Kathleen Herd Masser Mirror contributing writer Saturday’s storms didn’t deter a handful of activists from holding their planned rally at Cannon Green in Palisades Park next to the Pier, where they gathered to protest the war in Iraq — and the way it’s being fought. Organized by Santa Monica-based ThePeaceTable.com (formerly Pacific Ocean Park Peace Action), the event was a warm-up for the national – and international – demonstrations that will take place March 19, marking the day two years ago when U.S. forces invaded Iraq. The Bush administration’s accountability for the torture of Iraqi prisoners is a particular focus issue for the group. “The Republicans took down the Clinton administration over Whitewater and Monica,” says Bill Floyd, a PeaceTable volunteer. “The memos from Jay Bybee and Alberto Gonzalez link the administration to thousands of torture incidents at 50 secret prisons in Iraq. The trail from Charles Grainer to George W. Bush is almost direct.” Grainer is the American soldier convicted of torturing Iraqi soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison. “The International Red Cross,” Floyd adds, “has called the Abu Ghraib torture ‘war crimes.’ War crimes are high crimes under the U.S. Constitution.” Floyd is also “outraged” by the Bush administration’s treatment of American soldiers who were abused while imprisoned in Iraq during the 1991 Gulf War. In July 2003, a group of former POWs was awarded nearly $1 billion in compensatory and punitive damages in U.S. District Court, to be paid from assets seized from Saddam Hussein. Now, the administration says they shouldn’t have it. According to White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, “These resources are required for the urgent national security needs of rebuilding Iraq.” Retired Air Force Co. David W. Eberly, the senior officer among the POWs, told the Los Angeles Times, “It seems so strange to have our own country fighting us on this.” Speaking for the White House, McClellan offered this rationale: “No amount of money can truly compensate these brave men and women for the suffering that they went through at the hands of this very brutal regime and at the hands of Saddam Hussein.” Ironically, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others in the administration have publicly supported compensation for Iraqis who were abused by U.S. soldiers. Floyd and his colleagues are determined to keep the discussion going, at least in Santa Monica, where the Peace Table is a regular presence at Wednesday’s and Sunday’s farmers’ markets. Information on March 19 events will be available at ThePeaceTable.com and other websites, including codepink4peace.org and www.unitedforpeace.org.
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