Not in our name

Hundreds in Reno join the nation in calling for peace

A family affair: Hunter, 2, and his dad, Corey Lewis, a UNR instructor and grad student, express their dismay at the idea of war with Iraq. Hunter’s mom, Micki, made the T-shirts.

A family affair: Hunter, 2, and his dad, Corey Lewis, a UNR instructor and grad student, express their dismay at the idea of war with Iraq. Hunter’s mom, Micki, made the T-shirts.

Photo by David Robert

The peace rally Saturday afternoon on the University of Nevada, Reno, campus ran a bit late. One family was on its way back to the car when they ran into an oversized walking caricature. A gigantic George W. Bush wearing robes and what looked like an oil-rigging dunce cap was headed into the crowd. A boy of about kindergarten age darted in front of the figure, waving arms, trying to get the president’s attention. But it must have been a bit hard for the inner Bush to see through that oversized papier-mâché head. He didn’t respond visibly to the boy, who turned and ran off to catch up with his mom.

“Mom!” the boy yelled as he ran. “George Bush is a robot!”

Event organizers were stoked. Members of the Patriots for Peace & Justice and the Reno Anti-war Coalition, who organized Saturday’s event, said they were thrilled with the turnout.

By the time the No War Rally began at 12:30 p.m., a few hundred people had gathered in the Manzanita Bowl on the south side of the campus. And more were streaming in from all directions, carrying signs. By the time the crowd peaked at 1 p.m., it appeared to be at least 600 strong. Young families and aging hippies. Pierced punks and veterans of foreign wars.

As veteran Reno journalist Dennis Myers walked to campus, he recalled organizing a McGovern rally in the Manzanita Bowl during the war in Vietnam. This year, by the way, Myers will report for Channel 5’s Capitol Issues during the coming session of the Nevada Legislature.

David Highsmith sang peace songs, accompanying himself with a guitar and harmonica. The Wildebeest Performance Group performed a routine that included the serene weaving of a web—strong enough to hold one male dancer—with a large ball of cord.

Shane Piccinini, wearing a stars-and-stripes sweater, spoke on behalf of the Sierra Interfaith Action for Peace.

“It’s true that Saddam Hussein is capable of monstrous acts,” he said. “But to respond with violence does not aid the oppressed. The international community must be given time. Diplomacy has a proven track record. … We are negotiating with North Korea, so why are we bullying Iraq?”

Piccinini received hearty applause.

The weather was perfect. Warm sunshine poured into the bowl, and those who sat on the hill behind the speakers could hear and see just about everything. The young folks from Food Not Bombs who feed Reno’s homeless on Sundays were there, wearing torn black things. One sat on a bucket covered in stickers that said things such as: “Don’t shop, it just encourages them.”

More young leftists were wandering around. There was one young man wearing a “Free Mumia” T-shirt and another sporting the likeness of Che Guevara.

On one side of the crowd, a sign read, “Social workers for peace.” Similar sentiments were expressed on poster boards throughout the throng.

“Pagans for peace.”

“Buddhists for peace.”

“Pomeranians for peace.”

The latter sign was worn by a small furry black dog named Monty who’d brought his human, Ann Daugherty, to the rally.

Monty seemed the perfect-sized dog for a war protest.

“He’s all about food, not bombs,” Daugherty said, giving Monty a treat out of a plastic bag.

Many other, larger dogs in attendance didn’t seem as committed to peace, and a few snarling episodes were quickly stymied by alert humans.

Another sign read: “Vets for peace. I served. Bush deserted.”

Jim “Diego” Martin, 65, wandered through the crowd, wearing a jacket that identified him as a Vietnam vet. Martin did two tours there as a helicopter pilot and maintenance tech.

“I see quite a few vets here,” Martin said. “I’ll bet if you asked how many were vets, a lot of hands would go up. … I don’t know of a veteran who served in a war who wouldn’t be opposed to it.”

Not far from where we stood, there was a two-person counter-protest that had attracted the attention of all the media on its arrival. A woman carried flags and a man had a sign that said, “Support our troops. Go get ’em, George W.” At one point, these two were knee-deep in reporters, photographers and TV cameras.

Dr. Tariq Kuraishy of the Northern Nevada Muslim Center said that he’s been thinking about what it means to be American.

“It means you stand up for freedom, you stand up for justice, you stand up for peace,” he said. He spoke of growing up during a time of war in 1967.

“I do not want my children to live through another war as I lived through,” he said, then quoted words from the Koran. “'The most pious is one who loves peace and justice.’ By standing for peace, we will keep America beautiful.”

Declaring war on Iraq fits none of the attributes of the Just War Theory, said keynote speaker Fr. Chuck Durante of Reno’s Catholic Diocese. To begin with, Durante said that in this era of weapons of mass destruction, it’s doubtful that any war could be considered “just.” But even if you think this is possible, U.S. action against Iraq meets none of the established criteria of the Just War Theory.

“We must not be the first aggressors—ever!” Durante said. A just war depends on right intentions and justifiable ends, but our nation’s intentions are “muddy at best,” he said, and there’s no “probability of success … that doesn’t produce evils greater than the evil that exists.”

Also, a just war must be made with a just cause against an enemy that has inflicted “lasting, grave and certain” damage.

“But no damage has been inflicted on the United States by Iraq,” Durante said. “The most damage that’s been done in the past decade was done by the economic boycott after the Gulf War—and that was damage done to the Iraqi people.”

One young family attended the event wearing white T-shirts with anti-war slogans. Two-year-old Hunter Lewis wore a shirt that read, “Make (heart symbol), not war.” His dad, Corey Lewis, 30, wore a shirt with bars: “Wanted: G. W. Bush, world’s most dangerous terrorist.”

Lewis teaches at UNR while pursuing a doctoral degree in the English literature and environment program. He said he hoped the anti-war protests could raise awareness of the United States’ role in destabilizing the Iraqi nation.

“This is nothing other than the protection of U.S. oil interests abroad," he said. "The damage to Iraqi civilians, the damage to our troops and the damage to the environment are too big a price to pay for cheap oil."