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Rally and Teach-in on the 7th Anniversary of the Iraq War

March 20, 2010
Phoenix, AZ

Janet Weil’s report back:

Dozens of peace-and-justice-loving folks gathered at the Memorial for Peace in downtown Phoenix to commemorate and protest the 7 years of illegal US occupation of Iraq, the escalating war in Afghanistan, and the overall theft of our resources for war and militarism. To the toe-tapping sounds and often satirical lyrics of the two-man band Haymarket Squares, folks from western Arizona, the greater Phoenix metropolitan area, and a couple from California (myself and my husband) greeted each other and held signs to passing traffic.

Messaging included “Jobs at Home/NOT WARS ABROAD”, “STOP THE AFGHAN QUAGMIRE,” “War Is Taxing,” and “TRUTH and JUSTICE MUST PREVAIL.” Several of the signs were made by codepinker Liz Hourican, who acted as hostess, warmly welcoming friends and newcomers to the rally. Mitch and Sheilah spoke briefly about the meaning of this tragic anniversary on the mic. The local ABC affiliate was there to shoot footage and interview protesters. The reaction of the public was quiet but mostly positive.

We then went on a short march through the neighborhood, passing Arizona State’s Walter Cronkite Center for Journalism and Mass Communication on our way to a local community center for the teach-in. Popular local radio talk show host Jeff Farias [www.the] acted as MC for an excellent lineup of speakers including keynoter Professor Gibbs of the University of Arizona. Gibbs gave an overview of US interference in Afghan politics going back to the Carter Administration and Afghanistan’s being drawn in to the Cold War (with disastrous results for the Afghan people), then addressed recent developments in the country. He was unequivocally against the US military being in Afghanistan for both economic and political reasons.

Gibbs also presented an alternative vision to the militaristic involvement that has characterized US policy, at terrible cost in tax dollars and human lives, for the last several decades – an engagement with the world that could include fighting AIDS globally, working to lessen global climate change, and other positive projects. In answer to my question about Senator Barbara Boxer’s proposed $50 million aid to Afghan women being tacked on as an amendment to the upcoming war funding supplemental, Professor Gibbs was highly critical, saying that she and other US women leaders were being “co-opted.”

Other speakers included the lively State legislator Kyrsten Sinema, who advised activists to talk to state officials about putting pressure on their federal officials to end the wars. “We [state politicians] have more access to them – it’s not fair, but we do.” Sinema talked about her (unusual) path of moving from being an antiwar organizer to serving in the state legislature. Beyond meeting directly with state officials and making demands, she urged that Arizonans get busy electing new officials, saying that AZ budget cuts are turning the state “into a third world country.”

Veterans from the Vietnam and Iraq wars spoke powerfully about the harm they and others have suffered from witnessing and committing violent acts in war, and veterans’ urgent, and often unmet, needs on their return from combat. A libertarian, also a veteran, running for state office rounded out the program, which was remarkable for the range of political views and life experiences of the panelists. A short but lively Q and A session was followed by many personal conversations as the teach-in came to an end.

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