Speakers draw Iraq, Vietnam analogies

David O'Brien
May 5, 2007

By Dave O'Brien

Record-Courier staff writer

The numerous speakers who rose Friday to remember the events of May 4, 1970 did not hold back in drawing parallels between the protests of that era and the ongoing war in Iraq.

Many were critical of the Bush administration for its policies and for going to war in Iraq, calling to mind former president Richard Nixon and his Vietnam-era policies.

"The past is a resource for where we're going," said author and peace activist Tom Hayden. "Efforts to obliterate the past have failed and we must use the past to succeed."

Hayden got a massive show of hands by asking who in the crowd favored impeaching Bush. Hayden said an "indirect, subtle impeachment" already is in the works.

"The whole White House crowd is completely toxic ... Impeachment is underway. Let it unfold and give it your voice," Hayden said during a speech marked by thunderous applause. "The legacy of Kent State is passing through subsequent generations: Antiwar movements are validated by the blood of young people. That is the tragic truth of our times," he said.

"It's important to put our bodies on the street and stop 'BushCo' and the war machine," said keynote speaker Cindy Sheehan, whose son, Casey, died in Iraq. "I promised Casey he wouldn't die in a war. He did because his mother didn't stand up ... It's time for us to put our warm bodies on the line."

Rosemary Palmer, mother of Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Edward "Augie" Schroeder II who worked in Streetsboro for a time and was killed in Iraq Aug. 3, 2005, had harsh words for the U.S. government and the ongoing war in Iraq.

"Congress is playing games" Palmer said, urging the crowd to support the many veterans who are coming home suffering from post-traumatic stress and debilitating injuries. "Stop enabling (the war). As soon as possible, we want to bring our guys home."

Speaking loudly and passionately under the hot midday sun, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan said the lessons learned in the 1960s and 1970s can be applied to the present day.

Ryan, whose district includes Portage County, asked the crowd to "pay respect to those who died in Iraq, Vietnam and here on this hallowed ground so we may never find ourselves in this position again."

"Our nation never healed" from the wounds of the Vietnam War, he said. He implored the hundreds of spectators, peace activists and protesters gathered on the commons to "organize, push for a firm timeline for the end of the war in Iraq ... Go to the street in a nonviolent way. Create a political climate that expects peace and deplores war."

Speaker Brad Cotton, a KSU alumni, brought his 14-year-old daughter Lauren with him to his first May 4 commemoration since 1977. A Quaker, Cotton also helped organize Friday's "Eyes Wide Open Ohio" display of 161 pairs of boots -- one for each Ohio servicemember lost in Iraq.

"Those of us of compassionate faith must be heard," he told the crowd.

Spectators like KSU senior Angela Schneider appreciated the message the speakers were sending.

"It was an awesome visual platform to draw parallels between the two wars," she said. "I think Cindy Sheehan has force behind what she says. And Tom Hayden was awesome."