Monday, January 22, 2007

Visit to a Vigil

Last Saturday, at our weekly vigil in Hillsdale to protest the Iraq War, a fellow pulled his vehicle off to the side of the road and briefly stepped out to inform our group that he had “served five years” protecting our right to demonstrate. In the time it took us to thank him and wave, he was back behind the wheel and driving off.

I’ve participated in many protests and vigils now since the start of the war, both here in Hillsdale and elsewhere, and this isn’t the first time such a declaration has been addressed to me. Though this gentleman failed to articulate his intentions in our all-too-brief encounter, I can only assume that he, like others before him, holds a philosophical or political position contrary to my own with regard to the war.

Still, I can’t help but wonder why he and others take this approach when declaring their opposition to us (and, presumably, their support for, the war). Is it done with the expectation of appreciation for service rendered? If so, then I hope the gentleman in question will find our expressions of gratitude sufficient.

Is his declaration of military service an attempt to lend authority to his argument (unarticulated though it may be)? Does his status as a five-year veteran make his point of view more valid than someone who’s never served, and do my own eight years of honorable military service make my position more valid than his? In either case, I think not.

Most likely, the gentleman’s words were an attempt to ‘educate’ us, with the presumption that we appreciate neither the value of freedom nor the costs of maintaining it. While I can’t speak for my fellow protestors, in my own case I can state unequivocally that nothing could be further from the truth. And I must remind the man that serving in the military is not the only way to maintain the nation’s liberty. Freedoms are often like muscles – they need to be exercised to stay healthy. As Voltaire once said, “So long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so…”

We in the anti-war movement are certainly not an homogenous group. We all have our own personal reasons for voicing our opposition. Some are pacifists, opposed to war in general and any conflict in particular, regardless of the circumstances. Some are former supporters of the Iraq War, angry at having been lied to. Some, sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, see the occupation of Iraq and the looming conflict with Iran as the slavish devotion of the Bush administration to do the bidding of Israel. Others, noting the presence of the U.S. military in every corner of the globe, see the war as part of a larger effort to build a modern imperial American empire. Still others see the war as a sinister distraction of the American public, created by the neo-conservatives in their pursuit of personal and political power. Some are simply tired of the death, destruction and misery.

Though I share many of the objections listed above, I oppose the war primarily because I’ve come to realize it’s not waged on behalf of freedom or self-defense, but for profit. Because of the war, the incomes of the defense industry and connected government contractors like Bechtel and Haliburton have risen substantially (Haliburton saw billions more in profits, while both Boeing and Northrup Grumman saw their Pentagon contracts increase by nearly 30% in the runup to the war). Thanks to Production Sharing Agreements and slanted rules of occupation established by Coalition Provsisional Authority head Paul Bremer, banks, oil companies and international investors can manipulate and loot the resources of Iraq at will.

To put it bluntly, I believe this war is waged on the premise that a select few corporations are entitled to rake in even more billions at the expense of a nation’s sovereignty and more than 3,000 American and untold tens of thousands of Iraqi lives. I have no illusions about the will or ability of Republicans and Democrats in Washington to end the conflict. Congress will continue to preen for the cameras and fashion sound bites for the nightly network news. They’ll talk, form committees, hold hearings, talk some more, pass an assortment of worthless non-binding resolutions, and will continue to fund the carnage (under the political cover of “supporting the troops”). The President and his motley assortment of incompetent political cronies will continue to mismanage the occupation, while the Treasury bleeds billions into an endless black hole. All the while, countless new recruits, driven by desperation, anger or ideological zeal, will join the ranks of those already struggling against the American occupation, and against each other.

Now is not the time, with an intransigent President and a chickenhearted Congress, to stand idly by and wait for the world to change. It’s up to us – those who committed ourselves years ago to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign AND domestic,” and those who now stand up in their own way to do what they think is right – to do what we can to put an end to the madness.


D. L. Baker is interim Chair of the Hillsdale County Green Party, and is a supporter of the Hillsdale County Coalition for Peace & Justice, sponsors of the weekly local vigil.

1 comment:

Daniel said...

How about a statewide protest to Levin and Stabenow demanding cutting off funds for the war, except what is needed to bring the troops home?