.
"I don't think those people (Iraqis) really care if we are there or not," he said.
Rosalyn Walk brought her young daughter, Eliana, to the protest. She said that while her daughter is too young to understand what is going on right now, she hopes to have a frank discussion with her when she's older.
"When my daughter grows up and says, 'What did you do when they were escalating the war?' I'll be able to say I did something," Walk said.
Walk said she has great respect for the troops. She said she believes the decision to escalate the war is more political than military.
A photograph in The Washington Post of an Afghan child covered in blood gave her daughter nightmares, Walk said.
"We talk about how our soldiers protect us," she said, "and they won't let anything happen to us."
Orlandi said the demonstration is not meant to say that America has lost the war.
"I don't classify it as a war," she said. "I classify it as an occupation. ... We killed the dictator. We set up a government, a democracy. Why do we need to send more troops?"
She said polls show that few Americans favor sending more troops to Iraq.
Orlandi said she also opposes the increased spending Bush is proposing to suppor his plan.
"Those billions of dollars could be spent better," she said.
Bush said in his address to the nation Wednesday that the ranks of the U.S. Army and Marines needed to increase. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice echoed those statements Thursday.
But Orlandi said that until that happens, a "surge" puts too heavy a burden on existing troops and National Guard units.
"If that's what you are going to do," she said, "then reinstate the draft."
Orlandi said she is protesting not only because the war continues to put her husband in harm's way, but also because she has seen friends die in the conflict.
"We've lost two dear friends," she said. "That's two too many."
When the death toll equaled the number of people killed in the World Trade Center attack, she decided that she needed to make her voice heard. She wants troops withdrawn from Iraq -- not immediately, but soon.
"Stop the escalation of troops," she said, "and bring them home in a reasonable amount of time."
She said she is not worried that Iraq will become a haven for terrorists should the United States leave.
"I think it is a haven for terrorism," she said. "All we're doing there is slightly halting it."
The small number of people at the demonstration may have to do with the heavy military population in Southern Pines, she said. However, she was undaunted.
"As small as it is," she said, "four or five voices might make a difference."
Matthew Moriarty can be reached at 693-2479 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
More like this story