19 March 2011: 8th Anniversary of Iraq War, 10th in Afghanistan, WHILE THE BOMB PLAYS ON
In Washington, Chicago, San Francisco, New York, among other cities in the U.S., demonstrations and rallies commemorated the eighth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, with an additional protest against the longest war in U.S. history, in Afghanistan, which is approaching its eleventh year.
More than one hundred protesters in front of the White House gates were arrested after being asked to leave and refusing. They said that Obama should be jailed for his hawkish prolongation of warfare--not they. The castigation was light--the usual free ride to the police station etc.--but the message was clear. More publicity and attention were gained by the presence of Daniel Ellsberg, one of those arrested, as well as Ralph Nader.
The Delaware Valley Coalition of Peace Action took part in the countrywide commemoration with a rally at the Nassau Presbyterian Church on the Princeton University campus. Speakers included veterans-turned-doves, a parent of overseas military, and an author/former CIA analyst.
Leading the event was Rev. Bob Moore, executive director of the coalition, a spirited m.c. as determined as ever that nonviolence will be the ultimate victor over the bloodshed that stains history so often.
First to speak after a dramatic reminiscence by Bob was author and former CIA analyst Patrick Eddington, who said that his only good experience working there from 1988 to 1996 was meeting and then marrying his wife. His book The Long Strange Journey tells an often-censored (actual blackings-out by the CIA!) story about how the two Iraq wars are connected and what the real outcomes of the Gulf War are--how we personally were affected.
The book took him thirteen grueling years from beginning to end--Gulf War Syndrome afflicted one-third of the seven hundred thousand troops sent there and many of these people suffer even now, unrecovered. So there is no real end. A new, imperialist era followed. 9/11 was used by the Bush administration as a carte blanche to declare war wherever catalyst events relate somehow to that hideous day. Involvements since then span Somalia and Ethiopia as well as Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
Where 9/11 is concerned or al Qaeda is involved, this power is now invested in the president, previously and otherwise the prerogative of Congress. Another enemy, the Taliban, has somehow been inextricably associated with that subversive group, thanks to press leanings and the government of the first two presidential terms of the twenty-first century.
How can we call ourselves a republic, asked Eddington, when we spend more money on war than the rest of the countries of the world combined? As much as one trillion dollars in sum is the cost each year, a disgrace exacerbated by the pathetic condition of so many of the people at home, where humanitarian funding is constantly being reduced. National repentance and redemption are needed.
The next and youngest speaker, Jesse Hamilton, became a dove after experiencing war up close. Soon after, he helped to close the Army Experience Center at Lasalle University, his college. To this day he wears a tattoo in ancient Greek quoting the sixth-century BC lyric poet Pindar: "War is sweet to those who haven't experienced it."
Hamilton then turned to a more modern icon, the late author Kurt Vonnegut, who said that his purpose for writing was to "poison people with humanity."
He said he was happy to have "worked his way out of" his position in the military and looked forward to the day when his present mission, ending war, would no longer be necessary. By the time antiwar rallies convene, he said, "it's too late."
The bronze star he took away from his military experience he has used as an emblem of the hell that war is.
Muriel Burrows, pastor of Witherspoon Street Presbyterian Church in Princeton, the mother of an Iraq war marine sergeant whose son-in-law has deployed in Iraq four times and is now finishing up a fifth term in Afghanistan, spoke of the "anxiety brigade" of parents like her--frightened each time a car pulls up in front of their homes that the driver may bear tragic news to them.
One friend of her daughter suffered third-degree burns when a car bomb exploded in their midst; others among them were killed. Another young marine she knew "had enough" and shot his brains out on a military base in between deployments.
When she heard two excited young ingenues in military attire joyfully anticipating their first deployment, she asked one of them why he was going. "To kill me some "AY-rabs," was the answer.