Early on the morning of Saturday, January 27th, four of us (Cynthia, Phoebe & Drick Boyd, and Laura Rosenberger) loaded into our car for Washington, DC to join nearly 100,000 like-minded folks on the National Mall in front of the Capitol Building. Our purpose was to urge our government, particularly our Congresspersons, to use their power to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq, and to oppose President’s Bush’s plan to send a “surge” of 21,000 more soldiers to that embattled country.
One could not have asked for a nicer January day for such an event. The sun was shining and the temperature was pleasant. But more than the weather, the spirit of the rally was positive and upbeat. There were drummers, and jugglers and people with all kinds of costumes and signs. Speakers representing all sorts of organizations from anti-war groups like Code Pink and United for Peace and Justice, to military vets and families of current and past soldiers, to well known celebrities and politicians praised us for our presence and exhorted us to chants, cheers and songs. I was particularly struck by the diversity of age and race in the crowd. This was not just a young person’s or an older person’s or a white person’s or a black person’s march; it was a march that represented the diverse demographic that is the United States.
What brought me there was a strong sense that our policies toward Iraq would only deepen the crisis that already exists there. Someone once wrote that idiocy is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result. By that definition President Bush’s Iraq policy is idiocy. I am neither pro-war nor pro-military, but when patriotic types and military personnel question the wisdom of the Bush policy, and. when a group of seasoned diplomats like the Baker-Hamilton Commission counsel a different approach, one can be assured that the current approach is idiocy.
I am no expert on Mideast policy or of the Arab-Muslim mindset. Yet, it is apparent that our presence in Iraq only enflames an already explosive situation. The leaders of Iraq must be forced to end the hostilities between their competing factions. While U.S. personnel are being injured and killed, even more so the Iraqi people are suffering in the current violence. Iraq’s neighbors such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iran, Syria and Turkey, as well Muslim states like Egypt and Algeria, must use their influence to end the hostilities. U.S. diplomatic efforts should center on engaging these nations in working with the Iraq government to find a path for peace.
U.S. policy has led to massive death and violence. Adding soldiers and firepower to the current situation will only add to the death toll and increase the violence. The idiocy of the Bush policy is that it seeks to do more of the same, vainly hoping for a different result. What is needed is not more troops, but a different approach.
As one who thinks of himself as a Christian peacemaker, my prayer and hope is that a Muslim peace movement might arise not only in the U.S. but more importantly across the Mideast. Missing from Saturday’s demonstration was a strong Muslim presence. While most people see the “war on terror” as a battle of Arabs against the United States, in a very real sense it is an intra-Muslim conflict. By this I don’t mean to suggest that U.S. actions haven’t contributed greatly to the problem, because indeed they have. What I mean is that if groups such as al-Quaeda don’t represent mainstream Muslim thinking, then Muslims must silence them. If the Sunni-Shiite conflict in Iraq is out of control, them cooler, wiser Muslim heads must prevail. Muslims who yearn for peace must take center stage.
For too long the powers of the world, starting with the U.S., have resorted to war and violence and criticized efforts of diplomacy and peacemaking as “unrealistic.” From where I sit, war in Iraq has done a pretty lousy job of saving lives and increasing security. Furthermore, the weapons of war are too dangerous to be used judiciously. War has been tried and been found wanting; its time for peacemakers to stand between the warring factions and say “enough is enough.” I would hope that as peacemakers across the globe and across the religious spectrum, we could raise up an army of reconciliation. Now that would be a rally that could stop the idiocy!