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On the Anniversary of the War in Iraq: Reflections from a Peace Activist

March 20, 2013
English: January 10, 2009 Veterans for Peace m...

English: January 10, 2009 Veterans for Peace members protest against Israel invasion of Gaza at Lafayette Park, between White House and U.S. President-elect Barack Obama’s temporary hotel residence. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

THE 10th 

By Grant Marcus
one in a series
of political posts for peace

Where was I on the 19th of March 10 years ago?

I remember
watching “Shock and Awe,” in the wee hours, a fireworks phenomenon gone awry as buildings exploded with American power .

As the
“journalist” talked about “smart bombs” on CNN,
I noticed how media cameras gave us shots just close
enough for the show, but also just distant enough to
avoid the human drama and bloodshed on the ground.

Just a week earlier I, along with 10-15 million
other people around the globe took to the streets to
beg our government for patience and common
sense, to beg our leaders not to go to war.  But when
Bush took off to the Azores, landing on Island
Acores, or “Hawk” Island a few days later, I knew
the war had been pretermined.

In fact, it was some months earlier, before
the bombings of the Twin Towers, when I had
been approached by a kingpin from the Navy
base, urging me to invest in Halliburton.  The
officer said that the company had just gotten
all the no-bid food contracts in Iraq.

“And do you think my base is getting any of that food?”
he quipped.  “No.  They’re sending it to Kuwait.

That can only mean one thing, we’re going
back to Iraq…If you invest $40,000 now, I can
promise you a beach house in eight years.”

I didn’t feel comfortable “investing” in war.  It
seemed to me to just add certainty that it
would soon follw

Several months later, I found myself protesting
outside Congressman Elton Gallegly’s office.
He had voted for the war, and working with
the group, Not In Our Name, we wanted him
to redress our grievances. Three of us went
through non-violent training and planned on
being arrested, if he refused to meet with us
by phone conference.

We chose April Fools Day for our action,
because “On April Fool’s Day, The People
Will Not Be Fooled.” Not fooled by a fictitious
wars for fictitious reasons  Even then, we knew
it was a war for oil and big business, a war
of convenience for the very wealthy, for war
contractors, oil, and their investors.  Eisen-
hower warned us about the “military industri-
al complex.”  But even Tom Paine knew that
“the Department of War is our most lucrative
branches of govenment.”

C. Gallegly would readily admit some time
later, that he wasn’t about to meet with any
citizens with any groups advocating peace.
And yet it was easy for him to take off to Pak-
istan, and meet with foreigners, thousands
of miles away, to talk war.  I soon recognized
the hypocrisy in his sort of democracy and
our supposed “representation.”

I’ll never forget our arrest.  Me and two
others were taken to the back of the Con-
gressman’s office.  We were greeted by
60 police cars, 4 police per car in riot gear,
three police buses, two firetrucks, and 20
plain clothesman on the roof, pointing AK
47s down on us.  I asked the arresting of-
ficer handcuffing me if we each got our
own private bus. It was pretty obvious the
government did not want anyone interfering
with their dirty little war for big business.

Was it Joseph Conrad who said, “the
first casualty of war is truth?”  And the sec-
ond casualty is not those who voted for
war, but our youth.  It’s our sons and
daughters, who cannot foresee what is
about to happen to them.

I spent the next weeks, if not months
participating in peace marches downtown,
organized by CPR and Dr. Dodge.  After
awhile, it felt discomforting, as if we were
going around in circles, and blaming
small businesses in the downtown com-
munity for the war.  We weren’t really ac-
complishing anything.

But a movement was growing out of
Los Angeles called “Counter-Recruitment,”
that was later changed to “Truth in Recruit-
ment.”  I began writing, producing leaflets
and pamphlets, to convince our youth not
to conscript in war.  I created the group,
Nurses for Social Responsibility, and to-
gether, with Veterans for Peace. we leaf-
leted, year after year, every high school
in Ventura County.

