How Do You Mark the End of a War?
By Diane Randall on 12/20/2011 @ 11:49 AM
Celebration, relief, uncertainty, sober reflection, renewed dedication to peace?
When the U.S. pulled its last soldiers from Iraq this week, it almost went unmarked here at FCNL. Despite the fact that the U.S. march toward war ten years ago spawned the well-known “war is not the answer” slogan found on bumper stickers and yard signs across the country, and despite the fact that FCNL’s lobbying Congress over the last nine years helped create the timetable for withdrawing troops by December 2011 through the creation of the Iraq Study Group, we held no party.
Instead, we’ve been focused on lobbying for Sen. Merkley’s amendment in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would get U.S. troops out of Afghanistan and lobbying against the amendments that ratchet up sanctions against Iran which fertilize the ground for deadly conflict. Meanwhile, the “war on terror,” marches on in the insidious detainee provisions included in the NDAA, provisions that would allow U.S. citizens suspected of terrorism to be arrested and held indefinitely.
The uncertainty of the results we got for the price we paid for the war in Iraq should give everyone pause. My colleague, Matt Southworth, an Iraq veteran and lobbyist for peace, writes eloquently about his sober reflection on the loss of the lives of 4,500 U.S. service members, thousands of Iraqi civilians with the financial costs of a trillion dollars already spent.
When I was in the northern provinces of Iraq a few months ago, I met people who didn’t want U.S. troops to leave. The mostly Kurdish minority was concerned for their stability and security, and yet, they knew that the rebuilding of their own civil society—for human rights, for civil liberties, for economic opportunity—create the best conditions for peace and security. From university professors to non-profit leaders to seminary students, these individuals demonstrated a resilience, a commitment to peace, and the personal experience of the costs of war.
Our work at FCNL is to advance policies with members of Congress that move us beyond war; to create policies that offer the best conditions for peace and security. This means more than opposing wars and military engagement in conflict, it means reducing the threats of war and scaling back our investments in military bases and weapons systems that don’t build effective foreign policy and that fuel our nation’s deficit.
At FCNL we note the end of the war with relief, with a renewed commitment to peace. We hope that this sad chapter of our nation’s foreign policy will give way to the hope and aspirations of those who are engaged in non-violent struggles and resistance around the globe.