Smaller protests were held in other U.S. cities, stretching to Tuesday’s four-year anniversary of the Iraq invasion. In Los Angeles, Vietnam veteran Ed Ellis, 59, hoped the demonstrations would be the “tipping point” against a war that has killed more than 3,200 U.S. troops and engulfed Iraq in a deadly cycle of violence.
“It’s all moving in our direction, it’s happening,” he predicted at the Hollywood rally. “The administration, their get-out-of-jail-free card, they don’t get one anymore.”
So you know it’s wrong, and I know it’s wrong, and even Republicans seem to know it’s not exactly sunshine and kittens and joy and love over there, and politicians have turned against it, and presidential candidates have been pressured to say they shouldn’t have voted for it, and our national press is waking up to the fact that somebody somewhere may have the right to have the opinion that this war kind of sucks without being a dirty fucking hippie. So it’s four years in, and we know all that, and there’s candles burning in windows for peace and people marching.
What’s it going to look like, in a year? If our politicians are still cowed by those who prop up their own careers by calling other people pussies, if our leaders continue to shirk their leadership and make their lives a testament to the ordinary and achievable? What’s it going to look like, in a year, when people are still marching, and the windows are rattling with the sound of their songs, but the people we elected are deaf to the sounds? Are still talking about one last chance? This war could go on forever, because that’s what wars do, they go on, unless someone stops them. What’s it going to look like, in a year?
Four years on, we’ve lost thousands of soldiers and hundreds of thousands of civilians, we’ve destroyed two countries, theirs and our own. If you think Iraq won’t be the issue in 2008 you’re kidding yourselves; if you think Iraq won’t be the issue in 2024 you’re kidding yourselves even more. Every even-numbered year is going to be about this, from now until the last veteran of this war dies, because that’s how wars work, they stain forward, bloody those who fought them and those who waged them. Killing someone doesn’t just end that person’s life. It divides yours, too, into before you were the person who did that, and after. Four years on, we can’t face what we did to Iraq; fifty years on I’ll be shocked if we can face what we did to ourselves.
America is a young country; we forget that Vietnam was just a moment ago, in the timeline of a civilization. Maybe that’s why we haven’t learned, because we don’t have any distance. Because five years, ten years, twenty years, thirty years, forty years on, we’re still tearing ourselves apart to have the conversation after that we should have had before: Can we do this, can we carry it? We can’t answer that question because we can’t even ask it, can’t look that hard at what lies underneath our actions. We’re afraid.
(Every time I talk about Douglas Feith I get asked about the layers of incompetence within the Bush administration, the way in which someone like him was allowed to happen, made to happen, flourished. Every time I say when you’re led by people this craven and frightened, Doug Feith is what you get.)
Four years on, this is what we get.