Across the street from San Diego's downtown federal building, a dozen police officers watch anti-war demonstrators unload banners, placards and megaphones. It's 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 10-less than 48 hours since U.S. led forces began their attack on Fallujah-but local demonstrators, nearly 100 strong, have quickly gathered to protest the assault.
It turns out the police presence isn't necessary. As rallies go, this one is mostly paint-by-numbers: angry shouts through a crackling PA, signs portraying Bush as the devil and black and white photographs of soldiers killed in Iraq.
The only twist in protest formula comes when local activist and event emcee Martin Eder introduces a young, clean-cut man dressed in a desert-camouflage army jacket covered in anti-war pins. The jacket isn't meant to be retro-cool, instead it's the actual jacket Tim Goodrich wore during his four years with the U.S. Air Force-Goodrich served in the Middle East during the United States' invasion of Afghanistan.
"What we're doing in Fallujah right now is guerrilla warfare, that's the best definition of what we are doing right now," the young man tells the crowd coolly. Unlike Eder and previous speakers, Goodrich speaks matter-of-factly, with little fire. "The only thing we are doing is further infuriating the civilian population.... We're doing a great injustice to these people. We need to bring the troops home now."
Goodrich doesn't resemble the stereotypical anti-war veteran-with his clean-shaven face and short hair, he still looks like a soldier. But everyone from the man with the bushy white beard and the "Bread not Bombs" sign to the elderly woman leading '60s-era protest chants are glad he's here.
"He adds a sense of legitimacy to the movement," says one veteran protestor who refuses to give his name to the press.
But Goodrich shouldn't be seen as a novelty in the modern peace movement. He says there are a lot more like him on the way.
A few weeks after the Marines hit the ground in Iraq, Goodrich finished his service and got out of the military. Immediately upon returning home, he began speaking out against the war at rallies like the one on Wednesday.
"I was deployed in Saudi Arabia in October of 2002 around the time [the Bush administration] first started talking about going to war in Iraq," says Goodrich. "I figured if I was going to fight in this war I better know about it. So I did as much research as I could with the resources I had over there and I came to realize the war would be wrong."
Through his involvement in the anti-war movement, Goodrich met Michael Hoffman-a lance corporal in a Marine Corps artillery battery during the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Hoffman asked Goodrich join him in founding Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW), a group made up of veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The group's mission is to save lives and end the violence in Iraq by pushing for the immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces, says Hoffman. He adds that IVAW also works to ensure that the troops are taken care of when they return home.
Both Hoffman and Goodrich say they've seen the veterans' group gain momentum as the war grinds on.
"We went public about three and a half months ago," says Goodrich. "We started off with only nine people and now we've grown to almost 80. We've got anonymous active-duty members that are serving in Iraq right now who are thanking us for our work and telling us to keep at it."
Goodrich is the West Coast representative for IVAW, but-in concert with Hoffman on the East Coast-he's in contact with dozens of active-duty solders, reservists and recent veterans from across the country. As a group they trade war stories and public-relations strategies for escalating their anti-war campaign. Being inside this network of vets and active soldiers, Goodrich says morale in the military is dwindling. A mission like the one in Fallujah is only encouraging enemies and disheartening U.S. forces, he says.
"The guys that are over there don't know what their mission is," he says. "They are just fighting day to day for themselves, just to save their lives and save the lives of their buddies. They are starting to ask, "Why am I even here?'"