Thursday, March 20, 2008

Utah Antiwar Protestors Commemorate Fifth Anniversary Of The War In Iraq With Candlelight Vigils In Provo And Salt Lake City


On March 20th, 2003, the United States launched the invasion of Iraq, designed to overthrow Saddam Hussein, restore order, and help to create a replacement government. At the time, the Bush Administration expected it to cost anywhere from $50 billion to $60 billion.

Five years later, according to an article in the International Herald-Tribune, the Pentagon now tags the financial cost of the Iraq war at about $600 billion and counting. However, Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel Prize-winning economist and critic of the war, pegs the long-term cost at $3 trillion to $5 trillion. The Congressional Budget Office and other analysts say that a more realistic total price estimate is $1 trillion to $2 trillion, depending on troop levels and on how long the American occupation continues.

And there's the human cost. According to Antiwar.com, the latest count is 3,992 American troops dead. Ironically, 3,853 of those deaths occurred since that now-infamous "Mission Accomplished" Presidential photo op aboard that aircraft carrier on May 3rd, 2003.

And America is growing tired of it, and Americans expressed their discontent in a series of protests, marches, and candlelight vigils nationwide on March 19th. The Chicago Tribune and CNN provide a good roundup of the major antiwar protests nationwide. Most were law-abiding, except for some broken windows in Milwaukee. One particularly disrespectful incident took place in Anchorage, Alaska when vandals dumped a bucket of red paint over a veterans' memorial. Interpreted as a personal attack on veterans and the troops, locals were quite outraged and called police en masse to report it. The paint was removed two hours later by city workers at a cost of $1,000 and police plan to prefer felony charges against the perpetrators. In San Francisco, 115 people were arrested during protests.

And Utah was not exempt. The Deseret Morning News and the Provo Daily Herald report that a group of approximately 40 Utah County antiwar protestors assembled in front of the old Utah County Courthouse on University Avenue to participate in a peaceful candlelight vigil commemorating the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, launched on March 20th, 2003. Unlike many other protests nationwide, they didn't riot, obstruct traffic or chant. No one marched, yelled slogans or used a high-powered megaphone. But they still wanted to make a statement.

"This isn't going to change the war," said Darren Jackson, 23, trying to keep his candle lit in the breeze. "But society forgets and needs to be reminded that this is a conflict that still needs to be resolved." Jackson strolled up to the protest in front of the old county courthouse on Provo's University Avenue with several other BYU and UVSC students, but the assembly was largely organized by a politically zealous high school senior.

Between his schoolwork, 17-year-old Orem High senior Alex Peacock, who opposed the war from the outset, has started a Democrat club, campaigned for Barack Obama in Nevada and worked with moveon.org to launch the Provo protest. Peacock's father explained his son's actions. "He gets out there and hustles for what he believes," Peacock's father said. "He felt his home was in the Democratic party and has been involved at a very young age."

Public reaction was mixed. Some passing drivers honked and threw peace signs out their windows, but others expressed disgust. "This just burns my grits," said Carma Avery, a 73-year-old outspoken grandma from Provo. "I saw that chicken sign (a black flag with a peace sign) and I had to stop. It's the footprint of the American chicken."

KTVX Channel 4 reported on a similar candlelight vigil in Salt Lake City. No word on whether former mayor Rocky Anderson was in attendance.

Commentary: Activists who protest responsibly should not have their patriotism questioned. While waging war in the defense of the nation is always a noble cause, waging war for empire or for "nation-building" is a dangerous an expensive form of social engineering.

But when protestors target actual veterans, troops, or their memorials, they step across the line and make it personal. And we will take it personally, and give it back to you in spades. Protest the war and we'll respect you. Abuse the troops and God help you.

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