WASHINGTON – As anti-war protesters began gathering for Saturday's march around the White House, dozens of former members of Congress urged the Bush administration to give weapons inspectors more time before taking military action against Iraq.
"Let us pull back from the brink of war and give peaceful solutions a chance to work," said a statement signed by more than 70 former lawmakers, all but four of them Democrats, and sent Friday to the White House.
The lawmakers cited failing support from traditional allies, concern for innocent Iraqis who may be killed by U.S. bombs and the potential for more terrorist attacks and instability in the Middle East as reasons for their opposition.
Some also noted the financial burden on the United States of waging a war amid a growing deficit and proposed spending cuts for domestic programs.
"The opposition of the former members of Congress here is based on moral, religious and strategic reasons," former Massachusetts Rep. Robert Drinan said at a news conference. "It is the wrong war at the wrong time and for the wrong reasons."
As the United States moves closer to military action, anti-war protests are increasing. In San Francisco, police arrested demonstrators who were trying to shut down the Pacific Stock Exchange on Friday.
The blocked a major intersection in the city's financial district before police began making arrests. There were no disruptions to trading, a stock exchange spokesman said.
On Saturday, an anti-war march around the White House is expected to draw tens of thousands, and other protesters are expected in California and overseas.
Sunday evening peace vigils to oppose war are planned across the world, starting in New Zealand and following sequentially in time zones in more than 2,800 cities in about 100 countries.
The Washington vigil will be at the Lincoln Memorial and organized by "Win Without War," a coalition that includes the NAACP, Greenpeace and several religious organizations that oppose military action and advocate more weapons inspections.