Anti-War Speakers Decry U.S. Gulf Policy

Veterans, Religious Leader, Criticize Bush Administration for Hawkish Stance

The United States should immediately pull its troops out of the Persian Gulf to avoid loss of American lives in an immoral war, speakers said at an anti-war forum held at MIT last night.

The event, sponsored by the Committee Against a Vietnam War in the Middle East, an organization made up mostly of Vietnam veterans, included a local religious leader and three former members of the U.S. armed forces who said they were discharged because of their anti-war stand.

The purpose of the war "will be to send a message, not only to Iraq, but to all the countries in the Middle East, that punishment will be inflicted upon anybody who acts independently in that area," said Winston Warfield, chair of the speakout and president of the Boston area chapter of Veterans for Peace.

He attacked the Bush Administration for "ignoring history of the Middle East" and trying to use such "client regimes" as Saudi Arabia and Israel to serve U.S. interests.

Calling President Bush and his administration "masters of propaganda" and an "enemy" of the American people, Warfield said he believed that Bush "has planned this all along."

Stephanie Atkinson, who said she was recently discharged from the U.S. Army under "other than honorable circumstances" for her request to obtain conscientious objector status, described her experience with the military to the audience of more than 150 people.

"My recruiter didn't tell me...what the military was for and what I would encounter," Atkinson said. But she she said of enlisting, "As much as I hated it, I had to follow it through."

She refused to report to active duty in the Persian Gulf, she said, not because "I would not kill other people, but that I can't kill other people."

Atkinson accused the U.S. Government of committing genocide against the American people, especially Blacks, by sending them to the front lines.

"If I were an African-American, I wouldn't step into the [military] boat," said Atkinson. "If Bush can't sign a single civil rights act for me, I wouldn't serve his administration."

"President Bush is not interested in human rights," she said in her speech, which was often interrupted by applause. "His interests are in money, to secure things for himself and his friends."

Reverend Graylan Ellis-Hagler, a minister of the Church of the United Community in Roxbury, attacked U.S. policy in the Persian Gulf.

Calling the Middle East intervention an "evil this country continues to perpetrate," Ellis-Hagler criticized President Bush for sending troops "everywhere where there is money to be controlled."

"This country is insane and immoral and has no conscience," he shouted as the audience applauded. "How dare [we] pretend to be the police of theworld?" he asked.

He said that people in the audience might getdrafted soon, and "many of the bodybags arereserved for you."

"This is a rich, white men's war," he said. "Ifthey don't bring the troops home, we need to closedown the country.