Even as President Obama on Thursday attempts to put a good face on the war in Afghanistan, Vietnam-era whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg and several dozen other anti-war protesters will be chaining themselves to the White House fence, inviting arrest in the name of peace.
"We are dedicated to exposing the true costs of war and militarism," explained Mike Ferner, the president of Veterans for Peace, the group organizing Thursday's Lafayette Square rally and civil disobedience.
"We've killed well over a million people. We've orphaned and displaced five times that number at least. And here in our own country, we've managed to throw millions of people of out work and out of their homes," Ferner told reporters at a press conference Wednesday. "There is a connection there. That connection is the true cost of war."
Citing information available for every city and state in America on the Cost of War website, the former Navy hospital corpsman noted that his hometown of Toledo alone has sent almost a billion dollars into the war effort.
Obama is expected to cite "progress" in the war as he releases a review of American strategy in Afghanistan. During his visit to Bagram Air Force Base earlier this month, the president telegraphed his position by telling the troops that "thanks to your service, we are making important progress. You are protecting your country."
Ellsberg, the former military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971 as an act of protest against the Vietnam War, took particular umbrage at Obama's claim that the troops in Afghanistan are keeping Americans safe.
"I regard that last assurance as a lie. As a big lie," he said. Ellsberg said Obama knew full well when he announced a major troop-escalation plan a year ago that the war was unwinnable, and that putting in more troops would actually bolster the Taliban -- and, by extension, al Qaeda -- by helping their recruiting efforts.
"It is our military operations that are not only failing to protect Americans, they are endangering Americans," said Ellsberg, 79, for whom this will be the 80th civil disobedience arrest.
"There comes a time when you need to put your body in it," said former CIA analyst-turned-activist Ray McGovern, paraphrasing Martin Luther King, Jr. "If the making of peace means prison, that's where we need to be."
"We are hoping that our actions will spark resistance everywhere," said Veterans for Peace Vice President Leah Bolger. "We are hoping to make people question what the government is doing in our name."
A brief rally is scheduled for 10 a.m. across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House with remarks from Ellsberg, McGovern, Ferner, "Peace Mom" Cindy Sheehan, Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin, and others.
Protesters will then head for the White House, where organizers hope 100 or more people with chain themselves to the fence and get arrested.
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