Ron Kovic: Peace movement will be largest ever
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. capital is bracing for antiwar protests this weekend when demonstrators are expected to rally against a possible U.S.-led war on Iraq.
President Bush has threatened military action against Iraq if it refuses to abide by United Nations resolutions calling for it to disarm itself of what the White House believes are weapons of mass destruction. Baghdad has repeatedly denied possessing such weapons -- chemical, nuclear or biological.
Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic -- the author of the book "Born on the Fourth of July," which later became an Academy-award winning film -- will be a featured speaker at the protest on Saturday. He was paralyzed from the chest down in combat on January 20,1968, 35 years ago Monday.
He continues to work for peace and was interviewed Friday by CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
BLITZER: So what do you anticipate happening here in Washington this weekend?
KOVIC: This is extraordinary, Wolf. What's happening, Wolf, is just everyday Americans are beginning to come out and demonstrate against this war. People who never demonstrated before are coming out. There are going to be great numbers. It is going to be a very powerful demonstration in both Washington, D.C., as well as San Francisco and other cities all over the world tomorrow (Saturday).
There is a very powerful movement that is opposed to this war, and [it] is very, very concerned that President Bush's war against Iraq will hurt us and will make targets of terror of the American people, even greater targets of terror than before. We're deeply concerned.
BLITZER: How do you go about organizing these antiwar demonstrations without necessarily being accused of supporting Saddam Hussein, whom I assume you think is a bad guy, a very bad guy?
KOVIC: I very much care about this country. I served two tours of duty in Vietnam. I won the Bronze Star. I won the Purple Heart. I've been in this wheelchair for 35 years. Ironically, Dr. (Martin Luther) King's holiday on the 20th of January will be the very anniversary of the day that I was wounded and paralyzed, shot in Vietnam on January 20th, 1968.
This is a weekend that has a lot of significance to me personally. In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, in the spirit of nonviolence, not violence, not war, but in the spirit of nonviolence, we'll be marching with dignity in great numbers all over this country.
This is a movement, a peace movement that is going to become a citizens' protest movement unlike anyone ever -- any movement or protest movement ever seen before in this country. I'm very honored to be a part of it. I believe that the people are part of this movement care about this country deeply. Love this country and feel this country is being moved in a direction that can only hurt us.
We love this country, care about it, and we're not going to be afraid any longer. We're going to speak out, express ourselves, and hopefully, we will be able to change the direction that this country's moving in right now.
This is a movement that is so powerful I think that it can have sweeping changes.
BLITZER: Let me interrupt for a second, Ron. You and I are both old enough to remember the antiwar demonstrations in the late '60s, early '70s involving Vietnam.
Certainly that has not materialized yet. But are you suggesting that the level of those kinds of demonstrations could be repeated now?
KOVIC: I think it's going to be different. I think it's going to be larger. I think it's going to be even more powerful. It's going to be like nothing that's ever been seen before in this country. I really sense this to be an extraordinary crossroads in American history, a turning point in American history.
This year, Wolf, I believe politically speaking, historically speaking, as a nation it will be a period of extraordinary change, and I think you will see a lot of that change occur with Americans participating in the streets of this country peacefully, nonviolently, as citizens loving their country, caring about their country in mass numbers, and I think it's beginning.
You'll see it begin tomorrow. Watch and see what happens in Washington D.C. and in San Francisco tomorrow, and I think you will -- there will be an indication of what's to come.
I think this is going to become much more powerful than people realize, and already, we're beginning to see people come out of the woodwork, everyday people, who feel like something must be done, something must be said, and people are finding the courage to speak, the courage to raise their voices and the courage to make this -- to say, you know, I believe we can make this a better country. We don't need this violence. There is an alternative. There are other ways to solve our problems.