Thursday, March 19, 2009

Six years Too Long - End the War

I'm feeling more than a little embarrassed as I write this post. Six years ago tonight, bombs and missiles began crashing down on Baghdad and other targets, in what was arrogantly billed as the "Shock & Awe" opening to the Iraq war.  
Each year since, we've had some kind of protest or vigil. From 2004 through 2007, we helped organize sizeable peace rallies here in Fayetteville.

But this year, the anniversary crept up on me, and as I write we are scrambling to put on a small vigil downtown tomorrow. It's bound to be small; but as far as I can tell, it will be pretty much all the local action there is.

We're still pretty busy otherwise: our GI Rights Hotline is taking lots of calls; our "Sgt. Abe" character is still working to bring more Truth into Recruiting; and we're pressing for
 accountability for the torture that so 
disgraced the nation in recent years.

Yet there's no denying that the peace movement in March 2009 is in deep disarray. National groups are fading; uncertainty is widespread about how to project a strong peace message given the changes in Washington. And it seems that everything, even wars and rumors of war, is being swept from our field of vision by the noise and impact of the economic collapse.

No wonder it's been hard to stay focused lately. But here it is, the beginning of Year Seven of the Iraq war, and at Eugene O'Neill wrote in "Death of a Salesman," Attention must be paid.
So tomorrow I'll be carrying the poster I made in the summer of 2003, when the number of US casualties was about 250, a figure that was updated for each new vigil.

The sign is scuffed, smudged and battered now, held together with tape. But the message still appplies, the numbers are current, and the totals are depressingly familiar: 4200+ US troops killed; 500,000+ Iraqi civilians dead.

And there are more unhappy numbers that don't fit on the sign:

     -- Five million Iraqis turned into homeless refugees in their own homeland;
     -- More than 50,000 US troops seriously wounded;
     -- Hundreds more dead by suicide, in Iraq and afterward;
     -- Un-numbered military families torn apart by the stresses of repeated deployments;
     -- The financial costs of the war are well into multiple trillions of dollars (which 
used to be a lot of money), with no end in sight.

And despite announced plans to pull out some troops from Iraq, there's another war in afghanistan waiting to claim them.

Which reminds me -- I was against the Afghanistan war first, all the way back in late 2001. And now, more than seven years later, this response has not dimmed: Afghanistan is a quagmire. Despite the skill and courage of US troops, I agree with military columnist and Vietnam veteran Joseph Galloway, who recently wrote:
  "The Taliban insurgents now have a chokehold on as much as 70 percent of Afghanistan, and they're proving to be flexible and adaptive in their attacks on American, NATO and Afghan forces.

If the new American team has some new ideas about how to succeed in Afghanistan, now would be the time to lay them out. Nothing that Alexander the Great, Queen Victoria or Leonid Brezhnev tried in their attempts to subdue the quarrelsome Afghan tribes worked, and nothing we’ve tried in the last eight years has, either.

While we're waiting for a new strategy, perhaps we should break out some old Kipling:

"When wounded and left on Afghanistan's plain

"And the women come out to cut up your remains . . . ."

Etc., etc."

Current plans call for leaving at least 50,000 US troops in Iraq for the indefinite future. To me, that suggests that there may well be many more such anniversaries to mark, before the sentiment we saw on this Welcome Home banner at Camp Lejeune is fulfilled.

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