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Americans on Hunger Strike over Iraq War

by IOL (reposted)
WASHINGTON — While millions of fellow compatriots were dressed up for gala celebrations of the Independence Day on Tuesday, July4 , anti-Iraq war Americans, including Hollywood stars, went on a symbolic hunger strike, demanding the immediate return of US troops from Iraq.

"We've marched, held vigils, lobbied Congress, camped out at Bush's ranch, we've even gone to jail, now it's time to do more," said Cindy Sheehan, who emerged as an anti-war icon after losing her24 -year-old son Casey in Iraq.

Anti-war protestors savored a last meal outside the White House Monday night, before embarking on a "Troops Home Fast", reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

The hunger strike saw four prominent anti-war activists, Sheehan, Hollywood star Sean Penn veteran, comedian and peace campaigner Dick Gregory and former army colonel Ann Wright.

Other supporters, including Hollywood stars Danny Glover and Susan Sarandon and novelist Alice Walker, will join a "rolling" fast, a relay in which2 , 700activists pledge to refuse food for at least 24 hours.

"We have done everything we could think of to end this war, we have protested, held marches, vigils ... lobbied, written letters to Congress," said Meredith Dearborn, of human rights group Global Exchange.

"Now it is time to bring the pain and suffering of war home. We are putting our bodies on the line for peace."

The hunger strike was the latest bid by the US anti-war movement to grab hold of American public opinion, after numerous marches, vigils and political campaigns.

Perhaps the only time the anti-Iraq war movement captured lasting coverage was in August2005 , when Sheehan and supporters pitched camp outside Bush's Texas ranch, where the president habitually stays in high summer.

The US invaded Iraq in March 2003 on the grounds that it was stockpiling weapons of mass destruction and had links to Al-Qaeda.

A congressional report later concluded the Bush administration was "dead wrong" on the MWD claim and that Iraq had no link with Al-Qaeda.


Some protesters said their fast would continue beyond July4 , Reuters reported.

"I don't know how long I can fast, but I am making this open-ended," said environmental campaigner Diane Wilson, who has launched serious, long-term fasts.

"We have to put our own lives on the line, and I'm willing to do that," added Wilson, who pledged to fast until the United States withdraws from Iraq.

Dearborn said2 , 700other activists nationwide would work as a relay team passing the fast daily from one to another.

Sheehan said she would drink only water throughout the summer, which she said she would spend outside Bush's ranch.

"This war is a crime," the icon mother told a crowd of clapping, cheering protesters.

"We represent millions of Americans who withdraw their support from this government."

Recent polls reveal public skepticism over Iraq, and damage to Bush's personal ratings.

A poll by Bloomberg and the Los Angeles Times showed Monday that 54 percent of American adults regret Bush's decision to invade Iraq.

In a poll in Time magazine published Friday only33 percent of respondents approved of Bush's leadership on Iraq while64 percent said they disapproved his handling of the war.

Some2 , 526US soldiers have died since the US-led invasion of Iraq in2003 , according to an AFP tally based on Pentagon figures.

Rape Charges

Meanwhile, US prosecutors charged a US Iraq war veteran Monday with raping and murdering an Iraqi girl, after gunning down three members of her family, including a five-year-old sister.

Steven Green,21 , a former private with the US Army's storied101 st Airborne Division, was arrested Friday in the southern state of North Carolina.

He appeared in a US federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina, Monday.

According to court documents, Green and three fellow soldiers conspired to rape the girl, said to be15 -year-old, and changed into dark clothes before going to the house. Several of them drank alcohol before leaving.

When they returned after the incident, they had blood on their clothes, which they immediately burned.

A soldier not identified by an affidavit testified that he saw Green rape a girl then shoot her in the head "two-to-three times."

NBC television reported late Monday that apart from Green, four soldiers remain under investigation in the incident. Their weapons have been confiscated and they have been confined to base in Iraq.

If convicted, Green could face execution for the murders or up to life in prison for the rape. He could also be sentenced to pay a fine of250 , 000dollars.

The US military has come under the spotlight over a number of incidents of Iraqi abuse since the 2003 invasion, most notoriously the sexual abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib, which prompted a string of convictions.

The military is also investigating charges that US Marines killed 24 civilians, including 10 women and children, in the Euphrates valley town of Haditha last year after a roadside bomb killed a comrade.

Seven marines and a navy corpsman were charged on Wednesday, June22 , with premeditated murder of a disabled Iraqi civilian, before planning a rifle on his body to frame him as a militant.

In a similar case, a fourth US soldier was charged with premeditated murder in the shooting death of three Iraqi detainees near the Muthana Chemical Complex in Salaheddin province on May9 .
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