CINCINNATI (TDB) -- The president of a national organization of wounded U.S. military veterans is "livid" that peace demonstrators plan to gather March 17 near the Wall that memorializes Vietnam War dead, then march on the Pentagon. Tom Poulter, national commander of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, said veterans will be holding vigil at the memorial on March 17, and warned that anybody from the peace movement who tried to get too close might be at risk of physical harm.
But the peace march organizers say the veterans are being "callously" manipulated, and that it is an outright lie they will be at the Wall.
"It would be best for those people to gather some other place," Poulter warned. "In fact, there will be many Vietnam veterans guarding the Wall, and I can assure you it will not be a peaceful situation should anti-war demonstrators try to damage or deface the memorial. There are those who will demonstrate who are not worthy enough to stand near the Wall, much less touch it."
The Military Order of the Purple Heart has about 40,000 members, most of them wounded in Vietnam. Poulter's comments were contained in a press release issued by his organization, and they show how over-heated passions are becoming. In fact, there is a campaign under way to bring
VETERANS and Iraq War supporters to Washington on the same day as the march on the Pentagon.
GROUPS ORGANIZING THE PEACE MARCH say the allegations being spread among veterans groups are false. The marchers, who plan to protest the fourth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, say they will be in Constitution Gardens near the Wall, but not at it. Loudspeakers for the anti-war rally are to be pointed away from the Wall so the rhetoric will not wash over those visiting the site.
The March on the Pentagon movement is backed by Cindy Sheehan and Ramsey Clark, a former U.S. attorney general who has been active in the peace movement for decades. The group says the war supporters "are now callously trying to manipulate Vietnam veterans by spreading rumors that the March on the Pentagon will defile the Vietnam Memorial. This lie should be treated with the same contempt that people have for the other lies promoted by Bush and his followers to justify an illegal war of aggression . . ."