Counter Demonstrators Support Iraq Policy

While thousands marched in Washington against the Iraq war, a counter demonstration was also held in Washington on Saturday to show support for American policy in Iraq.

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JACKI LYDEN, Host:

There is also anti-anti-war demonstration going on today. And for that, I would like to go to our colleague a toss away, Allison Keyes.

(SOUNDBITE OF ANTI-ANTI-WAR DEMONSTRATORS)

Unidentified Group: You will pay. You will pay. You will pay.

ALLISON KEYES: The people of anti-anti-war rally were clearly angry. Standing in a sea of American flags inches deep in freezing mad, they came from across the country to send a message to those other protesters rallying against the war. Eight-three-year-old Air Corps First Lieutenant John Van Lair(ph), a World War II veteran, says he came to give a talking to to the people he calls freaks.

JOHN VAN LAIR: I want to send a message that there are one hell of a lot of real Americans left in this world. We are not dying out.

KEYES: Despite the biting wind and a sound system that kept shorting out because of falling ice from last night's storm, demonstrators like Debra Johns(ph) of Roseville, California made themselves heard. She said everyone should be proud to say they were here on this day.

DEBRA JOHN: You were there when the patriots in America told the traitors in America to go live in another country.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHEERING)

KEYES: Speaking through bullhorn, Johns drew cheers as she blasted the way the media have covered her movement.

JOHNS: When the media slanders our brave soldiers and call them mercenaries and murderers, they are not these faithful.

KEYES: Many here argued that the so-called mainstream media distort and ignored their side. And today, there seemed to be little coverage by major media outlets, an area that bristles with cameras and microphones for most anti-war rallies was occupied mostly by veterans with their own video cameras. Even C- Span wasn't here.

But this group, including Army Colonel Harry Reilly(ph) had something they wanted the troops to hear loud and clear on this fourth anniversary of the war.

HARRY REILLY: We are here to say to our troops in harm's way, we have your back right now.

KEYES: And for anti-war demonstrators passed the anti anti-war demonstrators, there were a few funny moments as the two sides shouted across wooden barriers at each other.

A glaring blonde female anti-war protester faced off against a brown-eyed man on the pro-troop side.

Unidentified Man: If you switch sides, I'd give you my phone number.

KEYES: But the sentiment here at what was called the Gathering of Eagle's rally was deadly serious. M.J. Castison(ph) of Oregon was here, wearing dog tags and medals belonging to her son who was shot down over Mosul at 2003. Her message to the troops was simple.

CASTISON: We understand the mission and their service to our country. Our sons and daughters before them gave their lives for freedom in this country, and these young men and women stepped up in spite of that, knowing that they were going to be risking theirs too. So today is a day of appreciation.

KEYES: The anti anti-war demonstrators were planning to spend the day guarding the Vietnam War Memorial from the anti-war protesters.

Allison Keyes, NPR News, Washington.

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