By Yang Qingchuan
WASHINGTON, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Five years ago, on March 19, 2003, in the Situation Room of the White House, U.S. President George W. Bush gave the order to launch the invasion of Iraq.
Five years later, fed up by the increasing human and financial costs of the war, frustrated by the worldwide decline of U.S. prestige, hundreds of angry protesters from across the nation gathered at the gates of the White House on Wednesday, demanding an immediate end to the war.
"Five years too many" is the theme of this year's nationwide anti-war activities, according to Allen Lang, a young coordinator for "the World Can't Wait," one of the various anti-war networks in the United States.
"We must end the war, America can't wait, the world can't wait," he told the rally in front of the north gate of the White House.
From coast to coast, from north to south, at least 660 anti-war events were organized around the nation during the week that marks the fifth anniversary of the war.
MARCH OF THE DEAD
One of the gruesome aspects of the war is the high death toll.
Nearly 4,000 U.S. soldiers have died and another 30,000 have been wounded since the start of the war.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and some estimates put the figure at 1 million.
To "visualize" the loss of life, dozens of demonstrators staged a "March of the Dead" parade from Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia to the White House in Washington.
Wearing white death masks and black robes, each of them represented one of the people killed in the war.
There was also a paper card attached to their necks, with the name of a victim and the date of his or her death.
"They are not names, not figures. Each of them was once a living person just like you and me," Carroll Anderson from New York who "acted" as one of the dead, told Xinhua.
"The war was called the Iraqi Freedom Operation. But there is only 'freedom' for killing innocent people, and the dead can't have their voices heard, " said another "actor," who refused to give her name.
SOLDIER SPEAK OUT AGAINST THE WAR
Protesters also simulated torture of war prisoners by U.S. military and intelligence officers.
The most infamous interrogation technique is "waterboarding", or simulated drowning.
"Waterboarding and other kinds of torture are illegal and the Bush administration knows it. We don't need Congress to criminalize waterboarding, because it's always illegal according to international laws," said David Swanson, an anti-war activist.
Jeff Mallard, a leader of Iraq Veterans Against War (IVAW), a group of anti-war U.S. veterans and active-duty service members, told protesters that a growing number of U.S. soldiers are speaking out against the war after witnessing various atrocities, including torture of prisoners and the killing of innocent people.
Mallard said nearly 200 veterans and current members of the service attended an event last weekend near Washington and told the audience about the truth of the war.
"Their stories are personal accounts and thus are more convincing, " he said.
Over a hundred former and current U.S. soldiers joined Wednesday's anti-war event in the capital, which was a rare scene.
FEAR OF IMAGE DECLINE
While many Americans are tired of the war and worry about its growing costs, there is another growing concern: the decline of their country's global prestige because of the unpopular war.
"Imperialism is the worst thing about the war and the U.S. image is at stake," said Steven Dulanui, a protester from Virginia.
Dulanui, who is interested in history, said there are lots of historical lessons for the United States: a powerful nation finally collapsed after squandering its resources in an unnecessary conflict.
"We love this country, so we don't want her to follow the failing path," he said.
Jim McJarrah, a Vietnam war veteran from Florida, agreed.
"To advance your own political and economic agenda by killing women and children of another country is not going to help your image," he said.