RENO — More than 200 anti-war activists rallied Wednesday at the federal building in Reno to protest the five-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, waving U.S. flags and signs reading, "Support the troops, end the war."
"We are no longer a superpower. We are no longer respected. We go to war with reckless abandon," said Nancy Price, who served 24 years in the U.S. military before retiring in 2002 as a chief master sergeant with the Air National Guard.
"We might have the richest individuals, but we are not the richest country. It will take decades to repair the damage of this administration," she said.
Critics of the war met with aides of members of Nevada’s congressional delegation earlier in the day, then returned to the protest with signs that read "Impeach," "Stop the Killing," "Fund people, fund peace" and "Let Exxon send their own troops."
"We’re trying to emphasize how long it has gone on and that there is no end in sight," said Lisa Stiller of the Reno Anti-War Coalition.
The coalition and Sierra Interfaith Action for Peace has staged protests and candlelight vigils at the building every week since the war began — a total of more than 250 weeks. They have been calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq for more than three years.
"It has to start now," said Steve Gifford, a member of the coalition.
"We need to withdraw equipment and our people and do it in an orderly fashion. We need to watch our tail on the way out, but it needs to start and it needs to start immediately," he said. "If we can take over a country in two months’ time, it shouldn’t take much longer than that to withdraw from it."
Smaller vigils were held Wednesday elsewhere in the state.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., long has called for the the removal of troops from Iraq, but Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., has warned against a premature withdrawal.
Reid said Wednesday that as the nation enters its sixth year of fighting in Iraq, it is clear the war has "made America less secure and has been a major influence on our weakening economy."
"We owe it to all Americans to change course in Iraq and bring a responsible end to this war. Each day that we continue our involvement in this intractable civil war is another missed opportunity to focus on our priorities here at home," the Senate majority leader said.
Ensign said U.S. soldiers are "making history as they bring stability to one of the most volatile regions of the world and keep al-Qaida in Iraq on the run."
"As we remember the brave Nevadans who gave their lives during this war, we must ensure that their sacrifices and their families’ losses were not in vain. We do that by standing with the Iraqi people as they fight the terrorists and work to bring peace to their country," he said.
Ensign added that when he visited Iraq last month, he felt a "renewed optimism for the future of the Iraqi people."
"Unbelievable strides have been made in their march toward freedom. Where there is progress, there is hope for a better future," he said.