Outside the U.S. Military Recruiting Station at 111 E. Broadway, a group of anti-war demonstrators gather, holding signs that read “BE ALL WE TELL YOU TO BE” and “BE ALL THAT YOU CAN BE: TORTURE, RAPE, PILLAGE.”
At the sound of a hand-held siren, the group begins a re-enactment of an Iraqi prisoner being abused by an American soldier.
A man wearing a hood and clothed in a green tarp is led to a concrete block.
“Where are the weapons of mass destruction?” demands the soldier.
“I don’t know,” the prisoner replies meekly.
The soldier asks the question two more times, as a man donning a President Bush mask nods his head approvingly. The “prisoner,” sweat dripping down his arms, is then forced onto the block and wires are attached to his body.
The demonstration was held to mark the transfer of power in Iraq, which occurred Monday, two days earlier than expected.
The event was sponsored by the Midwest Fellowship of Reconciliation, the St. Francis Catholic Worker Community and the Missouri Green Party.
Many in attendance said that while the U.S. has declared Iraq a sovereign nation, American troops need to be removed in order for the country to be completely independent. Steve Jacobs, a member of the St. Francis Catholic Worker Community and Veterans for Peace, said the event was organized to “get the word out that torture is a form of U.S. policy.”
Following the re-enactment, Jacobs recited specific examples of prisoner abuse in places including Vietnam, Central America and Afghanistan. “The use of torture that has become known today is not something new,” he said.
Tom Sager, a member of Veterans for Peace, traveled to Columbia from Rolla to attend the demonstration. Sager has been to Iraq four times with Veterans for Peace to rebuild water treatment centers. He said during his last trip a year ago, Iraqis expressed two main viewpoints.
“The first one was that Americans have no business here (in Iraq),” said Sager. “The second was that the Americans are here, we might as well give them our oil and make the best of it. The former is much more prevalent now.”
Elaine Hartley, a member of the Missouri Green Party and Women in Black, wore a sign that read “WHO PROFITS FROM TORTURE?”
“I feel like that if you don’t object, “ she said, “you become complicit.”
A few hours later, a half-a-block away at Broadway and Providence, more demonstrators gathered for their weekly protest against the continued presence of American troops in Iraq. More than 40 people attended — double the number that usually show up, said organizer Mark Haim — some carrying signs that read “REAL SOVEREIGNTY” or “U.S. OUT NOW.”
“I’m here this particular Wednesday because of the whole sovereignty issue,” said Robin Remington, a member of Global Action to Prevent War. “It’s a rotten farce. Iraqis don’t have control over their military or government.”