But military recruiters had more mon-
ey, and more access to the schools than
we did.  They brazenly visited campuses
at lunchtime with their military bait of free
education, bonuses for joining, and prom-
ises of a job with honorable discharge.

Their posters and heroic paraphernalia
was all over the job center walls. Peace
activists held ground, but couldn’t com-
pete against the military industrial com-
plex, that was willing to spend upward of
$14,000 per recruit to sell our children a
bill of goods on war. They would say any-
thing to get an enlistment.  And a produc-
tive recruiter with a good enlistment rec-
ord could stay at home and out of the war.

Recruiters held free pizza parties,
bought doughnuts for kids not far from
campus, and if students failed to fill out
an “opt out” to the military form, a recruit-
er could find out their personal informa-
tion, their addresses, and phone num-
bers, and track them down.  Young people
who were out to prove they were men–
or women–were easily manipulated to
sign up.  Foster children were preyed on
as targets.

Our fledgling groups needed help, and
we needed to expand throughout the
country.  It is why, in 2005, I went to one
of the largest peace rallies ever held in
Washington D.C., in order to give edu-
cational info and seminars on how to do
truth-to-recruitment work in the schools.

350,000 people, or one in every 850
Americans came to the September 2005
peace rally organized by the groups, Unit-
ed for Peace and Justice, and A.N.S.W.E.R.

Our protest, which was a human wall that
completely surrounded the White House,
was blacked out by major media.  I real-
ized then that the corporate news would
only report what their sponsors ordered.

At least the rally ran Bush out of town.
He was again clearing that brush–or wash-
ing his hands.  The truth is, he was taking
yet another vacation on his ranch in Texas.

The length of the war, which kept go-
ing and going, was in itself, our attrition.
It wore us out. It was outlasting us.  And
today, there is still no end in sight, for
there is still Syria, and Iran, and Leban-
non, and…wherever there is oil or needed
resources, the eternal war on terror is
sure to follow.

Hasn’t it been the history of mankind
since the early recordings of Beowolf, “to
the victor go the spoils?” Wasn’t our nation
colonialized nd revolutionized because of
barbarian kings using war to chase down
resources?  Why should America’s mor-
ality be any different?

Meanwhile, through it all, I had been
fighting cancer.  I was in my own war.

For the last ten years, I have felt the
pain and frustration of hopelessness, a
hopelessness that is powerlessness,
really, to convince people to understand
that the war IS the bad economy, or that
global warming is also global warring,
(60% of global oil use is by militarism)
or that a war on terror is a war that will
last forever, because it is a war that is
unwinnable.  I wonder too, when will
the American people realize that war,
itself is terror?  And terror war.  How
does that saying go?  A canibal can
still eat with a fork.

For ten years I have watched in pain,
as one incident after the other leaked out
about the horrors of war, and its latest
abominable technologies.  I learn about
Gunatanamo, and the psychologists there
that reminded me of concentration camps
in Nazzi Germany.  I learn about water
boarding, as just one of the many devic-
es used for interrogation.  I also learn how
many of the detainees have been found
to be innocent, yet they remain imprisoned.

At the Church of Peace, we do a play,
“Poems from Guantanamo,” to give these
orange jump suits and black hoods at-
tached to electrodes a human face.

For ten years,  Americans lose their
lives, along with countless Iraqis.  “We
don’t do body counts,” squeals Gen. Tom-
my Franks,but day in and day out more
people die, more women and children, and
although we realize we have lost 4,467 of
our own soldiers, we don’t know the num-
bers of Iraqis that have lost their lives.

Like a faucet dripping on my forehead,
every day leaks out more horror.  Pri-
vate contractors run down 17 Iraqis for a
good time.  Home invasions with infrared
leaving families dead,  And then we find
out that Guantanamo is just the tip of a sys-
tematic iceberg of torture, that includes
black ops, numerous prisons and black
sites, plane convoys to several countries–
an entire network of torture.

Then the steady release of photos. The
naked bodies bitten by dogs–piled high in
pyramid fashion, with a female soldier, in
glee, one hand resting on a naked back,
the other hand giving the thumbs-up sign
to the camera.  For some reason, it brought
back old photos of lynchings in the South,
where people drank champaign with their
children, all smiles and hoopla, as bloody
black bodies swayed from the poplar tree.

