The Left Was Right
By Curt Guyette
19/03/08 “Metro Times” — – They take no satisfaction in knowing that they were right in opposing this ill-fated Iraq war from the outset. All they want is for people to listen to them now.
And what they have to say is this: If we are ever going to get all of our troops out, it will be because of pressure that starts at the grassroots level and works its way up to the top of the political chain – not the other way around.
When the Bush administration was spewing its lies and the mainstream media marched behind in lockstep, trumpeting myths about weapons of mass destruction and fantasies about invading troops being greeted with tossed bouquets, members of the peace movement were trying to warn us not to make what became a mistake of epic proportions.
But America didn’t listen. The drumbeat for war was too loud, drowning out the voices of opposition. Shoved to the margins, they were all but invisible. When not being ignored by mainstream media they were on the receiving end of ridicule from squawking chicken hawks.
Before the start of the war, nearly 60 percent of the country supported an invasion of Iraq. An invasion supposedly made necessary by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction and the dictator’s close working relationship with Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda terrorist network. An invasion that would cost only about $50 million, we were told, with a majority of the troops expected to be back home within a matter of months.
All of which proved to be untrue.
Now, with 4,000 American soldiers dead and another 30,000 U.S. troops wounded in this conflict, with tens of thousands – and perhaps hundreds of thousands – of Iraqis killed and 4.5 million more displaced, there is no room for gloating by those who urged us not to invade. Instead there is only frustration that their voices were not heard.
After five long and bloody years, the doves aren’t despairing. Instead, they are determined.
“We just have to keep going,” says Phyllis Aronson. “There is no other choice.”
As co-chair of the Huntington Woods Peace, Citizenship & Education Project, Aronson is old enough to have witnessed how public protest helped bring about an end to the Vietnam War more than three decades ago. Memories of that era are like a buoy keeping afloat hopes that another mass movement will succeed in bringing this war to an end.
Public opinion has flipped since the start of the war, with polls showing that about 60 percent of Americans now say that the war was a mistake.
“The peace movement hasn’t been marginalized, we’ve been mainstreamed,” says Leslie Cagan, co-chair of the national antiwar coalition United for Peace and Justice.
But the shift in opinion has not resulted in an outpouring of protesters taking to the streets.
Wendy Hamilton, director of the Detroit peace group Swords Into Plowshares is perplexed by the lack of outrage: “Where’s the anger? Where’s the indignation? Why aren’t people saying we were lied to and doing something about it?”
Part of the answer is cynicism, she says. People believe that nothing is going to change as long as George Bush remains in office, so why bother to protest.
“A lot of people, I believe, think that speaking out won’t make any difference,” she says.
Yousef Rabhi, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, has a similar view.
“A lot of people are fed up with the war. You can see that in the national polls,” he says. “But there’s a feeling that’s like despair. Because the task seems so daunting, some people are afraid to do anything at all.”
It doesn’t help that the 2006 mid-term elections, which were largely seen as a referendum on the war, resulted in the Democrats taking control of both the U.S. House and Senate – yet the Bush administration has continued to wage war unimpeded by the opposition party.
“The Democrats didn’t do what some of us hoped they would do, which was use the power of the purse to force an end to the war,” says veteran activist Al Fishman, a board member of the group Peace Action of Michigan. “Not enough of them had the courage to face the accusation that cutting off funding meant that they were deserting the troops in the field.”
It’s a ridiculous charge, Fishman says. You don’t support troops by keeping them in harm’s way; you show support by bringing them home.
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