Thursday, March 27, 2008

Five Years in Iraq

Last Wednesday, March 19th, marked the fifth anniversary of the U.S invasion in Iraq. As on previous anniversaries, protestors from all over the country gathered to express their aversion to the war. It seems to me, though, that the nature of these protests has evolved: smaller crowds, more arrests, and certainly more aggressive tactics.

One compelling example came from Syracuse, NY.  Protesters created a mock Baghdad street scene with people dressed in camouflage lying “dead” on the ground while others crouched, weeping over the bodies. Twenty people who were participating in this event were arrested for blocking traffic. Right here in DC several more were arrested for jumping barricades put up around the IRS building and sitting in front of the entrance.

Why were there so many acts of civil disobedience this year? Perhaps because protestors feel the need to shake people up! In an article written by the Associated Press for MSNBC, Laurie Wolberton of Louisville, KY (whose son just returned from his first tour in Iraq) believes that American economic problems are causing citizens to forget about the war:

"We're not paying attention anymore," she said. "My son has buried his friends. He's given eulogies, he's had to go through things no one should have to go through, and over here they've forgotten. They just go shopping instead."

Is it true that we’ve become disinterested? If so, what does that mean for a non-violent resistance movement? For people who are passionately against US military involvement in Iraq, the fact that people aren’t listening just means that they have to speak louder.  As protesters look for more creative ways to get people’s attention, I wonder if these acts of civil disobedience will become even more prominent in their strategy; and perhaps even escalate into violence. 


Colleen Reding said...

I don't think that it is a matter of people being disinterested. I think that people are definitely discouraged by the fact that the War in Iraq has been going on for five years and the problems there continue to grow under the current administration. However, I would like to believe that people are trying to make changes in other ways, like by showing support for candidates in the 2008 Presidential election. I think it is more effective to support the campaigns of candidates who have clear plans for withdrawing troops from Iraq and securing peace than to protest the war directly when everyone already knows that policy towards Iraq has been highly unpopular, especially since the Bush administration has even made it clear that it is not concerned with public opinion.

Brian Kesten said...

I think this is a really interesting discussion to have. I definitely think that to a certain extent we are de-sensitized to the War right now. We have seen countless scandals, we have access to information about the thousands of dead and displaced civilians, we know that we torture, we know that we have inhumane detainment practices. But at this point, its almost like nothing Bush or our government does surprises us anymore.

I think that acts of civil disobedience are the most powerful. We are most inspired when we see people risk their lives and livelihoods for a cause... but who wants to be that martyr? Especially if they will ultimately be ignored? The media is tired of Cindy Sheehan, we're tired of the War. We're even getting tired of the elections. What will it take to keep our attention? Granted, Vietnam was worse than Iraq, particularly in American casualties, but you would think that at least the money that the Iraq war is costing Americans would get people more involved!

Nicole Pedi said...

I think this is a perfect example of one of the difficulties activists have to face when promoting their cause: keeping people involved. Protesting the war has become a five year long process that many have deemed as a lost cause under the Bush administration. So, when people who normally saw the cause as important begin to feel discouraged and doubt the impact that protests will have, it is up to those running the protests to instill hope and bring supporters back to the cause. In this case, civil disobedience was used as the method to attract those against the war back to the protests. By carrying out these extreme actions you have a better chance to attract media attention and bring your issue back to the front of people's minds. But I have to agree with the past comments made in that for many people, the importance of ending the war in Iraq is a battle better fought after we see a new administration come into power. So, unfortunately for those organizing protests against the war in Iraq, the timing of the five year anniversary is something that hurts the cause. As we spoke about in class, people are now primarily focused on the election due to the belief that the Iraq war is never going to end under Bush. So instead of protesting, we should save our time and energy making sure a President reaches the Whitehouse who will be more willing to end the war.