Carrying signs reading, “Jobs Not War” and “Peace: A
Growth Industry,” about 1,000 people gathered Saturday afternoon in Portland’s
Pioneer Courthouse Square to protest the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The March 19 date marks the eighth anniversary of U.S. forces invading Iraq. But the protest was as much about jobs
as it was anti-war. With the U.S. deficit soaring, the economy
limping out of the recession, and national
unemployment hovering around 9 percent, the demonstrators identified the culprit for those ills in
“We spent over a trillion dollars on Afghanistan
and Iraq in the last ten years," said Peace and Justice Works co-founder Dan Handleman. "That money could have been spent at home.”
Organized by Peace and Justice Works
, the protest included 66 organizations, from anti-war groups
such as Iraq Veterans Against the War
to labor organizations such as the
Service Employees International Union.
One of the Iraq Veterans Against the War demonstrators was Noah Mrowczwnski, a 31-year-old Iraq war vet who says he is lucky to have a job.
He talked about suffering from post
stress disorder, which makes him stutter when put under pressure. This makes
job interviews difficult. But he got lucky. Mrowczwnski landed a job with
Frontier Communications, a company that seeks out veterans and did not require
Mrowczwnski to interview. He also earned a college degree since his return,
something Mrowczwnski says is rare for returning veterans.
“How’s the war economy working for you?” asks Mrowczwnski.
According to these protesters, the
war economy isn’t working for too many people.