First Day Out Collecting Signatures

After mostly focusing on emailing, Patty and I stopped by the Portland Farmers’ Market yesterday and collected names for the city council resolution there. We kept asking passersby, “Do you want to tell Portland City Council you’re against the war?” and plenty of folks stopped to sign. Within an hour we had 35 names. It was pretty easy work… most of the people who declined to sign did so because they live outside of Portland. Although some of them wanted to sign the petition, saying they very much wanted to tell the Portland City Council they’re against the war… but until we annex Lake Oswego, Gladstone, or Northern Idaho, they’ll just have to wait to sign any petition addressed to “Portland City Council.”
But, if for any reason you haven’t signed the petition, there’s absolutely no reason to wait! Go visit the AFSC website in support of the resolution: let’s put an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq!

What’s an Occupier to Do?

There is quite a flurry of writing going on post-election as the arguments shift away from painting a rosy picture (since the American public is clearly not buying that) to the notion that our presence there is needed to prevent something *really* awful from happening. It fits well into our sense that we are a benevolent nation (sometimes true) rather than the nation that has created the violent, bloody conflict the world now has to grapple with.

The NY Times ran an article this week in which it quotes military advisors who advise, well… more military. I’m not going to go on and on, as tempting as it is, about the saying “If you only have a hammer, every problem is a nail,” but it certainly is relevant. The article also quotes Senator Levin (D-MI, go Michigan! Beth, you can be proud) explaining that this situation does not have a purely military solution. I’m not sure I agree with his specific strategy for what will happen as we scale down, though.

I think this article from the Atlantic is a bit more balanced: http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200611u/iraq-debate

In general, I reject the idea that our presence there is somehow holding off disaster. Iraq was a violent place before the recent US invasion, but we were partly responsible for that, having provided support for the rise of that regime… and now, given that well, hundreds of thousands of people have died since we’ve invaded, I just can’t wrap my mind around this idea that they just need more of us to make everything better.

And, as I pointed out in a previous post, we have to also keep in mind that it’s not just up to us, but to the Iraqi people… check out the previous post for more on this.
In the meantime, though, I’m going to keep arguing that we need to keep calling for a pull-out, and yes, you guessed it, that Portland needs to be a city that’s calling for returning our troops home. You can read all about the Portland resolution here.

An emailing record, and a great essay from an MFSO member

People have started sending out the short email I wrote encouraging people to support the City of Portland resolution to withdraw our occupation army from Iraq. Scot wins a special prize though, for finding 260 people in his email address book to send it to! Many of them aren’t in Portland, but have a connection to Portland, and more importantly, have people in their address books that I don’t have in mine. We have to keep up the emailing and getting people to sign onto the petition, which, if you want to go right to the signature page, is right here. Let me know if you manage to send it to more than 260 people… I need to get out more myself.

On another note, over dinner this evening, I got to talk with a dear friend about the whole “we broke it so we have to fix it” argument for occupying Iraq (seemingly indefinitely, since we’re not actually fixing it). A member of Military Families Speak Out has published a lengthy but on-point essay that lays out one argument for withdrawal very strongly: it’s not our country to fix, and if we believe in democracy than we need to defer to the will of Iraqi people, who in an emphatic majority, want occupation troops to leave. (One poll earlier this fall put the figure at about 70% of Iraqis want occupiers out within a year or less). A referendum would be clearer, but of course we don’t allow such things, so we have to settle for polls.
I wish he was briefer, but I think he makes a great point in “The Real Reason to Get Out of Iraq.

It Helps to Have a Cool Graphic

I’ve started giving out copies of the quarter-page flier that the AFSC has made to explain the resolution. First of all, it has a nice design, and the cool logo: an outline of a dove with a photo of Portland in it (see it here). More importantly, it explains the cost of the war to Portlanders (over $400 million) and the sorts of things we are giving up in order to pay for the ongoing occupation. It’s based on estimates from the National Priorities Project, a group that is tracking the hard cost of the invasion and occupation.

We were talking about it the need to end the occupation of Iraq today over brunch at Acadia (while eating beignets) and how the election results have shown that people want it to end. All we need to do is get the petition into public places. It’s just downright bizarre that Portland hasn’t managed to pass an anti-invasion or anti-occupation resolution yet, but at least now is a particularly opportune time to be acting for peace— the next few months will be crucial in terms of ending the occupation and figuring out how we’re going to help Iraq rebuild itself. Of course, it’s awful that the occupation has dragged on for this long, but I’d rather focus on what is possible now than what we should’ve done. After all, I can’t organize people to change the past, only the present and the future.