Monday, September 26, 2005

Mean Streets for Peace

Phoenix, Arizona is no place to walk on a hot, sunny afternoon. The sun is blinding and reflects off the many glass buildings. Walking on a Phoenix afternoon takes some effort and commitment. So I was happy and proud to see about 2,000 fellow Arizonans turn out at the intersection of 24th Street and Camelback Road to call for an end to the American occupation of Iraq. Men and women of all ages representing the area’s ethnic diversity joined together to show their support for American forces by calling for their withdrawl from Iraq. The march got a smattering of media attention but more important, it exposed one of the city’s busiest intersections in one of its most affluent areas to the determined opposition to the war in Iraq. Passing motorists honked horns, waved and cheered the crowd. A few were hostile but the positive response was very welcome.

Protesting American militarism and adventurism is never easy in Phoenix. Aside from the harsh natural climate, the political climate is not receptive to questions and protest. The city is located in a Republican stronghold. What public spaces exist, such as the State Capitol and the city’s Patriot Park are largely deserted on weekends. The February 2003 Stop the War march at the latter venue was witnessed by hundreds. Saturday’s Bring the Troops Home Now march was seen by thousands and reminded even the casual passer-by that many in this Red State want to end the war.

Prominent among the marchers were Arizona veterans. I was one of 30 or so veterans bearing witness against the war. We were all ages, although older vets like me were probably the largest contingent. Several were, like me, Vietnam Veterans. One very young man was an Iraq war vet, a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Like the Vietnam Veterans Against the War who inspired me, this organization will be important in educating the public about the reality of their war.

Compared to the many thousands who marched in Washington, DC, the numbers marching in Phoenix may be small. But the spirit and determination is equal to any. In times past, I have been discouraged about the limited interest in opposing American militarism. Not on Saturday. On Saturday I was proud to stand with my fellow Arizonans to Bring the Troops Home Now.


For anyone trying to decipher the pros and cons of American withdrawl from Iraq, I recommend a series of posts by Juan Cole on his Informed Comment weblog. He posts his own ideas and a series of critiques of his original posts. They are long and sometimes complex but then trying to exit from a war is a complex process. More so, unfortunately, than getting into a war. The posts are here, here, here, here and here. Some of the links are to a larger post so readers may have to look a bit to find the discussion. Readers could do far worse than spending time reading Juan Cole.


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