war is over, right? Not so, say peace activists
ANTI-WAR: Peace activists
gather for a meeting timed to the anniversary of the
start of the war in Iraq in 2003. / Photo by Jackson
By Jackson Olsen
March 20, 2009 | Six years.
That's how long it's been since then-President George
W. Bush sent American combat troops into Iraq to "liberate
a fallen people" and help "win the war on
terror" against an unrepentant Saddam Hussein and
his Ba'ath party.
Since then much has happened, including the removal
of Hussein and Bush from power, and most of the
major military operations in Baghdad and surrounding
provinces has ceased.
So the war is over, right?
Just ask former Staff Sgt. Marshall Thompson, an Iraq
War veteran and outspoken peace activist.
"The war is not over. People are still dying. Just
because the situation has improved and because we have
a peace-minded president, doesn't mean it's over."
Thompson served as a military journalist from 2003
to 2007, and served a tour of duty in northern Iraq
and its surrounding provinces from 2005-2006. Upon his
return, Thompson decided he couldn't sit back and do
nothing. He decided to become a peace activist to raise
awareness of the realities of war and the possibilities
On Oct. 1, 2006, Thompson embarked on a 500-mile peace
walk across his home state of Utah. He walked the entire
length of the state from the Idaho/Utah border to the
Utah/Arizona border. The walk lasted 30 days, and represented
one day for every 100 U.S. soldiers killed in the Iraq
"I felt like I had to do something," Thompson said.
"People had no idea what was really going on over there
[in Iraq]. I wanted to help people understand the true
costs of war.
His walk ended successfully, and Thompson raised eyebrows
across the state and nation (including those of Stephen
Colbert's, who mentioned Thompson on his nightly program,
The Colbert Report). But the walk, now three
years into his memory, hasn't solved the problem, according
"The public in general is less interested in the war
now because they think it's all taken care of because
they think it was a success or because we're going to
be out soon," Thompson said. "The reality is that bombs
are still dropping and soldiers are still dying."
Brenda Chung, another local peace activist and member
of the Society of Friends (Quakers), joined Thompson
in raising community awareness on yet another anniversary
of the war. The Cache Valley Peace Works sponsored speakers
and films to educate the public and to honor the veterans.
"We feel the war has gone down on the list of priorities
because of the economy," Chung said. "Also, the fact
that there's a timeline [for withdrawal] on the table
has made most of the public think that the war's over.
Far from it."
Chung and the CVPW hope that people will put the war
back on the radar, because "it's still on the radar
of the soldiers who are out there fighting. There are
currently 142,000 U.S. military troops still serving