Sunday, May 28, 2006
EVEN AT WEST POINT
You would think poor old President Bush could make a speech at West Point without any problems, but you would be wrong. About 250 protesters marched outside the gates of West Point yesterday while President Bush addressed the military academy's new graduates. Protesters carried mock coffins covered with American flags. Some wore signs that said, quote, "Liar."
The following article appeared in the Poughkeepsie Journal.
250 protest Bush policies
HIGHLAND FALLS — Wearing a Korean War cap, Charlie Serra looked like any other veteran as he used a cane to take labored steps away from West Point’s Thayer Gate on Saturday — except for a small yellow sign hanging from his neck that read, simply, ‘‘Liar.’’
That noun, in boldface type, was reserved for President Bush, who was inside the gate delivering the commencement speech to the graduating class of cadets at the military academy.
‘‘He never saw any combat, and yet he’s sending our young people to get killed,’’ said Serra, of Central Valley, Orange County.
Serra was among about 250 protesters who showed up to voice their displeasure with the president over his handling of the war in Iraq and foreign policy.
Blocked from entering the military academy’s grounds, the protesters marched a route through the Village of Highland Falls that took them to the academy’s gates and back to a small park, where people shouted Vietnam-era slogans into bullhorns and carried mock coffins draped with American flags.
Concern for graduates
For many of the protesters, Bush’s presence was the reason they showed up, but their thoughts were with the cadets graduating to become military officers.
Wearing sergeant chevrons and shouldering a large American flag, Jason Peterson of Albany said he believes Bush intentionally lied about the reasons for the war, betraying service members who signed up to defend their country.
‘‘That sort of thing is not what people should be sacrificing their lives for,’’ said Peterson, a former Marine who served in the first Gulf War.
And Peterson expressed concern for soldiers and Marines returning from combat not only with physical injuries, but the psychological trauma associated with deployment to a war zone: ‘‘You can’t just switch it off.’’
Some were more direct in their criticisms of the president.
‘‘Bush is a fascist, and the only way things are going to change is if people speak up,’’ said Linda Pilus of Amenia, who held a sign that said Osama bin Laden was vacationing at Camp David. ‘‘He’s a liar, a deceiver, and he needs to get out of the White House.’’
An oft-repeated theme among the crowd was Bush’s place among America’s presidents.
‘‘I’m 75 years old,’’ said Lee Sneden of Airmont, Rockland County, ‘‘and he’s the worst president I’ve ever been aware of.’’
Although they couldn’t get close to the president, the protesters said they wanted to remind him they were there.
‘‘And say, hey, this is not our war,’’ said the Rev. Jim Bridges, a Unitarian Universalist minister from Washingtonville. ‘‘Although Saddam was not a great leader in any way, shape or form, I think the country is a lot worse off.’’