Thursday, November 11, 2004

1000th US Soldier Killed Since "Mission Accomplished"

Symbolically, this week in Fallujah, during the largest U.S. assault since the occupation began, we passed the tragic milestone of 1,000 U.S. soldiers killed since "Mission Accomplished."

On May 1, 2003, President Bush donned a flight suit and landed on an aircraft carrier a few miles from San Diego to declare major combat over and bask in the victory of a "mission accomplished."

During that mother of all photo ops, the president's handlers made sure that news cameras took shots of the president with the ocean in the background. If they had turned the cameras the other way, they would have seen the San Diego skyline and would have discovered that the ship stayed at sea an extra day so that the flight suit portrait could take place.

The battle for Fallujah is the same smoke and mirrors photo op, the same Vietnam mentality of destroying the city in order to save it. While the Marines take Fallujah, the insurgents have slipped off to other battles. The real winners are destruction and chaos.

Humanitarian aid groups like CARE, Doctors Without Borders and my own group, the American Friends Service Committee, have had to leave. Independent humanitarian aid is virtually nonexistent. But the official line is that things are going well in Iraq and freedom is on the march. Sounds a lot like the mission accomplished message of eighteen months ago.

Now 1,000 more U.S. troops will not come home alive and a likely 100,000 Iraqis have died due to the war, according to a study by the School of Public Health at the renowned Johns Hopkins University.

On November 2, fear trumped hope and Americans once again refused to change presidents in the midst of a war. We can say then, that President Bush's mission indeed was accomplished, the one he really cared about most: re-election.


Shelly Bryant returned a tiny angel to her dead cousin yesterday.

Kneeling outside the Lucas County Courthouse and blinking against tears and the cold, the Toledo mother of four quietly slipped a small round angel medallion through the laces of an empty pair of boots. The combat boots represented the life and death of Pfc. Nicholaus E. Zimmer, a former Toledoan. He had handed the tiny piece to Ms. Bryant two years ago to comfort her as her mother battled cancer.

"I carried it with me all the time," she said, standing and glancing around at the 1,134 pairs of empty black boots. "This is where it belongs now."

People are drawn to the momentoes that family members, friends and others have tied to the boots. One of the most poignant is a note from Mrs. Rosas, the mother of a 21-year old soldier from Lansing. She wrote on the note that "wherever these boots travel, my broken heart will follow."

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Post-election Hope

On November 2, fear trumped hope.

Our task in the days and weeks ahead is to make hope triumphant again.

The one thing that those in power want us to do right now is step back, let down and give up.

We at the American Friends Service Committee refuse to stop because we see a way forward that will propel people to act on their best hopes, not their worst fears.

We are in a struggle for the soul of this nation. What is at stake is whether we define morality in the narrowest of individualistic terms, or whether we hold to a higher standard of genuine care of all of our sisters and brothers in the world community. Will the moral standards of this nation be exclusively personal, or will we hold up the beloved community?

As much exposure as we have had with Eyes Wide Open, studies tell us that 3 out of 4 Republican voters still believe that weapons of mass destruction are in Iraq and that Iraq had ties with al qaeda. A recent University of Maryland study tells us that only one in ten people in the United States know that over 10,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in the war.

So we are keeping Eyes Wide Open, our memorial the the human cost of the Iraq War, traveling throughout the United States. We are booked through mid-April in the South and West Coast with scores of requests for next spring and summer in the Midwest and East Coast.

Whatever the meaning of the November 2nd vote, it was not a mandate for war.

The election is over, the war is not , and our resolve has just begun.

Our struggle in the longer arc of history is to make hope ascendant again. That long arc of history seldom bends for long toward deception and lies. The proud are finally brought to their knees and military might, no matter how great, is not the final arbiter of ultimate victory.

In this post-election period, the struggle now passes from the political parties to civil society, organizations like the American Friends Service Committee that are here day in and day out educating, organizing and speaking out about a reality that too often stays hidden from the eyes of our nation. The struggle now passes to you and I to build the infrastructure for peace that government and political parties refuse to do.

Remember, over 50 million people voted against the Iraq War. That, in a nation saturated with Fox News type reporting and a nation blanketed with reactionary talk radio, is quite an accomplishment. That still remains an amazing number of people who were not fooled. Remember, we have more power than we think, but a little less than we need.

We continue forward, with eyes wide open, creating new openings as others close behind us. That, we feel, is the nature of this work. Obstacles lead to opportunities if we dig in and accept them as problems to be solved, not insurmountable barriers that deter us from moving forward. And we will...keep on moving forward.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004


Tom Goodwin, one of the founders of Iraq Veterans Against the War visited Eyes Wide Open in Tampa. He will be joining us again on Veteran's Day in Toledo, Ohio. Each time he comes he walks through the boots and reads every name tag. And then at the end, he is overwhelmed with emotion. He knows that is what is going to happen, but he has to read all of the names before he can leave.