Mary Alice Horrigan’s son died in Iraq on July 16, 2005. He was 40 years old, married, with a young daughter. He had completed nearly 20 years of service in the United States Army and was due to return home in a few days when he was attacked and killed during a midnight mission in Al-Qaim.
On Saturday, Master Sgt. Robert Horrigan’s grieving mother told a crowd of anti-war demonstrators in Bangor that her son died believing in his mission, convinced that it was better to confront the terrorist threat in the Middle East than to confront it on U.S. soil.
“And I’m glad he believed in it,” she said, visibly distraught at the microphone set up in the park’s gazebo. “If you have to die for a lie, it should be one you believe in.”
Mary Alice Horrigan, who lives in Dedham, was one of several speakers who rallied the crowd of about 350 people who gathered in Paul Bunyan Park to demonstrate against the war in Iraq. Horrigan spoke forcibly against the war, U.S. Congress and the administration of President George W. Bush.
She noted that millions of Iraqis have been killed, maimed and displaced during the American occupation, while nearly 4,000 American troops have died and thousands more have been severely injured.
“There are many coming home blinded, amputees and shell-shocked. And this war has caused more head injuries than any other,” Horrigan said. “With modern medicine, many will come home, but with scars deep within.”
She called on the American people to hold Bush accountable for misleading the public on the issue of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and said members of Congress have failed to carry out the will of the majority of Americans by ending this country’s military involvement there.
Other speakers at the rally included Doug Allen of the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine who said American troops should be out of Iraq “in a matter of months, not a matter of years.” He said the United States should shut down its military bases in the country and relinquish its claim on Iraq’s oil resources.
“This is not our oil that Iraqis have somehow hidden under their sand,” he said.
Allen said it was “arrogant” for the United States to claim its military force has a responsibility to “fix” Iraq. The best outcomes will be achieved through diplomatic channels and a commitment to helping the embattled nation rebuild its utilities, roads, health care system “and all the other things we have destroyed,” Allen said.
In addition to the lineup of speakers, the event featured music, drumming and chanting. The names of some Americans and Iraqis killed in the fighting were read aloud. A group of about a dozen participants staged a “die-in,” lying down on the grass to represent the deaths. A human-sized replica of the Statue of Liberty, wheeled on stage in a coffin to symbolize the death of civil liberties under the Bush administration, was resurrected as the crowd recited from the Declaration of Independence. A group of participants encircled the gazebo with banners bearing the names of Americans who have been killed in Iraq.
A line of children’s shoes ringed the gazebo, each pair bearing the name of an Iraqi child killed in the conflict.
Those attending the event carried signs and banners to demonstrate their opposition to the war, their support for impeaching the president, and their backing of liberal presidential candidates such as Dennis Kucinich and Barak Obama.
Bob Murphy, 50, of Bangor watched the proceedings approvingly.
“I knew before we went in [to Iraq] that it would be like this,” he said. “I knew it wasn’t going to work.” Murphy, a self-described “dyed-in-the-wool Democrat,” faulted Republican leaders for not thinking critically about the war and said Democrats are fearful of looking soft on terrorism in the coming elections.
“If we leave next year or 20 years from now, it will be the same,” Murphy said. “The Iraqis will take their country back. … We seem to think we can do whatever we want because we’re big and strong, but it doesn’t always work.”
Bonnie and Gary Robinson drove to Bangor from their home in Mariaville to attend the demonstration.
“Because we love our country,” said Bonnie Robinson.
“And because we don’t agree with the war and we never have,” said her husband, who carried an American flag. “I feel bad for all those poor guys in Iraq,” he went on. “A lot of them probably believe in what they’re doing, but you don’t ever want to tell a mother her son died for nothing.”
At about 2:30 p.m., participants spread out along Main Street with their signs and banners. The line stretched from the Paul Bunyan statue to Shaw’s supermarket and attracted a steady stream of supportive honks and waves from passing drivers. A few motorists shouted obscenities and other negative responses.
The Bangor demonstration was coordinated by a number of organizations in central and eastern Maine. Saturday’s especially pleasant fall weather may have worked against planners who had hoped for a larger turnout, but Ilze Petersons of the Peace and Justice Center in Bangor said the rally served its purpose.
“It is wonderful that people came to share their grief and their hope,” she said. “We need to energize ourselves to end this war and not wait for the next president to do it.”
Petersons said the Peace and Justice Center will organize carpools to a regional antiwar rally in Boston on Oct. 27.
Interested area residents can call 942-9342 for more information, or go to www.peacectr.org.