March, Rally, Vigil on 4th Anniversary of War

(Urbana) Four years ago this month the US launched an illegal, immoral and ill-thought-out war of aggression against Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of needless deaths and billions of wasted (and much needed) dollars later, the Bush Administration is threatening another unprovoked war, this time against Iran. Local opponents of this shoot-first policy will gather twice in coming weeks to mark the anniversary and to protest. And some will make the long trek to Washington DC to protest there. First, locally, on Thursday March 15 at 11am, anti-war students will march from the Illini Union down Green Street, then back for a rally on the Quad at 12noon. And on Monday March 19 at 12noon, community members opposed to war will hold a vigil for peace at the Veterans’ Memorial, Champaign County Courthouse, NW corner of Main and Broadway, to call on Congress to end the war with Iraq and prevent war with Iran. Anger is liable to run high nationwide on the anniversary, as anti-war activists and military families get, in the immortal words of Fanny Lou Hamer, “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Many in the anti-war community are increasingly impatient with the lack of responsiveness on the war among elected officials. If massive demonstrations against the invasion in 2003 seemed to have little effect on foreign policy, recent mid-term elections – almost universally viewed as a referendum on the war and the President – seemed to have the exact opposite effect of the intended one: the Administration proposed not plan for withdrawal but plan for a “surge”. As some observers predicted, the new Democratic Congress passed a non-binding resolution against the surge, and the President went ahead with his plan. Moreoever, the fate of the various Democratic anti-war proposals is extemely shaky. Democratic leaders vowed, the day after the recent elections swept them to Congressional control, never to de-fund the war. Then, with increased popular pressure and an election looming, several Democrats proposed bills to do just that. Some of the bills also called for troop withdrawal by certain dates, or for the President to seek Congressional approval before invading Iran. But Democratic leaders announced today (AP, March 12) that this last requirement is dead. (Cynics among us might say it is no great loss, because Congress always gives their approval.) The President is of course promising to veto even the rump bill, requiring withdrawal from Iraq by December 2008 after the next national election, and still gives him $100 billion for war including more than he requested for Afghanistan and for “training and equipment shortages”. The waffling, anti-war activists across the country have been saying is easy to explain: without pressure from war opponents – hard pressure – the Democrats will back off. The less pressure, the more retreat. “The mud is getting wetter” Focus of opposition to the war has often been the Bush Administration’s lies about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, specious connections to al-Qaeda and egregious violations of international treaties to which the US is signatory: laws against aggressive wars, against torture, etc. But anti-war activists have also paid considerable attention to worsening conditions for the Iraqi people, and for US and allied troops, conditions that have gained considerably less play in the mainstream media. Yet these conditions arguably have more anti-war motivating potential, particularly for the fabled “middle ground” or the un-usual suspects, than all the legalistic and fine debating points in the world (correct though they may be). Frequent updates on how bad things are in Iraq, and for those returning from there, are perhaps in order. At a minimum 58,598 civilians may have been killed in Iraq since the US invased their country in March 2003, according to reports collected on one website, possibly as many as 64,405. The site – http://www.iraqbodycount.org – is well researched and documented, and has become a standard source, since US General Tommy Franks infamous remark that “we don’t do body counts” – any more, that is – body counts caused so much trouble in Vietnam. But these numbers don’t begin to tell the story. Lily Hamourtziadou, a researcher for Iraq Body Count, tracks news stories and reports on a weekly basis. It’s a gruesome and deeply disturbing log. At the time of this writing, for example, “675 civilians were reported dead this week, most of them pilgrims on their way to or returning from Karbala; moreover, there was another major attack with over 50 deaths, the 8th this year. As the Iraqis say, ‘the mud is getting wetter,’ meaning that things are getting worse.” Hamourtziadou also reported ealier this month on a more widespread toll the war is taking, one that is arguably more serious than the actual death count, in that it affects many times more people, most of the children, and will likely