Veterans and anti-war advocates protested the United States going to war with Iran near the Roseburg Veterans Affairs Hospital on Friday.
Although only about 10 people showed up, protesters holding anti-war signs and American flags received a steady stream of supportive honks and waves from passing motorists.
Protesters were responding to several days of reports that U.S. armed forces might be preparing for a confrontation with Iran or the various militant groups it supports.
This week, White House officials reviewed plans to send 120,000 troops and other reinforcements to the Middle East and said they received intelligence showing an elevated threat to Americans in the region.
The credibility of that intelligence has been called into question by military officials in the U.S. and abroad, who say they don’t see an elevated threat. The White House has not released details about the threat.
On Wednesday, the State Department ordered all non-emergency personnel to leave Iraq.
Saudi Arabian officials said two oil tankers and other energy infrastructure was attacked over the weekend. Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed responsibility for the attacks Tuesday.
Both President Donald Trump and Iranian officials said they don’t want to go to war, but both countries have said they will respond with force if provoked.
The reports were reminiscent of the lead up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, according to Bob Heilman, secretary of the Douglas County chapter of Veterans for Peace, which organized the protest in Roseburg.
This week, several members of Congress made the same connection to Iraq as they complained the White House was not keeping them adequately informed.
“I’m old enough to remember the Gulf of Tonkin incident before Vietnam,” Heilman said. “Before Iraq, I was reminded of that. It’s a pattern.”
The size of the force reviewed by White House officials this week was similar to the one sent to the region before the invasion of Iraq.
As it started to rain, Henry Butler, a Vietnam veteran who attended the protest Friday, said he wanted raise awareness about the threat of a conflict.
“We need to do a better job of understanding what our government is doing,” Butler said.
He echoed Heilman’s connection to the lead up to the Iraq war.
“We were duped then and we’re being duped now,” Butler said of unspecified intelligence showing a threat.
Butler, who has combat-related post-traumatic stress disorder, said it’s hard for him to see armed conflicts treated lightly by elected officials.
“We don’t talk enough about the cost of war,” he said. “We lost 58,000 people in Vietnam and a lot of people are still dealing with the effects of that war today, every day.”
Before World War II, the U.S. never considered going to war unless there was near certainty Americans were in danger, Butler said.
“That’s not the case now,” he said. “It’s scary.”