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A forgotten war drags on in Iraq

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By Hannah Hayes

Eight years later, it was an altered scene at Evergreen’s downtown traffic light, where 15 people gathered to remember the ongoing war in Iraq. Although we were standing on the same bridge, we felt distant from those driving by. Now most of them are on their cell phones. The mood as indicated by friendly waves, while mostly apathetic, continues to tally overwhelmingly in favor of ending this long and fruitless war. There were the usual one or two head shakes.
The facts are clear. The cost is way too high in human life, our world is not safer, and the lust for oil is unsustainable and corrupt.
At present, the U.S. maintains 50,000 troops and 70,000 mercenaries in Iraq. The military talks of three or four permanent bases and armed forces until 2020. Iraqis suffer under a continuing occupation.
In this war, so far, hundreds of thousands are dead, and more than 4 million are displaced, mostly women and children. Some 2.7 million are internal refugees facing violence, lack of jobs and no basic social services. Up to 500,000 are squatting in slums. Infrastructure renewal is years from completion.
There was a hollow Obama bump in U.S. prestige, but that quickly dwindled because, while some change has happened, war is proving to be endless. Our military-industrial complex continues to maintain a budget that is greater than all other countries’ military budgets put together. Support the bipartisan coalition that wants to cut billions in outdated Pentagon programs and Cold War-era policies without any sacrifice to our safety. The near-bankruptcy of the American middle class, local government and public education dictates a look at military spending.
Other costs of war at home have been staggering — more than 4,000 American deaths, tens of thousands of wounded troops and more than $1 trillion in mismanaged dollars.
As Bill Maher said, “It would be kind of funny if every country in the Middle East became a democracy except Iraq and Afghanistan. Not funny ha-ha, but just ironic funny.” Indeed, as of this anniversary, March 19, Maher now can add Libya to the list.
There wasn’t much laughter at our rally. Our little group knows how it’s gone for Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and the U.S. since 2003.
While we talked about Japan, nuclear energy and Bradley Manning, we waved to a few hundred of you. We hope you took a moment to remember the war in Iraq and imagine peace on Earth.

Hannah B. Hayes is a former Both Sides Now debate columnist, small-business owner and peace activist. She has been a part of the Evergreen community for more than 35 years.