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We must also recognize that had the Iraqis agreed, the U.S. would not have withdrawn from Iraq.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.
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!
"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.
Madelyn Hoffman has been the Executive Director of Bloomfield-based New Jersey Peace Action since August 2000.