Chicago, IL - On the morning of March 20, 2003, the British Broadcasting Company (BBC) news anchor opened the broadcast with the news that the bombing of Baghdad had begun the night before. “Protests have broken out in Bonn, Tokyo and London, and in San Francisco and Chicago, hundreds of protesters have been arrested.”
Ten years later, many of the 100 persons gathered here for an event to mark the anniversary of the start of the war had not heard that broadcast, because they were among those arrested in the streets of Chicago that night.
The March 20 forum, called, “10 Years Since Iraq: The Changing Face of War,” featured a number of speakers from the anti-war movement and other struggles. It was sponsored by a coalition of anti-war groups.
Peter Lems, co-coordinator of the Wage Peace campaign of the American Friends Service Committee, spoke about drone warfare as a terrible new development in the service of the same war-makers from the past decade. “A United Nations investigation into targeted killings will focus on the three countries that have carried out the most drone attacks: the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Israel.”
Victoria Crider of Fearless Leading by the Youth explained, “There is also a war that is taking place in Chicago.” She was arrested recently in a protest to demand that the wealthy University of Chicago open a trauma center, because there isn’t one on Chicago’s South Side. Poverty and unemployment have increased greatly since the economic crisis hit. The African American and Latino communities have been affected particularly hard and the city has seen a corresponding and shocking increase in murders. Increases in the murder rate generally accompany economic crises in the U.S. and are part of a system of brutality against oppressed nationalities that includes police violence and mass incarceration.
For Vincent Emanuelle of Iraq Veterans Against the War, “It’s not enough now for the anti-war movement to oppose this war or the next war. We have to oppose the U.S. empire as it prepares for war in Syria, Iran or Mali.” In his moving talk, he shared with the audience the emotional damage he suffered as a Marine in Iraq from the violence he had helped to inflict on the occupied Iraqis. When a young Iraqi in the audience, who lived through the 2003 invasion, thanked the anti-war activists for their efforts to stop the war, Emanuelle responded by emotionally apologizing to him for the destruction caused by the U.S. war and embraced him at the end of the event.
Andy Thayer of the Gay Liberation Network, among the best-known leaders of the protests against the Iraq War from ten years ago, talked about a new study from Brown University, which concluded that the U.S. was directly responsible for 190,000 violent deaths in Iraq and that several times that number died from other violence since the invasion. Criticizing the anti-war forces that stopped protesting when Obama was elected, he said, “We need to learn from Martin Luther King, who never endorsed a candidate in all his years in the civil rights movement.”
Finally, Kait McIntyre of the Anti-War Committee of Chicago spoke about its campaign against drone warfare. Calling people to join in the protest against Boeing Company on April 6, part of a month of anti-drone protests around the country, she urged people to learn lessons from the successful protest against the NATO summit last May. “Ultimately, the campaign against Boeing and the linking of economic demands at home with the call to end the wars abroad are really a way to illustrate that we, here in the U.S. and those suffering in other countries due to U.S. imperialism, share a common enemy: those who place profits before people.”
The evening accomplished the hopes of organizers to help re-build the anti-war movement. Songs by Ramon and Haydee Marino, a father and daughter duo, helped to lift spirits of those who felt low from the mainstream media coverage of the anniversary. College students from the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israeli apartheid held a light brigade vigil to remember Rachel Corrie, the American solidarity activist killed by Israel in Gaza. Corrie had died just a few days before the Iraq invasion. They inspired the crowd to continue to resist in her memory.
Community leader Hatem Abudayyeh, of the U.S. Palestinian Community Network and one of the 23 anti-war activists under grand jury investigation by the U.S. Attorney, helped to emcee the event, along with Mary Zerkel of the American Friends Service Committee. In his opinion, “The event was a resounding success and I’m proud of Chicago’s anti-war movement post 9-11. People in the Arab World know that we are trying to stop the U.S. war machine and respect us for it. Now we are entering a new period and we must redouble our efforts. The Anti-War Committee is now calling for our movement to take on Chicago’s Boeing, to oppose selling arms to Israel and selling the Pentagon their new design for a killer drone. Plus, the No Drone campaign is helping to build a movement that will oppose all moves toward new wars.”