Ten years ago, I was a student in high school when the war in Iraq began. At 15, I threw myself wholeheartedly into resisting the war. I remember the agony and outrage I felt when despite mass protest, a war based on lies was waged in our names. Ten years later a lot has changed, in the world and in my life. But the essential fact remains that the invasion of Iraq was horribly wrong and that the occupation that followed (and still continues) is criminal. It is also true that all those who continued to speak out and resist the Bush program and its reincarnation are right and precious.
2013 is very different than 2003 – our culture has gone through a lot of changes, our lives have become very different than we thought they would be. I now teach kindergarteners who were born into a country at war with the world. When I look into their faces I also see all the children whose lives have been stolen in Iraq, Afghanistan and everywhere else over the last decade this country has bombed. It is for these all these children and the world that they will inherit that we must stop the crimes of this government.
I’m not proud of my reaction to 9/11.
I raised the Flag – not literally, but in the sense of rallying with this country’s self-righteous response to an attack on a culture of greed and acquisitiveness that I thought I had renounced long before the towers fell.
I didn’t choose this government. I knew the horrors American imperialism imposed on the world, as well as the real threat of terrorist acts. But my suspension of commitment to the larger interests of humanity surprises and humbles me on reflection.
The moment didn’t last long. Others had anticipated Afghanistan atrocities in the works, and there was cause to believe that mass, worldwide opposition could interrupt the last decade’s march to the dark side. I was simpatico but not in the trenches.
March 19 forever damaged or destroyed the lives of millions of Iraqis in ways we can only begin to fathom. Conceived as a demonstration of military might, the U.S. government failed to recognize the effect of its overreach on its own citizens. It certainly changed me. It opened many eyes to the magnitude of suffering occasioned by complacency and acquiescence to American hegemony.
Liberation from self-imposed resignation to things as they are opens up all kinds of opportunities. That’s the lesson we can draw from the tenth anniversary of “Shock and Awe.”
I remember Scott Ritter being ripped to shreds on cable news outlets for his dissent and his telling the truth that the WMD claim being made was false…the guy was literally screaming…as I remember it. This was all in the lead up to the invasion. I remember a friend of mine directing my attention to the protest happening downtown where 800 people were arrested. I went to the protest the night after the big one. I remember watching very sanitized scenes from embedded journalists of what was happening. I remember Abu Ghraib and then Cindy Sheehan in Texas. I was pretty much out there on my own for awhile not knowing what to do and would go to an action here or there. I remember Cindy Sheehan coming in on a February day for an action and it was below zero but I went. I kept following my conscience even though I’d get distracted now and then. Then I found you guys. I never thought I’d end up here…I just knew I had to speak up because what the government was doing was morally unconscionable.
During the run-up to the US attack on Iraq I organized a committee of mostly faculty on my university campus to oppose the pending invasion. We held a teach-in and other campus events to speak out and expose the various lies that were being told to the American people – e.g., Weapons of Mass Destruction, the alleged and false linking of Iraq to al-Qaeda – and the most significant sin of omission, the failure of mass media and officialdom to tell people that the supreme war crime was invading a country that had not first attacked you. To this day mass media has not told people this inconvenient truth. Many of us participated in the city-wide mass demonstrations against the invasion, which were some of the largest protests I ever participated in. The mood at the time was powerful and indeed, these demonstrations and those that took place internationally, did succeed in preventing the UN’s endorsement of the US invasion.
While many were discouraged that we didn’t succeed in stopping this supreme war crime from being committed, the mass actions had a real impact and created more favorable conditions for waging the fight against these imperialist actions domestically as well as in other countries. Spain, for example, withdrew its support after initially being one of the view to join the duct-taped “coalition of the willing” as a result of the pre-invasion and post-invasion mass demonstrations. Because some of the anti-war movement leaders subsequently closed up shop and joined in the chorus of “see no evil, speak no evil” celebration for Obama, the anti-war movement has not returned to what it was back then and the effort to end these unjust and immoral wars has been all the harder.
As a result of World Can’t Wait’s unwavering stand on the criminality of our government’s actions with respect to the Iraqi, Afghan, Pakistani, et al, people, however, the embryonic elements of a resurgence of activism, particularly evident in anti-drone sentiment, our and others’ impactful efforts to expose Zero Dark Thirty’s lies, and the peeling away by some of those who once supported Obama to calling him out as a war criminal (e.g., notably Cornel West), the prospects for a more combative public and greater resistance are improving. Certainly, before Occupy was violently driven from their encampments, the basis for a politics of wide resistance to authorities was dramatically evident. Clear, bold, determined, and relentlessly principled and scientific opposition to these wars and the underpinnings for them are needed more than ever.
I was in high school when the invasion of the Iraq war began. I remember sitting in front of the t.v watching the “shock and awe” of Bagdad. I remember feeling shocked but not awed and thinking, what about the people who live there? What is going to happen to them? And then I started to cry. It wasn’t always that way for me, when 9/11 happened, I like many others was scared and shocked. I remember telling my mom, are we going to get those bad guys? But then there were other things starting to shape how I saw things, one of them being public opinion (much of which was shaped by the large anti war protests that happened before the invasion) and how many people were beginning to see that Bush administration was filled with liars who used 9/11 to advance their own interests in the middle east.
I remember Cindy Sheehan demanding to know why her son went to war in the first place and standing up with such determination and receiving only coldness from the government to a mother’s heartbreak. That night at our dinner table, we started talking about the war, the patriot act and other illegitmate policies for the first time. My grandmother who had Alzheimer’s at the time and was a survivor of the Holocaust began having flashbacks to Nazi Germany after hearing Bush speak about how you were either with America or you were with the terrorists.
All of this had an impact on me and I knew I couldn’t be silent. People standing up and telling the truth made a difference. It made a difference in how I saw things and leaders in the World Can’t Wait movement taught me how to stand up and lead others to do the same. Too many people were duped into going along with the Obama administration, hoping he would bring some kind of change for the better. But Obama is commander in chief of a brutal empire, and all this empire can bring is just more of the same. More repression, more war and more torture. We mark the anniversary because we cannot let history be rewritten, we cannot let this day go by without remembering what it represents, we cannot let the next generation inherit this horrific world. Most importantly, we remember the illegitimate invasion of Iraq because we must actually fight for a future where people mark this anniversary as a foreign time in history when empires used to exist.