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Vets for Peace Call on Public to End the War in Afghanistan

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - Over 50 people, donning sky blue scarves and ribbons, gathered in on the Pentacrest at the University of Iowa on Sunday to speak, sing, and shout for peace in Afghanistan.

The observance, organized by Veterans for Peace Chapter 161, marks 11 years since the U.S. first invaded Afghanistan on Oct. 7, 2001. And Sunday, participants were calling on the public to sign a petition to United Nations to negotiate for a cease fire in Afghanistan on behalf of the Afghan Peace Volunteers.

The group is hoping to gather at least 1,000 signatures by Oct. 19, in order to present the petition to United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki Moon when he visits Drake University in Iowa later this month.

"They (Afghan Peace Volunteers) corageously are asking for 2 million friends, and they are asking for a path to peace in Afghanistan which is something that you really don't hear from any of the politicians or the military people," Ed Flaherty, president of Veterans for Peace, chapter 161 said. "They talk about a strategy of maybe getting out sometime in the next decade or two -- victory is not talked about, peace is not talked about. We need to leave Afghanistan militarily, peace in Afghanistan is not going to happen as long as we have a military presence there."

During the observation, demonstrators read names of Iowa soldiers who have died in Afghanistan, as well as a very incomplete list of Afghan citizens who have been killed in the war thus far. The group then discussed how the war has a negative impact on children in Afghanistan, specifically citing the financial and physical costs of war.

"Sometimes children in this country become amputees because they have to have a medical procedure and have a leg removed to save their lives, sometimes they're in an accident and they have a leg that's severed and it can't be re-attached, but this, there is no excuse for this," said Bryson Dean, who identified herself as a Grandmother for Peace, in reference to a mural of an Afghani child wearing prosthetics being displayed at the observance. "Collateral damage is a word that we hear, and it's used to deflect us from understanding what this is. This is nothing more than criminal child abuse, paid for by our tax dollars."

According to the a recent report from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, issued July 2012, there have been 1,145 civilian casualties in Afghanistan so far this year. The report says there have been approximately 6,478 civilian deaths since 2007.

Though President Barack Obama has said he plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, Flaherty said that effort is not soon enough and would likely occur much closer to 2015. He added that the option of peace and the issue of America's wars is not discussed nearly enough by the public, or politicians.

"Peace is discussed almost none. The difference between the two presidential candidates his how much military strength does it take to make peace, and Mr. (Mitt) Romney says, well it takes more than what Mr. Obama says," Flaherty said. "Whatever we invest in we will get, and if we invest in war, that's what we will get."

Though Romney has not outlined a specific Afghanistan foreign policy plan on his website, he told a crowd at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in July that his plan would include a "successful transition to Afghan security forces by the end of 2014," according to a transcript the speech.

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