The other morning I heard a report on National Public Radio about the country's anti-war movement in the wake of the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. The gist was "What's the point?"
Protesters didn't stop the war in 2003, and they haven't ended the war yet. Almost 4,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq over these five years, with untold thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians dead.
It can be easy to let despair creep in, as several people confessed in interviews for the NPR piece. They were against the war in 2003 and remain against the war now, but it often feels that their efforts didn't amount to much.
When dealing with such staggering loss of life and such disastrous foreign policy from the Bush administration, it can seem pretty insignificant to say you marched in a protest or put a sign in your yard. Yet, the protesters told NPR, trying to make a difference was better than doing nothing.
It was a sobering discussion of whether the effort to stop the Iraq war was worth it even though the end result wasn't accomplished.
There were no easy answers.
Ultimately, being a citizen is about taking a stand, having a say, casting a vote and then dealing with the results. Even when you're right and your position is ignored, you can't say you failed. Right?
Many of you were and are active in the anti-war movement here, and if you heard this radio report you might have had the same doubts as me. Maybe you've had this same discussion among your friends.
Realistically, U.S. troops will continue waging war in Iraq for at least two more years. The best-case scenario is that a Democrat is elected President, takes office in January 2009 and draws down forces over the following year.
The worst-case scenario is Sen. John McCain is elected President and keeps U.S. soldiers in harm's way throughout his term. He says our military might stay in Iraq for another 100 years.
How many more soldiers will die? How many more innocent Iraqis will die? Will more protests and signs make a difference?
Seeking to remind myself of the pre-war mood in Cincinnati, I re-read CityBeat's cover story from Feb. 19, 2003, and its headline gave me chills: "A Pause Before Killing." The story detailed the peace movement's embrace by a diverse and often mainstream group of Cincinnatians who hoped that Bush would pull back from war.
He invaded Iraq anyway, backed by McCain, Sen. Hillary Clinton and most of the country's political leaders, plus at least 70 percent of Americans. They were all wrong.
Being right isn't always popular. Sometimes, as when police cracked down on anti-war protests in 2003, it's dangerous. But you have to try to be right. What's the alternative?
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