The War

One of the best meetings I ever moderated — perhaps the best — was for people opposed to attacking Afghanistan in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. The group that emerged from that meeting was called Iowans for Peace. I haven’t lived in Iowa since 2003, and I have lost track of much of what is happening there, but they still have a website, and the Iowa City Public Library association database has contact information for them as recently as last April. (How awesome is the ICPL? So awesome that they maintain such a database.)

I was overwhelmed by the anti-war movement that started in 2002 and 2003, opposing the war in Iraq. I had been opposing the war in Iraq since August 1990, when, the day I arrived back in Iowa City after a two year exile in Indianapolis, I attended the founding meeting of a group that called itself Operation U.S. Out. We started the group before the United States invaded Iraq, in January 2001, in a futile attempt to prevent that invasion, and the many years of bombings and sanctions that followed. By the time the US invaded (again) in March of 2003, all I was capable off was bringing vegan chili to the Peace Camp at the University of Iowa one night.

I was engaged in activist groups, on and off, from age 14 to age 30. Part of the reason that I moved to rural Wyoming is that I needed to escape, at least for awhile.

I’m typing this as I listen to the commentary on NPR in the wake of Obama’s speech on Afghanistan. I still can’t quite believe that we went there in the first place — I cannot believe that we cast that stone — and I cannot quite believe that we are still there, and will be for some time to come.

Starting in the late 1960s, Phil Ochs held a series of rallies called The War is Over, based on the premise of his song of the same name. The idea, he thought, was simply that people should declare that the war in Vietnam was over, and that somehow, that will of the people would make it so. That happened, eventually, but not before many more lives were lost, and only a year before Ochs took his own life.

I’d like to believe that the war is over, but it never seems to work that way.