Nations fight wars for a range of reasons: to protect against invasion, to secure resources, to retaliate, to advance ideology.
As we mark the 10th anniversary of the war in Iraq, I was reminded by SUNY Potsdam historian George Gonos that wars also generate resistance.
Every war I know about has included those who patriotically, idealistically or pragmatically supported their nation’s decision to fight.
There are also those who just as patriotically, just as idealistically and just as pragmatically opposed that same decision.
In the aftermath of war, history books–as well as popular culture and media–are likely to neglect the stories and impact of those who oppose wars.
Curiously, when popular support of a war wanes, as it did for the Iraq war, there is virtually no public conversation with those who resisted the tide. There is no effort to perhaps learn, to delve into the hearts and minds of those who, after all, may have been right.
Here’s a part of what George wrote to us:
In the latter part of 2002 and early 2003 I was one of many people here in the North Country that threw a part of our lives, as completely as we could, into the effort to try to stop the war from starting. Remarkably, opposition to the war came together in literally every town, here in our usually sleepy region, and across the country. Worldwide, tens of millions of people demonstrated against this war before it began, to try to stop it from happening, a historically unprecedented development. (The front page of The New York Times recording the worldwide demonstrations one Sunday is still chilling to look at)…
It is incredible that NPR ignores all this, and all of us, in its coverage, and NCPR should not do the same. I find it impossible to fathom why NPR cannot seem to find even one person to interview from among the tens of millions of people who unequivocally opposed the war and fought against it from happening, who knew both that the war was unnecessary, and that it would be disastrous for our country.
Yesterday, I ran into a young man in the corridor of the building we work in. His brother is a career soldier, currently serving his fifth tour of duty overseas–the third tour in Afghanistan, two earlier tours in Iraq. He said to me, more in gesture than words, that his brother “does not understand” why we’re there…why we’ve ever been there.
When we abandon diplomacy for combat, we owe it to ourselves, to those we send to fight our battles, and to those we will fight against to be sure we know why we are fighting and what we hope to achieve.
Ten years later I ask each of you: what were we fighting for and did we achieve it?
And whatever we achieved, was it worth it? If you spent time in the military in Iraq, do you think it was worth it? Maybe it was not what you hoped for but perhaps there is some positive outcome you can hold in your heart and mind…and share with us.