This slim book lays out eight reasons why the US should leave Iraq immediately:
- The US military has no right to be in Iraq in the first place.
- The US is not bringing democracy to Iraq.
- The US is not making the world a safer place by occupying Iraq.
- The US is not preventing civil war in Iraq.
- The US is not confronting terrorism by staying in Iraq.
- The US is not honoring those who died by continuing the conflict.
- The US is not rebuilding Iraq.
- The US is not fulfilling its obligation to the Iraqi people for the harm and suffering it has caused.
Admittedly, I already agreed with most of these assertions before reading the book. The one lingering doubt I did have about when we should stop the occupation was the 4th point. This book didn’t go into great detail on that point (it’s less than 120 pages), but it did give some examples of how the US authorities are actually pitting factions against each other in the formation of the Iraqi government — the ol’ divide and conquer approach. The book inspired me to go read more on the subject, and I am now convinced that our presence in Iraq alone is the source of most of the agitation. I am not naive — I don’t believe that as soon as we pull out, the violence will stop. But I do believe that by continuing to be an occupying presence and contributing to the culture of violence, we are only rubbing the wound raw.
Another key part of the book for me was a list of five factors that brought about an end to the Vietnam war:
- Mass resistance of the Vietnamese people to US intervention
- Resistance of US soldiers and veterans
- Domestic opposition on a scale that forced elites in the US to recognize that they had lost the war at home
- International protest and opposition that isolated the US politically
- Growing economic consequences of the war, which led to inflation and deficits that undermined the position of the US economy
Holy crap, I thought after reading it for the first time. A lot of ridiculously big stuff has to happen to stop a war. But what gave me hope is knowing that we did stop an unjust war in our nation’s history, with citizen outcries being a major factor in doing so. And hey look — we have a roadmap for doing it again! A roadmap with crazy zigzag roads criss-crossing every millimeter, making it unbelievably hard to get where you want to go — but a roadmap nonetheless.
In the last 2 weeks, I’ve seen 2 movies that have inspired me to do more in my daily life to work against this war: The War Tapes and The US vs. John Lennon They were inspiring for very different reasons — one is raw and upsetting, the other hopeful and admiring.
These movies and this book made me realize that if I care deeply about something, I can’t just send an electronic pre-written letter to my representatives when I happen to get a reminder to do so. If you truly care about something, it should be part of your daily life. If you can devote a few minutes (or more) each day to surfing the web, watching TV, or generally just killing time, certainly you can devote a few minutes to writing a real letter or reading an article to learn more or sharing an article with friends and family or volunteering for your local anti-war group or any of the countless things you can do to contribute to the cause in your own way.
Sure, nothing I do is going to stop the war tomorrow. Nothing will. You don’t beat back a war machine overnight. To do that requires constant and creative pressure from all types of people. So if writing a letter doesn’t seem useful to you, sit down and think about what does seem useful to you. Maybe working against in-school military recruitment is something you feel makes the most difference. Or maybe you want to learn more about the issue so you can make an effective argument with friends and family. Or maybe you have an idea for a new type of action against the war. Just do something, anything. And do it regularly. Ending this war will require more than just one-off efforts from everyone who’s against it. It will require us to weave our efforts into our daily lives. People are dying unnecessarily every day in this war. The least we could do is devote a tiny part of our days to honoring that in our own way.
As a wise man once said: “Whatever you do may seem insignificant, but it is most important that you do it.” — Mahatma Gandhi