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Bush plan for troops draws ire

Chris Fry of Olympia brought his own force to protest President Bush's new Iraq war strategy, which calls for 21,500 additional troops to deploy to the country.

Standing near him during the protest at Harrison Avenue and Division Street on Thursday night were his wife, Barb; his son, Chandler; his daughter, Nicole McPherson; and his daughter's boyfriend, Mark Hawkinson.

"It's a family affair," said the 48-year-old self-employed woodworker.

Exactly 24 hours after Bush outlined his strategy to the nation, Fry's family joined more than 100 other people at the busy intersection to denounce the plan as an escalation of U.S. involvement in a war that they say was wrong to begin with.

Withdrawal favored

Several protesters said they favored a phased withdrawal of troops from Iraq or trying to win peace at the negotiating table.

"We need to bring these young people home," said Ann Nielsen, 65, of Olympia, an auditor for the state Department of Licensing. "They're killing ours and we're killing theirs, and it has to come to an end."

Bush's announcement signals that it won't end anytime soon, although he said the nation's commitment to Iraq isn't "open-ended."

His new strategy will affect thousands of local military families. A Fort Lewis-based Stryker brigade will deploy at least a month earlier than expected, and there's a possibility that another of the post's Stryker brigades now serving in Iraq will have its tour extended.

National campaign

The protest coincided with the launch of a nationwide campaign, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, led by a coalition that includes peace, social justice and veterans groups as well as organized labor. About 1,000 "no-escalation" events were scheduled Thursday night nationwide, organizers said.

Local protesters bundled up against the cold as they fought off another chill.

"The war is getting out of hand," Fry said. "The people spoke in November (giving Democrats control of Congress) and President Bush isn't listening. It's getting scary."

Fanny Cordero, 45, an Olympia resident, said the country shouldn't be further committing itself to war when many domestic issues must be addressed, including caring for an aging population.

"We have the erosion of the middle-class and living-wage jobs," she said. "I'm just concerned about the future generation and their ability to find jobs."

In his speech, Bush said that failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States, creating chaos in the Middle East, nurturing a safe haven for terrorists and emboldening Iran's ambitions for nuclear weapons.

Mark Lasley, 24, a college student, said his father, a Marine master gunnery sergeant who served in Iraq before retiring, is against the war but previously thought victory still was possible. Now, Lasley said, his father isn't so sure.

"You can't just force democracy on another country that doesn't want it," he said. "Democracy does not come from the point of a gun. Even if the intentions were good, obviously the Bush administration didn't plan it. They said it was going to be a cakewalk and now look at it - it's a quagmire."

Christian Hill covers the city of Lacey and military for The Olympian. He can be reached at 360-754-5427 or chill@theolympian.com.

Elsewhere

War protesters staged demonstrations in several major cities Thursday, protesting that the buildup will cause more bloodshed and give insurgents new American targets.

Jan Rogers, 58, was among several hundred people who gathered in a bustling San Francisco shopping area, then held a march during rush hour. She watched Bush's televised speech Wednesday night and said he "doesn't seem to get it."

"The rest of the country is shouting, 'Stop this insanity,' and I think he's just trying to save his presidency and his legacy. But he's just on the wrong path," Rogers said.

Law student Zahra Billoo, 23, advocated an immediate troop withdrawal.

"I think our only presence at this point needs to be humanitarian aid. No more armed soldiers - they're not wanted there," she said.

In New York, Tony Palladino protested in Lower Manhattan's Foley Square with a pair of anti-war signs. The former Air National Guardsman said the new troops would just give insurgents "20,000 extra targets."

Rallies were also planned in Boston and some other cities.

In Times Square, hundreds of anti-war protesters crammed onto a traffic island, chanting "Stop the funding, stop the war" as drivers in one of the world's most famous intersections honked in support.

Some demonstrators held signs depicting the president as a monkey. Others sold buttons that said "Peace."

Pat De Angelis said Bush's plan to add more troops would be counterproductive to peace in the Mideast.

"In times of trouble, like the time we are in now, it helps to feel like you are doing something to right the wrongs," she said.

A band of pro-war protesters on the other end of the island yelled for passers-by to ignore the anti-war rally. The group held a large sign that said "Warning - Leftist protesters trying to demoralize our troops."

"They say they are supporting our troops, but they are lying," said Pamela Hall, a member of the United American Committee. "You can't support someone if you don't support what they are doing. It's disrespectful."

In San Francisco, turnout was decidedly lower than the crowd of 15,000 that organizers had predicted, but they said protesters were merely spread out among other events throughout the Bay Area.

Anti-war activists have marshaled more than 100,000 protesters at U.S. rallies on a few occasions since the run-up to the Iraq invasion. But the vast majority of demonstrations have been far smaller than those of the Vietnam era.

Anti-war groups and scholars say that's because the draft has been eliminated and because protesters appear more willing to work within the political system - a sharp contrast from the 1960s, when many protesters regarded the system as corrupt.

Thursday's protests were cast as a prelude to a bigger gathering starting Jan. 27 in Washington, where demonstrators plan to urge Congress to stand up to Bush, said Hany Khalil, a spokesman of United for Peace and Justice.

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Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Samantha Gross in New York and Jeff Donn in Boston contributed to this report.

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