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Paul McDermott


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Al C. Strange
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�Life�s most urgent question is:
what are you doing for others?�

�Martin Luther King, Jr.
January 15 1929�April 4 1968
"The Northeast Democrat" -- April 2006: "The Long War"

Two weeks ago, I attended my first antiwar rally in 35 years. After church, my wife, daughter, and I joined 200 others in Pasadenas Central Park, where we listened to political speeches and protest songs, then fell in with the column of protesters that snaked through downtown before laying siege to Parsons, the military contractor with offices two blocks north....
Passing motorists honked their approval. Others flashed peace signs, mostly of the two-fingered variety. Diners interrupted their lunches long enough to smile as we marched past the outdoor cafes along Colorado Boulevard, waving banners and shouting newly minted slogans. Two of Pasadenas finest mounted on bicycles kept us moving along decorously.

Although the memories slide together after so many years, I believe my last antiwar rally occurred in New York City where I had returned to school after serving with the 9th Infantry Division, at the same time and in the same general part of Vietnams Mekong Delta where John Kerry served.

Mixed feelings
Now as then my feelings were mixed. First, I did not want to dishonor the sacrifices of my fellow soldiers and others like them, whoif they survivedwere then mostly not among my fellow protesters on campus, just as two weeks ago veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts were not obviously present.

On the other hand, I felt the familiar heartsickness that my country was again pursuing a senseless war of subjugation under the guise of bringing freedom to the unfortunate peoples of distant lands.

In the spirit of her first protest march, I told my daughter Linnea that her Afro makes her look like Angela Davis, which to a 12-year-old in 2006 means precious little, except as a another goofy compliment from her father.

I tell her, too, how my Dad still carries 88-mm artillery shrapnel scars from his last WWII battle outside Aachen, Germany, at the same point on his right leg that I carry grenade shrapnel scars from my last firefight within earshot of the Mekong. I mention as well how my Dad, David, and I worry about a new generation of citizen soldiers, who will cope with the effects of prolonged battle for the rest of their lives, and worry more about how our country and its leaders dont learn the lessons war has to teach.

Together, my family listened as a string of speakers decried the war, some who looked as if they hadnt changed their political underwear since 1968 and others who were college-aged or younger, all speaking with an enviable passion.

Mounting toll
A recent issue of The Nation captures their theme: Now, on the third anniversary of the war, we are just beginning to feel the full effects of the greatest catastrophe in American foreign policy since the Vietnam War. We are all familiar with the staggering costs in lives and money of the Iraq War: 2,300 Americans killed, more than 16,000 wounded or maimed, about 30,000 direct Iraqi deaths and more than 100,000 attributable to the war; upward of $300 billion in direct war expenditures and close to $1 trillion in estimated total costs.

In the teeth of these growing costs, George Bush and his crowd have openly started talking a new line. In January, Army Lt. Gen. Ray
Odierno said, This generation of service members will be in what were calling the Long War. For at least the next 20 years our focus will be the extremist networks that will continue to threaten the United States and its allies. Last week, Bush reported that it will now be up to future presidents to bring home all the troops, as if just such a plan hadnt been in the works right along.

Clearly, some folks learned the wrong lessons from Vietnam: not how to avoid repeating history, but rather how to snooker public opinion by keeping the returning caskets out of sight and war correspondents safely leashed, how to pervert the national guard and army reserve system to avoid instituting an unpopular draft, how to hide behind our soldiers sacrifices to fend off criticism of foolhardy policies, how to make political opponents bite their tongues even when they know what they want to say is true and that most Americans would support them.

Recent polls cited in that same Nation article show overwhelming support for American withdrawal from Iraq. And yet at the several candidate forums the NEDC has held recently and debates for statewide offices at the California Democratic Council convention Sharon and I attended last weekend, none save Rep. Barbara Lee (DOakland) and Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown said one word about the Iraq debacleand no one called them on it, not even me.

For the sake of all our sons and daughters, isnt it time we ask the good, strong Democrats representing our area to step out against this foolish war as powerfully as they do for education reform, health care reform, clean money campaigns, jobs, immigration policy, poverty, infrastructure, and tax reform? Indeed, it is.
Dick Price

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