Anti-War Movement

Ten Years After Iraq

Mario Tama/Getty Images
Soldiers pray, preparing to depart Iraq in December 2011. Mario Tama/Getty Images

We’re approaching the 10th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq — an appropriate time to reflect upon the antiwar ferment that gripped the globe at that time.

Virtually the entire world opposed the U.S.-led invasion. Feb. 15, 2003 was the largest single day of antiwar protest in history. An estimated 10 million people demonstrated against the war in hundreds of cities on every continent — more than a million in London and hundreds of thousands in Barcelona, Rome, Sydney, Berlin, and New York.

Afternoon News Bytes: March 8, 2012

U.S. Top Destination for Christian, Buddhist Immigrants, Study Saysl; Abdo Husameddine, Syria Deputy Oil Minister, Defects; Washington’s New Antiwar Movement; The Pentagon's (Preliminary, Shaky, And Hypothetical) War Plan For Syria; Arab Spring Fails To Allay Women's Anxieties; Progressives Petition Hoyer Against Safety Net Cuts; Carbon Fast 2012: Christians Give Up Carbon For Lent

Iraq: The Tipping Point

This summer, opposition to the war in Iraq reached the tipping point—and tipped. A Gallup Poll in July showed the highest-ever level of opposition—62 percent say the United States made a mistake in sending troops to Iraq, the first time that number has topped 60 percent.

During the Senate debate in July, Republican senators began falling like dominoes—Chuck Hagel, Richard Lugar, George Voinovich, Pete Domenici, Olympia Snowe, even John Warner began looking for a way out. The Republican defections are bolstered by public opinion. Columnist Robert Novak wrote about Sen. Hagel: "As the first in a succession of Republican senators to be critical of Bush's Iraq policy, Hagel feared the worst when he returned home to conservative Nebraska for Fourth of July parades. Instead, he was pleasantly surprised by cheers and calls for the troops to be brought home." And the Democrats seem to be getting stronger in their willingness to follow the public mandate against this war that gave them a congressional majority in 2006.

Adding to the tip: U.S. casualties topped 3,600, with those wounded or emotionally scarred almost as countless as the stories about returning veterans not receiving the help and attention they need. Almost all the burden of this war has been borne by working-class families whose sons and daughters chose military service—not by the families and children of the elites who fabricated the case for it, grossly mismanaged its prosecution, and politically force its continuance.

A new Congressional Research Service study reported that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan now cost $12 billion per month. When that monthly price tag is compared to the $10 billion per year it would cost to educate the world's 800 million children under age 6, the contrast opens up a real debate on what truly makes for national and global security.

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Sojourners Magazine September/October 2007
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Stopping a War

One night in August 1971, 28 people (including four Catholic priests and a Lutheran minister, the rest Catholic laypeople save one) entered the U.S. federal building in Camden, New Jersey. While some acted as lookouts and others served as communications coordinators, the rest of the group raided the offices of the draft board, spilling out hundreds of cards containing information about young men slated for conscription.

Planning had taken months. Using experience from previous acts of civil disobedience intended to stop the Vietnam War, they carefully considered all the details necessary to pull off this dramatic event. It would be the biggest, most extensive ruin of draft files yet, which was the simplest and most direct way to compromise the war system.

What they didn't count on was that one of their friends and co-conspirators would be an FBI informant. Their dismantling of the draft board files was interrupted by federal agents, and all of the participants (except the informant) were arrested and charged.

That event of the Vietnam-era antiwar movement, along with the participants' subsequent trial—a fascinating court case, its details sadly forgotten today—is lovingly studied in Anthony Giacchino's new film, The Camden 28. Footage includes recent interviews with several of the activists, the FBI agent assigned to the case, and the FBI informant, plus grainy photos, newspaper clippings, and film from the early 1970s, including the trial.

Left unsaid, but obvious to any observer, are the clear parallels between the frustration of the antiwar movement of the early 1970s and the nearly identical distress of those who challenge the U.S. government on its Iraq policies today.

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Sojourners Magazine August 2007
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Baghdad

There were dozens of people in a bleak group. It's a very specific look, one you will find only outside the Baghdad morgue. It's a look that tells you they are walking into the morgue, where the bodies lay in rows, and that they pray they do not find what they are looking for.

One frenzied woman in a black abaya was struggling to make her way inside, two relatives holding her back. "See that woman—they found her son," someone said. The woman continued to struggle, her legs buckling under her, her wails filling the afternoon.

These words of an unnamed Iraqi woman in Baghdad, March 28, 2006, were read at the National Cathedral service by Sister Luma Khudher, an Iraqi Dominican.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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To Redeem the Soul of America

Whenever there are billions of dollars and then billions more available to bomb Baghdad, but never enough to rebuild New Orleans, an American city, parts of which still look like a Third World country a year and a half after Katrina, our soul is in danger. How can you bomb and then rebuild Baghdad and neglect New Orleans, that great city that taught our souls how to sing even when you have the blues?