go on killing and otherwise essentially torturing them for years even if the US pulled out yesterday: “Living conditions are still deteriorating for Iraqi citizens. It was announced this week that the last major British charity working in Iraq is pulling out, as the worsening security situation makes it impossible to safeguard staff. Save the Children UK has announced that, after 15 years in the country, it is to shut its office, as it can no longer reach the children it tries to help. The charity repaired and equipped schools and hospitals in the aftermath of the invasion, and lobbied for children’s rights to be included in the new Iraqi constitution. Many other British charities have already pulled out of Iraq; Care International closed its operations there in 2005, after the abduction and murder of Margaret Hassan, its director in Iraq. This is very bad news for Iraqi children, because they desperately need help and care. Children in Iraq form 50% of the population and around 8% are estimated to suffer from acute malnutrition. Poverty and insecurity are the main causes of their deteriorating diets. With insecurity forcing the closure of many health centres, and hospitals and clinics lacking medicines and specialists, Iraq’s population is increasingly being cut off from access to proper healthcare, say officials at UNICEF and the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR.” Of course, tallies of US and allied dead are no more heartening. US confirmed dead according to the US Department of Defense have now hit 3,195. Another site (http://cryptome.org/mil-dead-iqw.htm) puts the total at 3,430 dead, including 234 in Afghanistan and 1 at Guantanamo. The site also notes the total US military deaths in Iraq ad Afghanistan “since the Democrats won and promised withdrawal”: 370. UK dead have topped 130 and other allied military deaths are almost as high. Iraqi security forces and civilian deaths since January 2006 alone exceed 22,000, according to another website that tracks news and DoD reports (http://icasualties.org/oif/). The only groups that have stopped losing lives to the war in Iraq are those that have left, an option not really open to most Iraqis as borders continue to slam shut in their faces – another violation of international law. The hidden suffering Among the rosy predictions provided generously by the White House before the invasion of Iraq in 2003 were of course the low-low financial costs: small precentages of the Gross Domestic Product, notes MSNBC, the federal budget (then relatively healthy), and agreeable comparisons to past wars. “White House economic adviser Lawrence Lindsey was the exception to the rule, offering an ‘upper bound’ estimate of $100 billion to $200 billion in a September 2002 interview with The Wall Street Journal. That figure raised eyebrows at the time, although Lindsey argued the cost was small, adding, ‘The successful prosecution of the war would be good for the economy.’” Alas. According to the Boston Globe (September 28, 2006), “a new congressional analysis shows the Iraq war is now costing taxpayers almost $2 billion a week – nearly twice as much as in the first year of the conflict three years ago and 20 percent more than last year – as the Pentagon spends more on establishing regional bases to support the extended deployment and scrambles to fix or replace equipment damaged in combat.” At that time an internal assessment by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service predicted “the total cost of military operations at home and abroad since 2001, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, will top half a trillion dollars.” Current estimates of the cost of the war far surpass, even double Lindsey’s ‘upper bound’ – and well overtake the Globe’s projections just six months ago. According to http://costofwar.com, the updated $400 billion price tag translates as $22 billion for the state of Illinois, and $125 million for Champaign and Urbana. And these figures represent more than bank accounts, VCRs, SUVs and pizza delivery. That money would have insured 244 million children for one year, 13 million of them in Illinois, and 75,000 in Champaign-Urbana. It also might have hired 7 million public school teachers for a year, 382,000 of them in Illinois, and 2,000 right here in Champaign-Urbana. It also could have built over 3.5 million housing units, over 198,000 in Illinois, 1000 of them in our community. And so on. Others have pointed to such figures to greater effect. The argument is nothing new. But this, too, perhaps bears updating – as ‘the mud gets wetter’. Even if the U.S. exits Iraq within another three years, reports MSNBC this month, the total economic impact of the war in Iraq may top $2 trillion (March 17, 2006). What news outlets like MSNBC don’t add is this: unless we, you and I, stop it. For more info: March 15 march and rally - www.anti-war.net March 19 Vigil - Robert Naiman 979-2857 Bus to Washington DC protest - Pete (708) 828-9926

