Iraq war veterans opposed to the war went on mock patrols and staged mock arrests in a guerrilla theater piece in New York City.
The protest, organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War, was repeated at busy locations around Manhattan including Times Square, Union Square and the World Trade Center site.
Wearing camouflage fatigues and pointing imaginary guns, a half-dozen veterans subdued a crowd of anti-war protesters playing Iraqi civilians, throwing some of them roughly to the ground and handcuffing them.
"We believe that this is bringing the truth of the war here, the reality of the war here," said Demond Mullins, 25, of Brooklyn, New York, who served in Iraq as an infantryman with the Army National Guard in 2004 and 2005. "We should be ever mindful of the troops who are giving their lives, and we should be ever mindful of the dishonesty, the absence of truth that has caused us to engage in this war."
The protest was dubbed Operation First Casualty, recalling the adage that truth is the first casualty in war.
As of Saturday, at least 3,450 members of the U.S. military have died since the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count. President George W. Bush signed a war spending bill Friday that does not set a date for U.S. troop withdrawals.
"By Bush logic to support the troops means to fund the mission," said Adam Kokesh, 25, of Washington, D.C., who served in Iraq with the Marine Corps in 2004. "But the more the troops are funded, the more of them are going to die."
Michael Blake, 24, of Binghamton, New York, who served as a U.S. Army supply specialist in Iraq in 2003 and 2004, said U.S. troops will not succeed in quelling the violence there. "The Sunni and the Shi'a are going to continue to battle it out for dominance whether we are there or not," he said.
Thomas Brinson, 64, of Long Beach, New York, dusted himself off in Union Square after playing the role of Iraqi civilian, face down on the pavement with a bag over his head.
"I'm a Vietnam veteran, and what's happening today in Iraq is exactly what happened 40 years ago when I was in Vietnam," he said.