Dancing in the desert, blowing up the sunshine.
You depend on our protection. Yet you feed us lies from the tablecloth.
Why don't presidents fight the war? Why do they always send the poor?"
lyrics by System of a Down.
Wednesday, March 19 marked the fifth anniversary of the Iraq War. The sun was a no show-- MIA; a steady cold drizzle wept from gray skies the entire day.
A gathering organized by the Mohawk Valley Peace Coalition, and billed as a "remembrance" was held in a local church auditorium. It was solemn, dignified. No street theatre here. No civil disobedience in the streets. Flags lined the wall, each one lovingly hand crafted in honor of a service member who died in this war. The names of the 175 New York state residents who
had been killed in the Iraq war were read, five at a time, by some of those seated in the hall.
The next morning's news brought the number of New Yorkers killed in Iraq to 176.
Most of the attendees at this event were older; AARP eligible. All were sincere.
On each of the metal folding chairs was a program, and a fresh, long stemmed carnation. The auditorium was nearly full, approximately 100 people showed up. On the stage, poets and a local writer read from their work, but hands down, one man stole the evening.
His name is Derek Davie, and this was not his first appearance at an anti war gathering. He's the father of Shamus, a marine whose life was cut off at age 26 in Iraq.
Mr. Davie is a powerful man of some forty years, but when he stood behind the podium and began to tell the story of what happened to Shamus, his voice failed, and he stopped. Although some time has passed since he lost his son in the war, he still falls apart in the retelling of it, he explained.
His wife rose from her seat on the stage to stand beside him; set a steadying hand on his shoulder. Only then was he able to continue.
"His life was not a waste," said Mr. Davie of his son, "but his death in Iraq was."
He went on to speak about his three daughters--Shamus was his only son. But Shamus' comrades in Iraq were his brothers too--and by extension Davie's sons.
"All I can say now is 'peace,' " he concluded. "Peace is patriotic."
Syracuse Peace Council: http://peacecouncil.net/
United for Peace and Justice: http://unitedforpeace.org/
Juan Cole: http://juancole.com/
Tom Englehart's commentary: http://tomdispatch.com/
National Priorities Project: http://nationalpriorities.org/
After Downing Street: http://afterdowningstreet.org/
Iraq Veterans Against the War: http://www.ivaw.org/
Another day: another young man, who didn't volunteer his name, made it back from Iraq alive-- but with a new set of problems. I met him on a bus, when he asked me about my army jacket, wanting to know if it was "mine." I like army clothing, I told him, so yes, it is mine, but I've never been in the military. He told me he'd been in Iraq and he told me about his janitorial job, in the mall-- that he recently lost.
Trying to be helpful, I suggested maybe WalMart had job openings. He told me he's already been fired by WalMart too, and others. PTSD crawled into my thoughts, I've heard and read so much about this afflicting Iraq vets--haven't we all? This young veteran had nothing obviously physically wrong...he was talkative, and quite personable to me-- and to the young woman who joined him on the bus a few minutes later.
I wondered what benefits he was promised when he signed on--job training, college? Why do they come back and have to work in dead end wage slave jobs, after all they've been through? These jobs are hard enough to stomach for those of us who haven't lived through roadside bombs and being shot at every day.
Maybe we can do better for our veterans. No maybes about it: we have to do better.