Iraq peace rallies across Australia

There have been peace rallies across Australia Saturday as part of a global day of action to mark the anniversary of the start of United States-led military action in Iraq.

About two thousand people gathered to protest in Melbourne.

They were addressed by Terry Hicks, the father of terrorist suspect David Hicks who was detained without charge by the US during its campaign in Afghanistan.

Mr Hicks says David has been held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba for far too long.

“The meaning of that is that David, if he had done anything wrong, should have been charged or released two years ago.”

In Sydney thousands of people have gathered to mark the global day of action against Iraq’s occupation

Brandishing placards and banners, they chanted slogans against the US-led occupation of Iraq.

The rally, which at one point swelled to about six thousand people, included a large contingent of Muslims as well as other protesters dressed as George W. Bush and Prime Minister John Howard.

The former Australian intelligence expert turned federal political candidate, Andrew Wilkie, told protesters Iraq will continue to be unstable until all foreign troops are withdrawn.

Mr Wilkie, who is standing as a Greens candidate against the Prime Minister in the seat of Bennelong, says for every reported soldier’s death in Iraq, dozens of civilian deaths go unreported.

And he says it is not just Al Qaeda terrorists causing the violence, even though this is what the Australian and US governments would have people believe.

“Instead it is a complex combination of jihadists coming in, as they did come into Afghanistan during the 1980s when the Soviets occupied that land. But there is also a guerilla war against an army of occupation and we’re on the cusp of a genuine civil war, caused directly by the invasion.”

And around 1,000 anti-war protesters have gathered in Brisbane to demand an urgent withdrawal of troops
from Iraq.

Among the speakers at the rally was the federal Labor president Dr Carmen Lawrence, who warned Australia was paying a price for its involvement in the war.

But the Federal Defence Minister Robert Hill has defended Australia’s involvement in Iraq.

Senator Hill says he has never doubted the government’s decision to join the war in Iraq.

He says the war has made the world a safer place and given the Iraqi people the prospect of a better future.

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