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Is the Iraq War Really Over?

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Today marks the 9th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. This is a good time to reflect upon the consequences of the invasion, one that many considered illegal, immoral and unjustified. We can also reflect on continuing U.S. involvement in overseas wars and the impact that involvement has here at home. And at a time when it seems the U.S. government is looking to create more difficult conditions for protest, it is a good time to reflect on the role that protest played in getting us here and what those protests are still aiming to achieve in the name of making the world and the U.S. genuinely safe and secure.

On December 17, 2011, the last U.S. soldier was photographed leaving Iraq and the media proclaimed an end to the war which began on March 19 th , 2003, exactly nine years ago. The war cost the U.S. taxpayer over $800 billion and claimed 4483 U.S. soldier's lives. At the war's height, the war in Iraq was costing taxpayers $12 billion each month!

Additionally, over 1 million Iraqi civilians died and 4.5 million became refugees. And over the last two years, more U.S. soldiers died by their own hands than in combat. On average, we lose 18 veterans to suicide each day. 

So while it is important to note an "official end" to the Iraq War, it is difficult to muster many cheers. Instead, it is critical to conduct an honest assessment of what happened and what continues to happen, especially since almost  nothing was done today to mark the 9th anniversary of the invasion. It seems that many have decided that the war against Iraq is over. 

First, we must acknowledge that U.S. presence in Iraq has not ended. The Project On Government Oversight (http://www.pogo.org) argues that taxpayers will now provide funding for 14,000 -- 16,000 contractors in Iraq. According to POGO, some of the   companies who will provide contractors in Iraq -  KBR, DynCorp and Blackwater  - are in the Project On Government Oversight's (POGO) Federal Contractor Misconduct Database ( www.contractormisconduct.org ).   All 3 contractors have extensive misconduct histories, yet they continue to operate.  

We must also recognize that had the Iraqis agreed, the U.S. would not have withdrawn from Iraq. The President was unable to secure the approval of the Iraqi government to grant immunity to U.S. military personnel, so the U.S. was forced to honor the Status of Forces Agreement and withdraw. 

Second, U.S. presence in Afghanistan remains -- and may extend past 2014. According to a December 20, 2011 article in the New York Times, the senior American commander in Afghanistan General John R. Allen suggested that American forces could remain in the country beyond 2014 despite increasing public opinion to withdraw forces from Afghanistan at an accelerated pace.

  Lastly, we need to acknowledge the role that "The Protester", Time Magazine's "Person of the Year," played in changing the course of this war and what these protesters would like to see in 2012.  

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  Bloomfield-based New Jersey Peace Action (NJPA) opposed the war in Iraq starting in the summer of 2002, many months before the war began. Over 800 protesters marched in Newark in December 2002, drawing the connection between the tremendous costs for war and how each dollar spent on the war would be a dollar taken away from programs and services that cities like Newark require. Hundreds participated in national marches in Washington, D.C. and millions rallied worldwide on February 19, 2003 trying to prevent the war in Iraq from ever beginning. That anti-war movement continued even after the first bombs were dropped in an effort to end the war as quickly as possible. Bloomfield residents started a weekly peace vigil in front of the Bloomfield Public Library shortly after the war began and continuing for years as part of this national and international effort to stop the war.

  While the consistent activism did not stop the U.S. from starting a war against Iraq, the ongoing activism did influence public opinion to the point where by 2006, the majority of those polled were against the war. The 2006 elections, when many pro-war elected officials were beaten by anti-war challengers, were seen as a reflection of this shift.   Public opinion against the Iraq war deterred decision-makers from authorizing an invasion of Iran.

Protests to end the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and to treat returning veterans well upon their return continue today. NJPA is part of a national "Move the Money" campaign to take at least 25% of the money from the military budget and move it into funding programs that address community needs. According to the National Priorities Project ( www.nationalpriorities.org ), war spending for Iraq and Afghanistan for 2011 was $169.4 billion! This is more than enough money to erase every state's budget deficit! No deficits mean more money for towns like Bloomfield and a lighter burden on local taxpayers.

NJPA, joined by Bloomfield residents, recently participated on day 170 of the People's Organization for Progress (POP) Campaign for Jobs, Peace, Equality and Justice. The Campaign honors the 381 day 1955 bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama which led to the desegregation of city buses. POP's call is for jobs -- with the understanding that the overseas wars must end so that money can be used to help create much-needed jobs.

All are invited to participate in the above efforts to end the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and bring the war dollars home for our communities -- for education, housing, jobs, health care and more!

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"Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed." -- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Madelyn Hoffman has been the Executive Director of Bloomfield-based New Jersey Peace Action since August 2000. 

 

Madelyn Hoffman is the Executive Director of NJ Peace Action, based in Bloomfield, New Jersey. She has held that position since August 2000. Madelyn Hoffman traveled to Afghanistan with Global Exchange in June 2005 and has given dozens of (more...)
 

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