A local group called " Tallahasseans Who Believe It's Time To Come Home" organized a protest against the war on March 19. They inscribed 3,475 paper bags with the first name and age of a coalition person killed in the war in Iraq. Inside each bag they placed a candle and then placed these luminaries around a lake in a local park. As the sun set the lights made an impressive display.
All of the usual suspects were there wearing Peace Symbol T shirts and "It's Time to Come Home" bumper stickers on their backs and chests. Someone brought a truck with a large peace symbol made of lights erected in the cargo space. They even constructed a peace symbol on the ground using some of the luminous bags.
All of the usual media suspects were also there, both print and television. I walked by a man with a television camera interviewing a woman and I heard him ask her, "Do you have any personal connection with anyone in the Iraq war?"
"No, I don't," she replied, and her answer affected me greatly.
I had a lot of personal connections to the war and I thought that if they were going to interview her then they ought to interview me. I sought out the man with the camera and asked him, "Have you heard any opposing viewpoints since you arrived here?"
The man shook his head. "All of the people that I have talked to here are in favor of a withdrawal."
"Well I'm opposed to an immediate withdrawal and I'm an Iraqi war veteran."
When he heard this his eyes light up and he turned on his camera, "Would you be willing to do an interview?"
"I most certainly would."
Although I disagreed with almost all of the people around me I didn't disparage them. They were exercising their constitutional right of free speech and I told the reporter that I had gone to Iraq partly to defend their right to do what they were doing that night. The big point that I made was that few people were thinking about the poor Iraqis. In many ways we were responsible for the current situation in Iraq.
I understood the feelings of the people there by the lake. War is bad, peace is good. I agree with them on that. I saw the face of evil when I was in Iraq. I felt the breath of their hate. I feel responsible for the fate of the Iraqis. I am not so ready to abandon them. As I told the television reporter, there by the lake and the luminous bags of loss, withdrawing our forces from Iraq now would be immoral.
Plus, in my naivete, I told a lot of Iraqis that we wouldn't abandon them. Let no one take the moral high ground on me. It's not just Peace-Yes, War-No. I feel a moral obligation to defend those poor souls that I left behind. And I will continue to do so.
I returned home, wondering if the words and thoughts that I had long held and rarely expressed in public would even make the late night news. To my surprise, my comments led the eleven o'clock newscast that night. On one television station, in one small town in Florida, I was able to modify the message that the media conveyed to the public on the fourth anniversary of the war.
That made me feel good. I plan on doing it again.