Thursday, June 01, 2006

Framing The Iraq War in Protests

Every day on our commute into Seattle, we pass under a pedestrian bridge. On Wednesdays, this bridge is occupied by people peacefully exercising their First Amendment rights to share opinions about the Iraq war. There are peace activists (whose signs read NO IRAQ WAR, IMPEACH BUSH AND CHENEY, and so forth) and - well, I wouldn't call them war supporters per se - troop supporters whose signs read SUPPORT OUR TROOPS, GOD BLESS AMERICA, etc. There used to be a fairly regular group of them; as we'd crawl underneath on our way into work, we'd see them talking to each other (always the same people with the same signs; I would imagine they got to know each other fairly well), sipping coffee (this is Seattle), and even laughing together.

For a while, the troop supporters were equal in number to or greater than the peace activists. Not terribly surprising; there are a lot of military bases in the immediate area, and lots of military families live here. They would fly American and Iraqi flags. The funny thing was, they'd always stand on opposite sides of the bridge; the troop supporters on the right, the peace activists on the left (facing south). One person even made a sign mocking (kinda) this strange configuration, with an arrow pointing to the right that read RIGHT SIDE and an arrow pointing to the left that read WRONG SIDE.

When the winter rains started, their numbers started to dwindle. There was always a hardcore group of four or so on each side that made the trip out in ponchos and sweaters, though. But after the new year, something very interesting happened:

The troop supporters stopped coming.

The peace activists have dwindled to a final two holdouts, one with the IMPEACH sign, the other with the NO IRAQ WAR sign, but the troop supporters haven't been around in a couple of months.

I kept meaning to remark on this development, but Wednesdays never seemed to work out timewise. It also got stranger and stranger the more time has passed.

I doubt the troop supporters left because, well, they no longer support the troops. I suspect they may have discovered what those of us who have opposed the war all along knew or suspected - that supporting the troops meant not risking or wasting their lives for lies about weapons of mass destruction, or multi-billion dollar Haliburton contracts. That the war has been bungled from the beginning. That their sons and daughters were put in harm's way because the public was misled, and has been continually misled since.

Incidentally, I've been meaning to write a piece about progress in Iraq and the possibility of democracy taking root there. I'll do that tomorrow if I get a chance. Perhaps it will be more optimistic than this.

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