New Orleans bears mention tonight because it is a tragic symbol of America's misplaced priorities and its unfinished business with poverty. ... It took Congress 10 years to have a serious debate about raising the minimum wage. It raised its own wages every year during the same 10-year period. And this week, Congress dared to tie an overdue raise in the minimum wage for the poor to the funding of the war. Triplet evils: Racism, poverty, war. Souls in danger!

And so we must tap into the best of our respective faith traditions in order to redeem the soul of America. I remember my own crucified people who endured the cross of slavery and segregation. They identified with Jesus because existentially they knew what crucifixion was all about. In the spiritual, they asked, "Were you there when they crucified my Lord?" And during the era of Jim Crow segregation, they identified with this Jesus hung on a tree because they knew what lynching was all about. Billie Holiday used to sing about it. "Southern trees bear strange fruit. Blood on the leaves, blood at the root. Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze. Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees." His own ruthless brutality notwithstanding, I could not help but hear that haunting song as I watched Sadaam Hussein hang at our behest. I thought to myself, "Surely, we're better than that!" And before that the violent carnival and absurd human cruelty of Abu Ghraib. Surely, we're better than that! And then to witness the neglect of our own soldiers at Walter Reed! Surely, we're better than that!

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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A Surge for Peace

On March 16, approximately 3,500 people braved a nasty late-winter storm to participate in the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq in Washington, D.C., while more than 200 local events were held across the country, all marking the fourth anniversary of the start of the Iraq war. After a day of trainings and workshops, worship was held in the Washington National Cathedral, followed by a three-and-a-half mile candlelight procession to the White House. In a civil disobedience action that went late into the night, 222 people were arrested for praying in front of the White House.

The event, organized by 39 different Christian groups, had participants registered from 48 states. They represented the full spectrum of the Christian church, from heads of Catholic orders to members of the historic peace churches, and from evangelical Christian college students to peace groups running the gamut from Episcopalian to Baptist. Here are some of their voices.

—The Editors

[The last of the 222 people arrested at the Christian Peace Witness were released from U.S. Park Police custody at 5 a.m. on March 17. They were given the option of paying a fine or returning for trial. Thirty-three have chosen a trial date. Click here for more photos.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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Nor-easters for Peace

Editors' Note: Despite the fact that it's early summer and you're probably sitting on your deck wishing you had applied sun screen, try to imagine it's winter again and you're marching in the nation's capital against the war and there's a blinding winter storm. Not working? Okay, try this: Fill a bucket with ice water and stick your bare foot in it. Okay, now the other foot. THAT's what it was like, only colder. And wetter.

Filled with the Holy Spirit—who had already performed the miracle of ending a worship service on time, despite the participation of more than a dozen major religious leaders (you know how they can talk)—we walked out of the Washington National Cathedral and into the path of a blinding winter storm that I would have described as cold and bitter, had I been able to make my mouth work.

At this point, instead of marching to the White House, I felt God was calling us to march someplace closer, such as a nearby coffee shop, where we could get something hot. ("Could I get 3,000 regular grandes to go, please, and one espresso mocha skim latte with two vanilla shots. It's for a major religious leader.") But before I could share this divine revelation, the marchers had embarked on the three-and-a-half mile walk to the home of the president, despite the fact that the vice president's house was only a couple blocks away. (And he had coffee.) I tried to mention this, but I was swept up by the surge.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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Trusting Only the Cross

The depth of my sorrow for the loss of life on all sides seems beyond expression. The depth of my anger with my government for failing us so miserably and allowing this killing to happen in my name brings me more shame than I can bear.

Which is why the theme "United by the Cross to End the War" held such meaning for me. I know that Jesus is bearing all of the sorrow, anger, and shame. God's path was to be so loving, so vulnerable, so unwilling to use violence that Jesus died on a criminal's cross ... and it is from the cross of Christ that hope, love, and redemption flow.

This is the only source of my hope. I have no hope that our government is going to act anytime soon. I have no hope that violence and terror are going to end because of the policies of my government or anybody else's. But I do have hope and faith in Christ.

Rev. Amy Yarnall is a United Methodist pastor serving in Chesapeake City, Md.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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Willing to Risk

As a Jewish person in this Christian peace witness, I felt affirmed and welcomed by the other participants. As a nurse, I gladly was the health resource person for the event and was moved by the dedication of participants with serious medical conditions that might have kept others away.

For example, a middle-age woman suffering from cancer told me that she was considering doing the civil disobedience. She had brought her chemotherapy medications, which she had to take on a regular schedule.

I explained that police often will confiscate any meds that people carry; I expected that she would decide regretfully not to participate in the civil disobedience. However she continued to struggle with her decision. She spoke of her deep opposition to the war, her empathy with Iraqis and American soldiers who are being killed and wounded, and her feeling of being called to "divine obedience," no matter what the cost. So far as I know, she was arrested a few hours later. I had a similar conversation with a man who had his nitroglycerine tablets on his belt in case he had cardiac problems.

Sometimes it's said that those of us opposing the war need to be as dedicated and willing to take risks as the soldiers who are battling in Iraq. Meeting this dedicated man and woman gave me hope that this faith-inspired peace movement is producing just such people.

Phyllis Taylor is a correctional chaplain, hospice nurse, and bereavement counselor in Philadelphia.

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Sojourners Magazine June 2007
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