Bush veto brings out fringes, from the left and right


Washington : Mary Lou Greenberg gripped a slotted serving spoon and took out her frustrations over the Iraq war on a cast-iron skillet.

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The makeshift percussion instrument delivered a piercing rhythm to lead the chant by protestors Tuesday evening outside the White House in Washington.

Another woman tooted to the beat on a whistle, while Greenberg and about 10 other people chanted: “Impeach Bush for war crimes – stop the war now.”

They gathered, Greenberg said, in anticipation of US President George Bush’s veto of legislation that would have forced him to start withdrawing US troops from Iraq by October. Inside the White House, Bush did address cameras to announce that he had rejected the measure.

“Pots and pans have been used by people around the world to protest things when people are dissatisfied with the government,” said Greenberg, wearing a hat with a rainbow-coloured pin and a black T-shirt with photos of Bush on a wanted poster.

“We were not satisfied with that legislation (to force an eventual withdrawal), … but we’re protesting the veto because it indicates that Bush is not willing to consider pulling the troops out. We’re saying the troops must be pulled out now. That’s our deadline.”

More than four years into a war that has lost popular support, the scene outside the White House underlined the lack of resonance of the protest movement, even after the issue helped the centre-left opposition Democrats take control of Congress in last year’s elections.

Sunny Chapman’s grey and white rabbit, Bugsy, sat placidly on a purple leash and twitched his nose outside the wrought-iron White House gates. Chapman called him their anti-war mascot and a “bunny against Bush”.

A few metres from the anti-war group, a handful of counter-demonstrators waved US flags, held placards and ridiculed their rivals across the granite sidewalk. Kristinn Taylor lit a yellow cigarillo and contrasted Tuesday’s rally with the massive Vietnam War-era protest movement.

“If I were Bush, I’d be looking out my window going, ‘Oh, no! This is just what Nixon faced in Vietnam,'” he jeered at the chanting group. “There must be six or seven of you.”

Taylor said he and the counter-demonstrators with him were members of the Washington chapter of Free Republic, a controversial right-wing Internet forum.

“We figured there’d be a few anti-American leftists,” said Taylor. “We figured we’d come out and root for the home team in the war on terror.”

A woman in a red blazer tapped his arm as she walked past and said, “Thank you guys for being here.”

Chomping a cigar, another counter-demonstrator shouted at the anti-war group in a mocking, whiny tone: “Freedom is too hard. Stop the war now.”