(First Appeared on OpEd News)
By Malachy Kilbride
President Bush will soon ask Congress for about another $200,000,000,000 as the official death count of US service people killed in Iraq passes the 3,800 mark. This 3,800 does not even include those who have died because of their injuries after they left Iraq. The numbers are far higher!
According to Iraq Body Count the number of hostile and non-hostile US injured evacuated by air from Iraq was almost 37,000 as of the end of August, 2007. The number of Iraqis killed as a result of the invasion and occupation is estimated to be over 1,063,825. That is more than those slaughtered in the Rwandan genocide according to www.justforeignpolicy.org . Furthermore, these figures do not capture the real horror, devastation, and unimaginable misery inflicted on the Iraqi people.
A recently released report by the American Friends Service Committee’s Cost of War Campaign says that the United States is spending about $720 million per day for the Iraq War with $1 trillion spent already. It also reports that Americans will have to pay $290 billion for the over 25,000 Iraq War veterans with life-altering injuries such as blindness, exposure to depleted uranium, post traumatic stress syndrome, and the loss of limbs.
Considering the above facts about the human toll and cost this war and occupation has inflicted upon Iraqis, US service people, and their loved ones I often wonder about the level of response from my fellow citizens. Why aren’t more people getting involved to oppose this outrageous war? Considering the fact that this war and occupation is illegal, that we were fraudulently led to a war of aggression by the Bush-Cheney liars, that those elected to serve us in Congress have failed to do their jobs to take any meaningful steps to oppose and stop this war-occupation and are now complicit in this illegality I truly wonder where my fellow citizens are in response to this grave matter.
According to polls Americans now overwhelmingly oppose this war-occupation. Considering that the Democrats were elected in November 2006, due to the obvious opposition to the war in Iraq, they have failed to do anything of substance for almost a year now to either begin impeachment proceedings or to challenge the war-funding in any successful way. The president is the least popular US president ever and the Democrats control both houses of congress yet nothing is being done to have a government of, by, and for the people by holding the lawbreakers accountable. Where is the outrage? Will the 2008 elections help? Does voting work?
In spite of the illegalities and irregularities of the 2000 and 2004 national elections the people still have a voice with their votes. The vote is not simply support for a candidate it is an endorsement of the system. However, too often voters are left with the choice between the lesser of two evils. But, a vote for evil is still a vote for evil and we’ve had enough of that.
We must use our vote, an endorsement of the system, to challenge our elected officials to follow the will of the people. If we are faced with candidates in November 2008 who support more funding for war, violence over diplomacy, torture over human rights then we must make it known we will not endorse this. We must make it known now, not in 2008, to our representatives in congress that although they may be good on other issues we will not vote for them if they do not end this war and stop future wars.
Voting, however, should only be part of our response and responsibility because it is now apparent that those elected to lead us in this democratic republic are not doing their job. It is time for the people to lead and not just vote. But, what is to be done? There are a few things that can be done and it does not include waiting for the November 2008 elections.
We must not get passively sucked into the MSNBC-CNN-FOX News mindless debate about who will be president in 2009. We must disengage ourselves from the media that failed miserably in doing the job of keeping the citizens informed in the 2002-2003 lead up to the invasion of Iraq. We must become actively engaged utilizing the alternate and independent media to keep informed. Then we must act on this information. We need to organize locally and nationally against the plans for a continuation of the war waged by this administration and the complicit congress. We must let our elected representatives in government know that we will not vote for them until the funding for the Iraq War is cut off and the troops brought home immediately.
The same people who brought us the illegal Iraq War are now attempting to demonize Iran and lay the groundwork for a military attack against it. Furthermore, the same politicians, Republicans and Democrats, who went along with the Iraq War, are now joining in the calls for a military strike against Iran. They are all too willing to keep plans for a military attack on Iran on the table but not pursue the impeachment and removal from office of a war criminal. Many people in 2002 truly didn’t believe the US would attack Iraq. Let us not make that same mistake with Iran. The consequences could be far graver and deadlier than the Iraq debacle has been.
Since the Bush Administration and the US Congress waged wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq instead of using true diplomacy many Americans have dissented with acts of nonviolent civil resistance. This is another important and meaningful course of action. In 2007 alone, all across the country, at least 1,000 people have been arrested in peaceful protests against our government over the Iraq War according to Baltimore-based peace activist Max Obuszewski. Obuszewski has been compiling the numbers of peace activists who have been arrested and gone to trial. These figures, however, represent a small part of what has happened only in 2007 because the coverage of this type of dissent is not being reported widely. The numbers of those risking arrest for peaceful civil resistance is much higher if added with the arrests since before Iraq was invaded in 2003 to the present.
There have been many trials this year in which these dissenting citizens, arrested for peaceful protests redressing their grievances, have been found guilty and other times not guilty by judges and juries throughout the land. However, these stories are not reported by the large corporate news organizations. To find out about the level of resistance to the war one needs to do an internet search to see the local news reporting and the independent reporting all across the country of what is truly happening. Another way to find out about this is through the internet news site Whynotnews.org in addition to YouTube and Google video. There is an active vibrant peace movement that is effective but not yet successful. Join it!
In 2007 groups and campaigns like the Occupation Project organized by the group Voices for Creative Nonviolence, the women’s peace group Code Pink, the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, and the Declaration of Peace campaign have organized people to not only lobby Congress but to employ acts of nonviolent civil resistance to express the opposition of the people against the Iraq War.
Some of these peaceful actions of dissent were increasing in early 2006 and many activists firmly believe that the Congress has slowly moved from not talking about withdrawal timelines and funding to now debating it because of the pressure of these actions of dissent. Many citizens have occupied congressional offices on Capitol Hill and the local offices of their representatives in antiwar protests.
Peace vigils have been held outside the home of pro-war Democratic Senator Mikulski and House Speaker Pelosi. But, the Congress still is behind the curve, waiting to receive Bush’s request for billions of dollars more in war-funding, as the people continue to call for an end to the occupation of Iraq and the return of the troops home to their loved ones.
In order for We The People to be effective and successful we need to organize ourselves by acting now and not waiting for the 2008 elections. We need to use the power of our vote by either voting or not voting at the appropriate time but also to challenge the system now. We need to become our own news media so that we can spread the word of our vibrant dissent. Working people need to organize and strike for peace. We need to engage in nonviolent civil resistance to call for an end to the occupations and the wars. One way to find out about nonviolent civil resistance is through the Declaration of Peace, the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance, and Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
Some will point out the failure of the peace movement to stop the Iraq War. But, the issue is not how successful the peace movement has been so far. The issue is; have those who have contacted their congressional representatives, held vigils, demonstrated, and risked arrest protesting been faithful to themselves and their ideals. In spite of the numerous untold stories of these peacemakers, those who have actively opposed the war-occupation, the answer is yes. Yes, they have been faithful to their responsibilities as citizens. Have you? What more can you do?
The most important thing is to have hope and to not feel disempowered by sitting around doing nothing. So get up and do something! Learn about the peace groups mentioned above. Become engaged and active in ending the wars and occupations. The wars will end when the people lead.