Unfortunately

Unfortunately, this is really Bush's war (I mean Iraqi), and Bush, as we witness couldn't be pushed, to stop it. Majority of Americans voted to impeach Bush/Cheney on November of 2006 referendum, but nothing has worked by now.

Unfortunately

Much as I think we probably agree on, I can't say I follow you here. If the war were Bush's and Bush's alone, he'd be the one over in Iraq getting his head sawed off on the Internet. There is a strong temptation, maybe because of the way we are taught history or maybe because we are used to other people running our lives in so many respects, to focus on the Hitlers, the Stalins, the Bushes, if you see what I mean. But these people do not operate in a vacuum. Hitler did not invade Poland all by himself. He never ran a concentration camp. In fact he probably killed or even injured very few people himself. But he had people with him. And, though we don't learn this in high school, Hitler even had to negotiate with certain factions within the Nazi Party, certain power brokers within German society at large - he made deals, many many deals. And Bush has advisers, cabinet ministers, helpers of various kinds, handlers, supporters, a vast network of people who are the very least complicit in his crimes. Do we really believ he dreamed up all this on his own? Is it even possible? Even if it is, we know the folks in his administration have been adocating these exact courses of action for years - sometimes decades - the very same folks. Yeah, they wrote it all down and PUBLISHED it! (Remember Hitler's Mein Kampf? Did the Germans have any idea what he was about? You betcha.) All the information anybody would have wanted to know about Bush and his team was out there for years and years, for anybody who cared enough to check it out. Can our reps in Congress say they didn't know, convincingly? Can we? Kings, queens, even dictators all have many people they have to answer to, to satisfy, and many other they at least have to work around, and Bush is not a dictator - however nice it might feel to accuse him. This principle of group rule is especially true in a democracy, even a limited representative democracy like we see in most Western countries. It's easy, I think, for us to blame Bush. And certainly he deserves it. But Congress has the power to cut off funds for the war. It remains to be seen whether they have the will. Congress in fact has had this power all along. In fact, Congress didn't have to authorize the (blatantly illegal and outrageously immoral) invasion of Iraq, or pass the USA PATRIOT Act - without even reading it, in many cases! What would have happened to some of our reps who said, hold on, just let me read this, I want to think it over, or I can't vote for this with the following provisions included - x, y, and z? Would they have been shot? Arrested? (And even if we lived in a society where these things were likely, it only proves my point: somebody would have to do the shooting.) No, our elected reps only risked losing their next elections. And it wasn't a risk like smoking or drunk driving, it was more of a vague fear - perhaps founded, perhaps not. That's assuming, of course, they didn't AGREE all along, which it's pretty clear that at least a lot of them did. Anyway, if you were in the Reichstag that voted to endorse German aggression (even the Social Democrats did), would you rather say you had to vote for it because you were afraid of losing office, or that you voted against it because it was a disaster in the making? History is pretty clear who had the better idea, I think. There is a wonderful - but deeply disturbing - book out of recent historical research, called "Hitler's Willing Executioners." Everyone who wants to understand how huge populations of (in this case, well educated, well read, philosophical) people participate in mass murder and genocide, as well as other atrocities, should read it. It turns out this whole image we have been weaned on, of the "good Germans" who didn't know what Hitler was up to, or only did what they had to, just followed orders (which was bad enough), is false. Hundreds of thousands of Germans repeatedly did MORE than required of them, committed WORSE crimes than ordered or even encouraged to commit, and in many ways went 'above and beyond the call of duty' to commit heinous, murderous, bloodthirsty or bloodless, violent acts against their neighbors, strangers who had done them no harm, etc. Also read another new book of historical research called "What We