March 19, 2008, 5th Anniversary of the Iraq War
Living Sign of Non-Violence, Bowling Green, New York City
A little over five years ago millions of people around the world came out to protest the impending invasion of Iraq, expressing our outrage at what we knew would be a human disaster. Our protests were ignored and now the majority has come around to seeing things more or less this way. We were right, and not because of the cost — although that’s obscene given the desperate needs of people — but because it’s wrong to attack innocent people, and because violence doesn’t resolve anything. It only leads to more violence.
Five years later, the death and destruction continue and now a majority of Americans want this madness to end. Yet it continues, revealing clearly that we don’t live in a real democracy. In a real democracy, the people decide. This is not a war waged by the people of the United States, although a lot of people supported it. It’s certainly not a war that is in the best interests of the people of the United States. It hasn’t made us safer, quite the opposite. It has made our country a pariah in the world and has enriched Halliburton executives — sticking the rest of us with the bill. This invasion has been waged by a very small minority with a virtual monopoly on economic and political power, and the collaboration of the mass media; a very small minority who wage war to defend and promote their interests. It’s radically immoral, in fact it’s monstrous, but that’s the situation.
Many years ago Gandhi said: “What is obtained with violence can only be maintained with violence.” This insight has great relevance today because physical violence is not only a tool for advancing the interests of the powerful; it’s also the end result of a whole structure of economic, racial, cultural, religious and generational violence that poisons daily existence all over the world. It is violence when children die of starvation while there is enough for everyone. It is violence when peoples’ land is stolen or made uninhabitable by pollution. It is violence when the pubic airwaves — owned by the people — are crammed with dehumanizing messages pushing every product and every lie imaginable, while the people remain uninformed about the most urgent questions affecting our future, our security.