December 9, 2006

3000 Dead By Christmas? Help People Take A Stand

In the first week of December, 31 US troops died in Iraq, bringing the total to around 2,920. At the current rate, the 3,000 death will be reported sometime between Christmas and New Year's Eve. If not, it will happen in January for a certainty.

Suddenly the US death toll will be back on the front page and back on the evening news, however briefly, fueling the deep and growing anti-war sentiment among the people of this country. The Associated Press reported December 8 that its latest poll shows 71% of the country disapproving of Bush's handling of Iraq and 60% in favor of getting the troops out within six months!

The anti-war movement must develop and hone ways of tapping and harnessing this sentiment. Bush refuses point blank to listen to anyone but his "gut." The new Democratic majority in Congress, far from providing the leadership people elected them to give, shows nary a sign of fighting for an immediate end to the occupation.

That's the point of this post: armbands or pin-on ribbons, black for mourning with the number 3000 in white, will be a powerful statement of sorrow and of protest in the days after that grim milestone is reached.

If activists make these in the coming weeks, not just for their own use, but in quantity to distribute to everyday folks--in shopping districts, on campuses, in front of government buildings, at busy mass transit stops, wherever there are people in motion--many will be moved to have an armband or ribbon pinned on them. As they go about their daily routines, they will bear silent witness to the anger so many feel.

Across this country, small local groups have stood up bravely for the last four years to oppose the war, holding weekly vigils, showing anti-war films in living rooms, firehouses and church basements, writing letters to the editor, lobbying elected officials, supporting anti-war candidates. Now is a good time for them to expand that work among their neighbors, co-workers, fellow students.

Making and handing out ribbons or armbands to mourn the 3000th death is a model for the kind of outreach work that needs doing. Many who agree with us will never carry a picket sign, let alone get on a bus to DC or San Francisco. The activists among us need to develop activities they can engage in with a low threshold of entry, and often that small first step--voting in a local referendum around the war, signing a postcard to a Congressman, or wearing a black ribbon--will help folks think about themselves and their responsibility to help end the occupation in a different way.

If big coalitions and groups like United For Peace and Justice, US Labor Against the War and Peace Action, progressive Internet-based forces like and others get behind this push in coming days, the impact could be substantial.

Comments and suggestions are most welcome.


Anonymous said...

OK, 3000 US troops will be KIA soon, but what about the 500,000 Iraqis killed in an unjust war? I don't like this approach.

Jimmy Higgins said...

I agree with your point from a standpoint of principle and should have addressed it in my original post. (I tend to run logwinded and am trying to adjust to terser blogging norms.) The deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis as the US occupation has plunged their country into ruin are just as real and just as painful for their families as the ones contained in that nice round number. And the troops are, bottom line, part of an occupying army.

One reason to push as the 3000 milestone looms is because the media will pay attention to it, for a few days at least, after a long stretch of ignoring or downplaying the carnage in Iraq.

It provides those of us who are fighting to end this slow-motion train wreck an opening to reach and mobilize folks who have come to oppose the war but not done yet anything about their opposition. It provides an occasion to keep the heat on those politicians, like too many Dems, who've gone all silent or vague on Iraq, or worse, since the election

Finally, it gives us an opportunity to remind folks that US deaths aren't the only thing. A good example is the postcard the Bring Them Home Now! campaign has had printed up. The text on the card, directed at Congress, is posted on posted at BTHN!'s website and is pretty clear. It starts:

3000 US troops dead.
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead.
Their country destroyed, and ours in trouble

Is this still objectionable? My view is that our internationalist duty is first and foremost to do build the broadest possible movement to end this occupation pronto, and we have to unfold our other tasks around that one.