Knew" about what the average German really knew about what was going on in the infamous death camps, etc. But the point is that thousands, maybe millions (depending on how you look at it), of Americans have been complicit in Bush's crimes. Many thousands have participated directly. And thousands more have actively helped out in various ways. For starters, all those Congress people and the President and VP were elected, more or less. Sure, there was a helluva lot of fraud. There's always a lot. And millions (now) of Americans are disenfranchised because of felony convictions, many of them for victimless crimes like possession of certain out-of-fashion drugs. And I think we have to agree that in some sense the new system of disenfranchisement -- and voter demobilization (giving people such poor alternatives that they just don't see the point - see Why Americans Don'y Vote by Piven and Cloward) is just the more updated version of Jim Crow, and not letting women vote, or 18 year olds, or propertyless men, etc. All true. But the election never should have been close enough to steal. (Same in 2000.) It's appalling that so many Americans can be so easily duped - or willingly support such vicious barbarity, especially the second time when the program was pretty clear. Noam Chmosky once noted that what the US really needed was 'denazification.' And the assessment is prett fair, if we examine it closely. Dennis Kucinich and Al Sharpton really opposed the war in 2004, but even anti-war voters didn't give them much help. So many of us said others were more "electable". In the end, of course, Bush was the most "electable". Why do we allow the two-party system to persist, after all? Why don't we demand instant runoff, abolition of the Electoral College, voting rights for felons, and so many other reforms? It's not as if these things are impossible. Motor Voter was the most significant reform since the Civil Rights Act, and we had to fight tooth and nail to get it - it was well worth it - but we won. We beat the President, the Congress and the courts, none of whom wanted the 'rabble' more involved in the decision making in this country. Last fall, in 150 townships in Massachusetts, thousands of people gathered hundreds of thousands signatures to get a referendum on their ballot calling for an end to the war. They had to turn them all in to local township offices. The signatures had to be approved. The language of the referendum had to be approved by state officials. The whole process took months, and many townships (in addition to the 150) didn't make it through. They either didn't have enough people to gather the signatures, ran out of time, made some minor mistake, or some of the signatures or addresses or something didn't pass muster. It was a lot of work. And in other states, other people worked hard in other ways. But hundreds of these refernda got on ballots in communities across the country, and all of them passed. Wsa it worth it? Democrats swept into control of Congress, almost certainly in part due to thes efforts. Our local Republican war-supporter in Congress Tim Johnson changed his tune, and broke with a sitting president of his own party - a wartime president. Not to be sneezed at. Clinton and Obama, two leading Democratic candidates for president in 2008, have never been particularly good on the war. Clinton has ben notoriously bad. Obama just said he thought it was a bad idea, when he had no ability to vote on it, but we can't just pull out now. Both have softened up a bit, especially Obama. I think what we have to make crystal clear now is: Democrats lost in 2000 and 2004, not because of machines or plots or evil Republican election officials, but because they didn't say what we needed to hear, or didn't convince us. And moreover, if they don'y say it now - and say it with feeling, so we can buy it - they will lose again in 2008. We want candidates we can feel good about, universal health care, an end to the war in Iraq and Afghanistan and no invasion of Iran, repeal or drastic revision of the USA PATRIOT Act, No Child Left Behind, and a number of other bad acts. We want income tax reform, a fully funded social welfare system, a focus on fixing some of the deep problems in our society - and no ifs, ands, or buts. And I think while we're at it, we ought to make it clear that we expect these things, NO MATTER WHO'S IN OFFICE. OK, that's a very long-winded way of saying we can do it, if we will. I think the biggest question now is do we have the guts?

