by Larry Kerschner
In the Fall of 2002, many people all over the world were appalled as the Cheney/Bush administration were threatening to attack the people of Iraq over non-existent Weapons of Mass Destruction. A group of Lewis County citizens started a weekly peace vigil in front of the Centralia Library each Saturday at noon beginning the third weekend in October 2002. We had from 30-50 participants each Saturday.
15 February 2003, was a world-wide day of protests, including in Centralia, in which people in more than 600 cities declared opposition to the imminent war against Iraq in what was described as “the largest protest event in human history”.
Ignoring the wishes of the people, the US government invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003. The Centralia weekly vigil attendance dropped to 8-10. The excuse many who quit gave was that we had to “support the troops”.
Typically the government puts troops in harm’s way and then calls upon the public to support their war because the troops are in harm’s way. The Pentagon currently admits to putting troops in harm’s way in seven undeclared wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and Niger. US Special Operations units are also operating, without Congressional approval, in Cameroon, Kenya, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, and Tunisia.
In 2017, US commandos deployed to 149 countries—about 75 percent of the nations on the planet. In the first half of 2018, according to figures provided by US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM or SOCOM), America’s most elite troops had carried out missions in 133 countries. While most missions involve training, instruction, or war games, Special Forces soldiers are commonly involved in combat operations
It is said among the peace organizing community that peace is the greatest troop support. As our weekly local peace vigil has crossed the 16 ½ year mark, I wonder where those 30-50 folk who stood with us at the beginning are today. It is clear that the Bush, and then the Obama and now the Trump administration think nothing of putting American troops in harm’s way wherever access to oil and other natural resources is in question.
Few of the current crop of announced men and women running for President appear to question this status quo. It is clear from polls that most Americans are aware of the problems. As the Leonard Cohen song says “Everybody knows that the deal is rotten.”
Many people believe there is nothing to be done. And if they believe this, nothing will be done. However, remember that the people are the 99%. People can empower themselves by education, joining others in community for discussion, planning and action. It won’t be easy and it won’t be instant but it can be done.
Locally, a first step would be to join like-minded people. I invite those 30-50 who must remember the hope they had in 2002 and any others who want to see a different world for their children to join us every Saturday at noon in front of the Centralia Library.