Then, around 2006, a study was re-
leased by doctors who risked their lives
going into Iraq.  They showed, through
death certificates that some 700,000 Ir-
aqis had died.  The report stated that
this figure was much higher, because
there were two major war-torn cities
too risky to enter.  Since then, other num-
bers have been estimated between
150,000 and 1.2 million.  This does not
include the wounded and disabled, nor
the 3.5 million displaced Iraqis who fled
the country.

Iraq has lost nearly a fourth of their population. So why aren’t Americans insisting that our leaders do an authentic body count?

Then the story of Falloujah breaks,
where the military decided to pen in Ir-
aqis with barbed wire, and set the city
on fire with white phosphorous.  People
were slowly burned alive.  Meanwhile, the
depleted uranium used for amunition
was getting into our soldiers lungs, and
over 350,000 troops have applied for dis-

Today, in Fallouja, 600 children
have been born with deformities, and
our WMDs used there will cause medi-
cal problems for generations. Women
have spontaneous abortions and mis-
carriages and they are too afraid now
to have children.  They fear that their
children will be born with deformities they
cannot care for.

And because we have bombed the
infrastructure, the water, the sewage, ev-
erything in Iraq is contaminated and not
remedied.  There has been little recon-
struction, and money for reconsruction
is often missing or stolen, by military cor-
ruption.  Is this what we call “liberty” or
“freedom?”  And is oil what we mean
by “national security?  And whose sec-
urity would that be?  I don’t feel more se-
cure.  Do you?

How low will we go to get that oil?
And when does one fourth  a population
become a Holocaust?  Being Jewish, I
do not use the term flippantly.  To me,
1 million dead and 3,5 million displaced
to the diaspora without a homeland is a
disgrace.  It brings shame to America as
well  In WW II, even the Germans did
body counts. Yes, war is terror. And Am-
erican wars of “freedom” are also acts of

Last week, I wasn’t the only one who
watched the Showtime special on Dick
Cheney, giving him yet another hour of air
time to convince us the war was neces-
sary.  He looked almost deadpan at the
camera, when he said without hesitation,
that he would do it all again in a minute.
He reminded me of that stoic detachment
you see in serial killers.

In a glimpse of truth Dick Cheney was
asked about his best qualities, of which he
had a ready list.  When asked about his
faults, he became silent.  Then he said,
“You know, I don’t give any time to my faults.
Maybe that’s one of my faults.”  I knew there
were rhetorical questions.  Now I know
there are rhetorical answers.

Meanwhile, 18 soldiers, every day, who
have returned from Iraq, commit suicide.

When your commander asks you to kill
women and children, when you are taught
to have a total disregard for life, when you
are told you can torture all you want so
long as the people back home don’t find
out about it–well, when you get home, those
memories, those dead souls, they become
hard to live with–at least for those with a
conscience, unlike Cheney.

The Iraq war began as a mistake. There
were never any WMDs, just as the war
was never a “cakewalk.”  The “mission” is
still not accomplished.  We have yet to in-
clude reparations in the cost of this $3
trillion massive mistake, and the estimated
$1.2 trillion we will pay in interest off war’s

Those who fought and those who died,
Americans and Iraqis alike, as well as the
American people who are now, through
austerity measures, paying the cost of the
war–we are all victims of the war in Iraq.

I only hope and pray that some day, Nur-
emberg visits America, and finally justice
is served, served at the highest levels
of government on all those responsible for
the Holocaust they have perpetrated in
our name.

Grant Marcus is a registered nurse, peace act-
ivist, and writer.  He has both an RN credential
and a Masters in English.  He has written a book
of poetry about the war that is self-published, and
with many of the poems published by Cal State
Northride.  It is entitled, “A Poet’s 4 Year Struggle
With War,”–of course, written some time ago.
Mr. Marcus still writes poems when he isn’t
writing other things.

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