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Confession of a Peace Protester
By Jennifer W. Solis Belmont High School
Aug 14, 2011, 9:19am

Let me state, unequivocally, that I am for peace and against war. I was one of the hundreds of Latinos marching in East Los Angeles a month ago. We shouted antiwar messages in Spanish and English. The speakers pointed out that a war against Iraq would divert resources from education, health care and other social services. I purchased several peace buttons that I wear daily and conspicuously.

The protesters with gray hair commented that the 2003 march didn't come close to matching the historic Chicano Moratorium, mass rally of August 1970, which made Salazar Park the scene of arrests and bloodshed. Latinos Against a War in Iraq, and a few unions organized this year's version.

As I walked along the two-mile route, I wondered what would have happened if we had been students in Baghdad in 1990, and had protested the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait? There were also thousands of young people who protested the militarism of Nazi Germany. Their actions helped fill the concentration camps, or worse.

Everything I've learned about the Vietnam War era leaves no doubt that the protesters of that incursion were not only historically, but morally correct. The Cold War might have ended sooner if we had supported the nationalists, instead of the corrupt inheritors of the French colonial administration. Our government has picked the wrong side in so many popular revolutions, notably in Latin America and Africa, which has perpetuated dictatorships of the worst kind.

Could Saadam Hussein have come to power, much less stayed there, without the support of Washington and its surrogate multinational corporations? Panama's President Noreiga was a good puppet for our CIA, until he decided to become a drug kingpin. We will tolerate the most evil despots, as long as they are "our" despots.

I don't remember much about Gulf War I, except that it was quick. Technology replaced bayonets.

Gulf War II (Operation Iraqi Freedom) has been another conflict in fast forward. Embedding hundreds of journalists with the troops is the result of lessons learned since Vietnam. Remember the scene from "The Godfather" where Vito admonishes his son, Michael, "Keep your friends close, and your enemies even closer." If a war was to have cheerleaders, could the FOX, CNN and other network correspondents be better cast?

I have no trouble comparing Saadam to Hitler. Neither dictator gave their citizens any voice in participating in morbid fantasies of conquest. The Third Reich lasted only a dozen years. Saadam had twice that long to brainwash and subjugate an entire generation of Iraqis. But even the most oppressed humans have some spark within them that cries out for freedom. Thus we witnessed the outpouring of celebration as our Marines rolled into Baghdad.

Does the liberation of millions of people on the other side of the world have any meaning to us? If the French, Germans and Russians had their way (along with the millions of us marching for nonviolent diplomacy), the Iraqis would still be under the thumb of a ruthless dictator. While we were protesting, they were suffering.

Those three nations wanted nothing to do with the liberation of Iraq, but now they want everything to do with the reconstruction of Iraq, especially the billions of dollars in contracts and exports involved. The two words that come to mind are "chutzpa" and "smarmy." If we can somehow believe that the Bush administration can do something right, it would do well to follow the lead of Americans, who will be consuming much less brie, vodka and braunsweiger from now on.

Do our peace protests make our troops in Iraq any less brave, determined or patriotic? Hardly. They did not create the misery we have seen in Iraq. They are trying to end it. The coalition forces didn't create civilian casualties by hiding armaments in schools, hospitals and mosques, and the use of human (women and children) shields.

Clarity came out of sandstorms, and truth overcame treachery. The coalition of the willing has taught a thing or two to the collection of the pathetic. If we had waited until Saadam had successfully developed effective delivery systems for his weapons of mass destruction, how safe would the world be then? How many innocent civilians would perish because of procrastination. Did we learn anything from 9/11?

We have the right to question war. But I hope that we never make it look like we're questioning the more than 100 brave young people who paid the ultimate price for this endeavor. We owe them at least that much, and we owe the families that survive them that much more.

Let's be thankful that we live in a system that allows us to say what we are saying. We like to complain in this country. Can we afford to forget those who made it possible? I'm not suggesting that war is right, but ignoring evil is certainly wrong.

I still favor peace over war, but when I hear Private Jessica Lynch exclaim, "I'm an American soldier, too I can do nothing but salute her.

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