Arab American demonstrate against Iraq bombing

CHICAGO, Dec 17 (South News) - Arab American and progressives took to the streets Thursday to slam the US-British air strikes on Iraq and demand an immediate end to UN sanctions blamed for the death of more than one million Iraqi civilians.

In downtown Chicago, some 300 lively, spirited and loud people representing a coalition of progressives, Arab Americans and other opponents of UN sanctions braved the cold to stage a noisy protest outside the Federal Building.

Waving placards proclaiming "Stop the Bombing", "War is the last refuge of scoundrels" or "Impeach the Liar (a reference to President Bill Clinton),the protesters chanted: "1,2,3,4 We don't want your racist war... 5,6,7,8 We will not cooperate."

Three demonstrators lay down on the street when the police were forcing them back on the sidewalk, and they were taken away in a paddywagon, as hundreds shouted to "let them go".

Reports said the US-British air campaign could claim 10,000 civilian lives in collateral damage, said Abu Obaidaeh, another Palestinian American. "For what?" he asked.The activists vowed to return on 12:00 pm Saturday,to the Federal Building.

In Washington, 100 protesters also peacefully demonstrated outside the White House under the watchful eye of police. A similar small protest was held in New York.

In other cities with sizable Arab populations, community leaders voiced outrage at Clinton's decision to order strikes only a few days before the start of the Moslem holy month of Ramadan.

"We see no reason for this unprovoked reaction by the US," said Osama Siblani, publisher of the Arab American News publication in Dearborn, Michigan. "It's solely to cover up the (Monica Lewinsky) scandal and divert attention from the impeachment vote (in the House of Representatives),"

Siblani said he was dismayed by polls indicating that 74 percent of Americans support the air strikes. He said he was being deluged with E-mails from non-Arab Americans who said they were ashamed of Clinton's action against Iraq.

"Why risk the lives of so many people, especially a this time of the year," said Betool Jabbori, a Dearborn resident whose parents immigrated from Iraq.

"We're very suspicious of the timing and we fear that the strikes will only make matters worse: entrenching Saddam in power and killing thousands of innocent people," said Imad Hamad of the Karbalaa Islamic Center in Dearborn.

He said a candlelight vigil was planned for Friday in Detroit to protest the military strikes. The Washington-based American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee denounced the strikes.

"It is appalling that that after eight years of sanctions, which UN agencies agree have been responsible for the deaths of at least one million Iraqi civilians, many of them children, that the United States government would seek to cause further death, pain and suffering to the people of Iraq," the committee said in a statement.