Finding an A.N.S.W.E.R. to war

War protester Chris Ernesto said he’s asked the average person on the street why the Bush administration wants to go to war with Iraq. He finds the answers paltry, at best.

“It’s so cliché,” Ernesto said.

The reasons they give include weapons of mass destruction and Iraq’s ties to terrorism.

Ernesto sees things differently.

“We’re getting ready to massacre a country we’ve already decimated,” Ernesto said.

In January, about 500 protesters gathered outside MacDill Air Force Base to speak out against the potentially imminent war with Iraq.

In the last few months, protests against the war have increased in Tampa and beyond.

Now, International A.N.S.W.E.R., whose name stands for Act Now to Stop the War and End Racism, is encouraging a “week of anti-war resistance.” The event will span from Thursday to Feb. 21.

The climax of the anti-war week will happen Saturday, with a mass protest in New York City. A reported 300 cities throughout the world will participate in this day of action. During the week, events will include teach-ins, picket lines, rallies and collections of signatures in the “People’s Anti-War Referendum.” The referendum states the following:

“The U.S. Congress did not represent me when it voted to authorize (President) George W. Bush to carry out an illegal war against Iraq. Thousands will die needlessly unless the people stop this war drive.”

Ernesto also criticizes U.S. international relations.

“Sept. 11 didn’t just happen as a random act.” Ernesto said, “It has to do with our global policy. We need to consider why we’re occupying 144 countries.”

In Florida, a numerous of groups are organizing protests including peace picnics and marches for justice.

Tampa will be holding protests, prior to Saturday, including a “Die-in,” a mock staging of war victims, in front of Cooper Hall.

The peace movement refutes claims made by the Bush administration. On Wednesday, Secretary of State Colin Powell made a case for war by presenting taped recordings of intercepted phone calls and satellite maps showing that Iraq possesses weapons of mass destruction.

However, Ernesto said one of the aerial photographs Powell used is a food processing plant, so it does not support the argument.

“They have no evidence,” Ernesto said.

The Bush administration has stated that Iraq may become a potential threat because the weapons they hold could strengthen other terrorist organizations.

The Bush administration claims if Hussein is not taken out of power, Iraq will become a major threat because of the weapons it possesses.

“This administration has been involved in deception in order to launch a war for oil,” Rosas said.

However, Ernesto said there is no proof that Iraq would connect with any other terrorist group.

Because the final day of anti-war week falls on the anniversary of Malcolm X’s assassination, Feb. 21, 1965, protests will include student walk-outs to protest racism as well as war.

Mauricio Rosas, a member of Voice of Freedom, said people are “peace cornering” at the corner of Fletcher Avenue and Dale Mabry between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. in the five days leading up to the event.

A large rally is not planned for Tampa at this time.

Protesters in Tampa will be heading to Naples, Orlando and Sarasota to lend support to events in those cities, organizers said.

Volunteer Carol Schiffler, who is involved with several peace organizations, said this is mostly because the area groups were “tired and tapped out” after the most recent MacDill rally and busing of locals to the rally in Washington D.C.

For Schiffler, who calls Powell’s argument “thin,” a main reason she became involved in the peace movement is that she’s a mother. She said she couldn’t help but think of a mother in Iraq waiting for “bombs to drop on her children.” She also said she doesn’t think that the government’s arguments for war are logical.

Ernesto has a positive outlook on the protests.

“Peace is going to win out,” Ernesto said.

Contact Kristan Bright at