The fight for peace continued March 18
By Laura McPhee
Nearly 600 people gathered on the steps of Monument Circle March 18 to call for an end to the war in Iraq, along with tens of thousands of others who gathered in cities around the world to mark the third anniversary of the "Shock and Awe" campaign that began the U.S. occupation of Iraq on March 19, 2003.
It's been three years since the war began. In that time, more than 2,300 Americans have been killed and more than 17,000 have been wounded. While the United States has maintained no "official" death count for Iraqi citizens, most sources place the number of dead Iraqi men, women and children at between 30,000 and 40,000. Twice that number again have been wounded.
Conservatively, the dead and wounded thus far in the Iraq war outnumber Americans killed on Sept. 11 by a ratio of 60:1.
Conservatively, the dead and wounded thus far in the Iraq war outnumbered those calling for peace on the steps of Monument Circle last Saturday by a ratio of 200:1.
The rally for peace was, in many respects, a fairly typical peace rally.
Across the street from the rally, two women stood proudly next to an American flag draped from the umbrella of a hot dog stand. Their signs equated anti-war with pro-terrorism in the vein of "You're either with us or against us," and "You're either on the side of good or the side of evil."
The older of the two women had no problem sharing her opinions when I interviewed her, though she did refuse to share her name.
"I'm doing my duty as a Christian and as an American by supporting the war," she gave as the reason for her counter-attendance. "Jesus said, 'Obey your government,' and that's what I'm doing. That's why I support the troops. That's why they don't."
"Um. I don't think Jesus said that," was all I could manage in response.
"Yes he did," she snapped. "Anybody who ever read the Bible knows it's in there. Look it up."
"Um. No ma'am. I don't think it is. Jesus never said, 'Obey your government,' I'm pretty sure about that," I said as evenly as possible.
"Yeah well, I'm sure he did. And I'm damn sure done talking to you." She made an actual huffing noise and turned her back to me.
So I walked back across the street to join some friends.
Melissa, the Communist, was taking a break from handing out newspapers and talking to Sylvia, an anti-death penalty activist. With them was Brittany, a girl I didn't know. Just as I reached their huddle, a car passed with the driver honking, sticking his arm out the window with his middle finger extended, yelling, "Fucking Communists!"
"I knew you were bad news," I told Melissa.
"Oh my God!" Brittany said in an Alicia Silverstone voice so dead-on I initially found it suspect. "Did he just flip us off?"
Mel, Sylvia and I tell her a few stories from "back in the day" at protests in the months leading up to the war. Not to mention the repercussions once it started.
"I just didn't know you guys," Brittany gushed when we were through with our stories and cigarettes. "I mean, I think I was like a lot of people after Sept. 11. I was hurt and angry, and I thought this was a war about terrorism. But now I know President Bush lied, and I'm even madder about that."
Mel and I share a glance that says, "Rookie."
"Yeah, well, the good news is you've come around," Sylvia says, smiling.
Our conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Congresswoman Julia Carson - a demigoddess to the peace crowd. She is one of only a few elected representatives who have unequivocally opposed the war at every stage. This is not a woman who flip-flops on anything. She is definitely among friends here, and her presence gives those friends some much-needed confidence that their voices are being heard in Washington.
Honor the dead. Heal the wounded. End the war: the message of the peace rally and those who remain committed to peace is pretty simple really.
And unless you invent Bible verses or weapons of mass destruction, it's a pretty difficult one to find fault with.
Later that night, I stared at my television in disbelief as local broadcast news stations that covered the rally described these two women as "a group of counter-protesters" and "counter protestors supporting the war and the troops."
I also stared in disbelief when Fox news began their local broadcast saying, "About 100 protesters gathered in downtown Indianapolis today ..." and Channel 8 ran a national piece from New York about rallies for peace around the world - never mentioning the one held here.