Anti-Iraq war parents to take protests across nation

Wednesday, August 24, 2005; 2:03 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Parents of soldiers killed in Iraq plan to follow President George W. Bush around the country in the coming months, hoping to generate nationwide anti-war sentiment after camping out at his Texas ranch.

Through much of August, Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq, has stationed herself with other protesters outside Bush's Crawford ranch, garnering international media coverage at a time when more than 1,800 U.S. military have died in the Iraq conflict.

Sue Niederer, who with Sheehan and other families of dead soldiers founded "Gold Star Families for Peace," on Wednesday vowed to pursue the president with her anti-war message.

"We are going to be continuously on Mr. Bush and make him understand we are not going away. We are very, very steadfast in what we doing," said the 56-year-old housewife, real estate agent and substitute teacher from Hopewell, New Jersey.

Niederer, whose 24-year-old son Seth Dvorin died in Iskandariya, Iraq, on February 3, 2004, said she and others plan to travel to wherever Bush will be speaking.

Anti-war groups kept the pressure on the president this week as he made speeches in Utah and Idaho, where he promised that U.S. troops would remain in Iraq to complete their job to honor those who already died there -- a logic Niederer disputed.

"You are dishonoring the soldiers, you are not honoring them," she said of Bush's speech.

"Given the reasons for why we went into this war, why have their deaths not been in vain?" she asked, referring to Bush's now disproved pre-war assertion in 2003 that Iraq might have stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Sheehan, the Vacaville, California, mother whose son Casey was killed in combat in Iraq, has become the center of the anti-war effort by camping out near Bush's ranch and demanding to meet face-to-face with the president.

She plans to speak in Brunswick, Maine, in September and in Brooklyn, New York, in October.

After Bush ends his Crawford stay at the end of August, the anti-war families are also considering crisscrossing America in buses in hopes of building a national protest movement similar to that seen during the Vietnam War, when public sentiment against the war contributed to the eventual U.S. withdrawal.

"This is Vietnam No. 2. As we are seeing in the polls, the American people are beginning to realize this war was created on lies, deceit and deception," Niederer said.

A majority of the U.S. public doubts the United States will win the war in Iraq and believes the Bush administration deliberately misled Americans over Iraq's weapons capabilities, according to a July 27 USA Today/CNN/Gallup Poll.

It was the first poll to find that more than half of Americans -- 51 percent -- believed the administration was deliberately misleading when it asserted that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

But creating a Vietnam-style nationwide protest against the Iraq conflict will be near impossible without a draft to focus dissent, said Stanford University Political Science Professor and Hoover Institution Senior Fellow Morris Fiorina.

"If you had a draft, you would affect everybody and break beyond the usual protesters," Fiorina said.