You haven't earned the right...

Ricky, I know you. I have had snapshot glimpse into your personal life, having taken a Shakespeare course from your wife. I also know what you write here, and what you and the Kruses have been writing and advocating for years. To coin a phrase: you haven't earned the right to be here. I have nothing against anyone who is against the US in Iraq - politically. You're entitled to your opinion, and I have mine, as well (although it's irrelivent in this posting). I have a serious problem with you personally, Ricky - anti-soldier to the core. The "thousands" you implicate in your twisted interpretation of a modern-day version of the Holocaust is me and my brothers and sisters in arms. No, you didn't say it here. You didn't have to - you've said it before, both explicitly and implictly, over the last four years, whether as yourself, or under the guise of AWARE. There's simply no excuse for the personal degredation that you've shown the recruiters at the IHSA tourney, or to the LTC teaching common moral values to children. SSG Ladd, Mike SGT Witt, Jaime CPT Edwards, Randy 1LT Ernst, Mindi SGT Debord, Renee SGT Gudeman, Jason SPC Demlow, John SGT Arbogast, Justin 2LT Roxworthy, Elizabeth SGT Webb, Dwayne SSG Crawford, Richard SGT Weller, Michael SPC Tennill, Chad This is just a snapshot, off the top of my head, of a few troops from the Central Illinois area who are currently in the box - not including the ones who have been there and returned...in one way or another. These are my brothers and sisters, men and women with whom I've spent time in the mud, endless nights, forever convoys; we've cried on each others' shoulders, we've humped each others' rucks, and we've celebrated together beyond the limits that a 9-year college student would find grotesque. EVERY_SINGLE_ONE of these men and women above was at one time or another a member of the Champaign Army National Guard company. These are your neighbors. These are your fellow countrymen, and EVERY_SINGLE_ONE of them volunteered of their own free will to go on their current mission, knowing full well the dangers that face them, and the ethical dilemmas that they will have to deal with on a daily basis. These soldiers are NOT Nazis, as much as you imply them to be. You might have relatives and friends there - I don't know, and I really don't care. Until you've spent a night in a foxhole with them, you don't have a pot to piss in when it comes to understanding what it means to be a soldier. Where is it that you draw the line between who is evil and who is duped? Is it the recruiters? Is it the officers? NCOs? E-4 and below, also? Perhaps Combat Arms only, or maybe Combat Service Support, too, or even TDA units? Maybe its Brigade-and-Below that just "doesn't know any better," but all those darn generals that want to KILL KILL KILL??? In YOUR mind, it is certainly well beyond the civilian leadership, and I would venture to say that you think culpability for War Itself is complicit down to the lowliest buck sergeant. The soldiers above are the hardest-working men and women, physically, mentally and emotionally, that you will find from Central Illinois in recent local history. These men and women are heroes, far removed and far above the self-righteous and self-proclaimed "heroism" you spout off as a one-weekend-a-month-and-two-weeks-on-your-computer protester. Have you studied Just War theory? Do you even know of the difference between Justice OF War and Justice IN War, and who is responsible for which? How many endless days have you spent learning the fine line between when and when not to fire? Do you know the ROE for the Green Zone or Anbar Province? Have you led 3 or 8 or 29 or 99 soldiers into enemy fire, knowing that there's no good legal outcome, only the lesser of many evils? Have you trained on how not only to keep yourself and your troops alive, but also how to physically protect someone who was minutes ago your enemy, but now is of higher moral priority than yourself, while still taking fire? Have you held the limp body of your brother in your hands, and still have had to have the intestinal fortitude to not only fight to protect yourself and your unit, but to keep from going postal on anyone noncombatants in sight? How many days in the last month did you get up, praying, "Dear God, please don't let today be the day that one of us dies."? You haven't earned the right to be here, Ricky. You have the right to piss and moan about the civilian leadership, and you have the right to piss and moan about military leadership on the rare occasions (and at the proper level and capacity) when it truly fails humanity as whole and moral values as we know them... ...but you do NOT have the right to judge my brethren, simply for the job that they do, when they intentionally give up everything they have to work and possibly die in the Cradle of Civilization for a cause that only God knows, but in which they work together to keep each other alive to come back stateside in one piece. Fight the civilian leadership, those responsible for Jus Ad Bellum, but not the soldiers, regardless of rank.

Wait...

I don't think that most of the anti-war people are blaming the soldiers. In fact, it's been shocking to hear about how badly some of them have been treated. A recent Salon article described injured troops being forced to return to Iraq despite being medically unfit for combat. Many people have been appalled by the conditions at military hospitals. The problems are the lies that helped start the war, the shameless profiteering by some corporations, and the pain and suffering that both Iraqis and Americans have experienced. A lot of people who sign up for the military are young people trying to improve their chances in life, and they deserve better than this. It's been a while since I read "Hitler's Willing Executioners," but from what I remember, it was not specifically directed at the soldiers. I think the point is that atrocities require some cooperation from the people; they don't just occur in a vacuum.

wow

Kudos to you. I'll leave it at that.

Unfortunately

I am the first'unfortunately', and I am answering to Ricky Baldwin. Yes, there is much more to it than to blame Bush, Cheney (or vice wersa), etc. USA DOESN'T have sufficient oil on its own. There was and is the perfect exit from this situation, and I know more about it than a great lot of others, because of my family's connections. But... Oil moguls and other thick-pocketed people at power acted and act differently. Under my watch the events have been developing following way; first Kuwait (that time only semi-illegally, because Kuwait had been promised to Saddam when he had been installed in Iraq by Americans only semi-legally); then Iraq (that time much more arrogantly); now it is coming the turn of Iran. Once again, USA did and does have sufficient potential to develop and to implement radical oil SUBSTITUITIONS. It means, however, the radical redistribution of wealth. Thick pocketed and extremely influential people at power, including couple of our oil moguls in White House, sure, don't want it to happen. Besides, my opinion that it is time for USA to follow long time ago shown by Scandinavian countries example. It means- to start to precisely mind own business (the welfare of majority of this country's citizens in all its aspects), and to stop to be the world's policeman and master, who, utilizing its best army, robs earth resources of other countries around the world, murdering and evicting people in the process. That is all I can tell. I can't unfortunately predict the future. And I am outraged that White House leaders got away with what they have done to their own subjects on 9/11.

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