March 19, 2006

On the 3rd Anniversary...

There are some events in every person's life that they will never forget. They will always remember where they were when they heard about or experienced something that affects them in the most profound ways. And there is a certain age when such events begin to mean something else.

For me, the US invasion of Iraq is one of those events. I can say it is the first full scale war that I witnessed as a mature individual, understand the reasons behind it, the consequences, and everything in between. I was in Saudi Arabia at the start of the Gulf War I, but all I remember was taping down the windows, getting extra food, and hiding in one of our bedrooms and listening to the radio. I didn't know why it happened, or what really war entailed-- I was only 6 or 7 at the time. During the Bosnia war in the mid-90's, I began to slowly understand the horrors of war. My parents tried to tell me what it was about and explain how and why it happened. They're not the type of parents that like to sheild their children from anything and everything that might be horrific. They couldn't anyway, and I was always a curious child, especially about world affairs. I remember attending a huge protest in downtown D.C. during this time. I think this was my first experience at a political rally. I must've been 11 at the time, and I was happy to be there--I felt like I was doing something important. I also remember US aerial bombings of Iraq in the late 90's, and I was always aware of the conflict in Palestine.

But the US invasion of Iraq in March 2003 was different. There was at least a year of preparation before the war began, and during that time the anti-war movement was gaining strength. I atteneded at least 4 large scale protests in DC; the largest one on Jan.15th 2003 when more than 1/2 million people attended. It was exhilirating. To see the sheer amount of people amassed on the National Mall in DC was amazing. I made colorful posters, wore my anti-war pins, memorized the chants, painted my face with flags and peace signs, and talked to reporters and activists during these events. For a long time, I really honestly believed that the war might not happen if enough of us protested and took action against it. Maybe it was naive, but as I look back on it, I don't regret feeling that way. I'm glad I had the chance to feel that I could make a difference, and I believe we did. Just because the war happened, I don't believe that was our failure. The war obviously turned out to be someone else's failure.

So on the 3rd anniversay of this war, I cannot help but recall all the events that have taken place since then that have made me hate this war even more. Do I remember my Iraqi friend's cries on the phone as she relayed to me the horrors of finding two of her extended family members murdered in cold blood in their own home? Or when she told me about her 23-year old cousin, a father-to-be, who was killed because of a road-side bomb? Or the horrors of her grandmother as American forces bombed her town and killed her neighbors? My friendship with her put the Iraq war closer to me than I wanted, but it was a daily reminder that those numbers of dead I heard on tv were not just numbers. They were families and people, mothers, sons, daughters, fathers, uncles, aunts, sisters, brothers, human beings... all lives lost, ended abruptly and unexpectedly, maybe unfairly. It is a constant reminder, and for those who don't have this reminder, maybe they forgot about the war that happened years ago...maybe they forgot that they were paying for this war, or that their family members might be killed because of a war conducted in their name, whether they liked it or not.

So on this anniversary, I didn't chant in a massive rally. I attended a candle-light vigil commemmorating all the lives lost because of this war--Iraqis and Americans. But that doesn't mean we didn't protest. We did. Various speakers called on us to continue the stuggle to stop this war, to put an end to the human suffering that Bush and his cronies have caused. Our Congressman Jim Moran attended, and echoed those sentiments--he is just great! And Cindy Sheehan made a surprise appearance as she told us to remember her son and the many others like him who sacrificed their lives for this unjust war. It was a much quieter type of event as compared to the rallies I attended a few years ago. The numbers of Americans killed in VA were read and red stickers placed on the VA map, as well as the numbers of Iraqis killed in various Iraqi cities were remembered.

For me, it's a good reminder. We tend to get caught up in our own troubles, thinking that if the car didn't start this morning, it's the end of the world. While half way across the world, when Baba or Ali doesn't come back home after a long day in Baghdad, that is really the end of the world. We shall never forget, and we will continue to pray and struggle until someone puts and end to this injustice and oppression...

I leave you with pictures of the vigil in the next post.

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