It seems as if most of our U.S. populace has forgotten that U.S. soldiers are dying in Afghanistan. Focused on Tiger Woods' sex life and, more understandably, the seemingly endless, unresolvable health reform and jobs battles in Washington, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan appear to be ignored.
However, a group of New York city peace grannies and their supporters DO remember, and they publicly so acknowledged on Tuesday, Feb. 23, the just-announced grim tally of 1,000 U.S. soldiers' loss of life in Afghanistan. The event was coordinated by Grandmothers Against the War and the Granny Peace Brigade. Members of Peace Action New York, Veterans for Peace, The World Can't Wait, the Gray Panthers, Brooklyn for Peace, and the Raging Grannies attended as well.
On the cold, wet and windy evening, approximately 30 mostly elderly people assembled in front of Rockefeller Center on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to pay tribute to the 1,000 American G.I.s sacrificed in the wrong-headed war in Afghanistan. They also mourned the many Afghani deaths caused by our missiles and bombs.
The great actor-author, Malachy McCourt , opened the proceedings with a powerful speech lambasting the tragic expenditure of life and resources in the hopeless pursuit of peace through war. A statement of support by NY State Senator Bill Perkins, who had to be in Albany with the legislature, was read. Following that, the vigil members read the names of deceased soldiers AND deceased Afghani civilians to the accompaniment of a single muffled drum beat.
It was startling and extremely saddening to hear that so many of the Afghanis whose names were read were small children. One wondered: How can we feel morally justified in waging a war that causes so many innocent people to die whom we are supposedly protecting?
Strangely enough, the police erected a barricade around the anti-war stalwarts. This had never been done before in the six plus years that Grandmothers Against the War, the Vets for Peace and the Granny Peace Brigade have been holding a weekly Wednesday vigil on that Rockefeller Center site.
The soggy Peaceniks then walked down Fifth Avenue and over to the Times Square recruiting station where the Raging Grannies sang familiar songs with their revised anti-war lyrics. They kept singing despite the fact that several policemen insisted that the group leave. Finally, thoroughly soaked and shivering, the hardy old folks (and a few young ones) dispersed.
It is worth quoting part of Sen. Perkins' statement: "It is obvious that the lessons of the unjust war launched by the previous Bush administration have yet to sink in on the current administration. Each day the goal of honorable victory will be ever more elusive. The goal of an honorable peace for a dishonorable war will continue to have its price."
As I write, one day later, the tragic number of our young military dead in Afghanistan has climbed to 1,0