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Standing firm for peace

The Sandy Peace Vigil takes an hour every Friday along Highway 26 near Fred Meyer to make its case for peace.

The group has gathered at the intersection since 2007, holding signs and waving to passing motorists, and receives honks of support from some. by: POST PHOTO: NEIL ZAWICKI - Susan Gates, Walt Trandum, and Mabel and Will Pool, stand along Highway 26 near Fred Meyer on Friday, Sept. 6. The group, since 2007, has held the weekly vigil to oppose war.

The group first convened with an original dedication to come back each week until troops come home from Iraq and then from Afghanistan.

Still standing for the cause in Afghanistan, the Peace Vigil’s interest of late has turned to a possible strike on the Syrian government.

For two weeks, President Barack Obama has been asking for congressional support of retaliatory action to the Syrian government’s alleged use of sarin gas on Aug. 21 against its own people in the two-year-old civil war. The gas attack reportedly killed 1,400 Syrian civilians — including children.

The possibility of a strike may be waning this week with reports of an agreement — brokered by Russia — that would have Syria surrender its chemical weapons stockpile.

But if that agreement were to crumble, President Obama may well continue his push for limited military strikes against the Syrian government and its leader, President Bashar Al Assad.

Obama’s initial push for a retaliatory strike gained the go-ahead from the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tepid support from the world community and a general coldness from the American people. A Sept. 6 Gallup poll reports 36 percent of Americans support taking military action, with a majority, 51 percent, opposing the plan.

Other polls put that number at 59 percent.

Now, with an uncertain future regarding Syria, the Sandy Peace Vigil stands roadside, firmly in the majority of Americans who oppose a strike by the U.S. military.

One participant is 87-year-old Will Pool. He served in the Navy during World War II and is a member of the local chapter of Veterans for Peace. He’s been a peace activist since 1948.

“I am the oldest and the only WWII vet in the chapter,” he said.

Pool, like his cohorts in the vigil, might surprise you when it comes to political affiliation. He did not vote for Obama, and in fact has voted for Green party candidates since 1996, with the exception of John Kerry, now the secretary of state and an ardent supporter of action against Syria.

“First of all, I think he’s lost his mind,” Pool said of the president. “The situation in Syria is utterly insane, and it could spark a world-wide conflict. I think the United Nations Secretary (Ban Ki-moon) was correct when he said we have to sit down for talks. War never solves anything, it only makes things worse.”

Next to Pool stands Mary Anderson, the founder of the Peace Vigil. She did vote for Obama, but cannot agree with his plans for Syria.

“Let’s put it this way, it’s the military industrial complex that has been at work since Eisenhower warned us about it,” she said. “And one president will not be able to reverse that.”

Anderson said the vigil group is not unified in politics, but in purpose.

“You won’t find a unity of opinion out here, we just all want the killing to end,” she said.

“I think really Obama’s presidency is just a continuation for George W. Bush,” Pool adds. “This is Bush’s fourth term. He’s rivaling Franklin Roosevelt.”

Anderson said the reasons for U.S. military adventures will always involve our own interests.

“If he’s not our dictator, we want him out. If he’s ours, we don’t,” she said. “And only if we want their resources do we intervene.”

Down the row stands Mabel Pool, Will’s wife. She voted for Obama, but she’s not happy with him these days.

“I am disappointed,” she said. “I feel he’s not doing exactly what he would like to do. I just don’t expect us to do the right thing once we’re in Syria. I just feel it will spread.”

Another regular, Walt Trandum, stands with a sign that reads, “Stop the Killing.” He said the developments in Syria represent a breakdown of control, and an absence of logic.

“The old quote,’Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong,’ comes to mind,” he said. “If our only option is to attack them, that’s a sad state of affairs.”