March 19, 2006 [LINK]

The war comes to Staunton

It was three years ago today [see Iraq War chronology] that U.S. cruise missile and stealth fighter launched aerial attacks on Baghdad, the beginning of "Operation Iraqi Freedom." Protesters gathered to mark the occasion around the country, including here in Staunton. Anti-war demonstrators confronted a group rallying to support the troops in front of the county court house downtown yesterday, and things apparently became rather tense. The anti-war folks were quoted with some typical erroneous assertions, such as "Iraq has never posed any real threat to the U.S." or denying that American troops would be greeted in Iraq as "liberators." (In fact, they were so greeted, by and large.) Jan Harman, whose husband Herb is serving in Iraq right now, was deeply distressed by the protesters, who claim to be "supporting the troops." See Staunton News Leader.

Even though polls seem to indicate growing pessimism on the war in Iraq (including another glum assessment from George Will in today's Washington Post Outlook section), there is a silver lining: the anti-war movement is suffering from internal fighting between those who are sincerely skeptical about the war versus those such as Ramsey Clark (one of Saddam Hussein's defense lawyers) who just plain hate America. See Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is certainly not without flaws, but he is quite correct in today's Washington Post: The terrorists in Iraq have alienated a large portion of the population, creating an opportunity to bolster support for the new democratic government. A critical turning point like this is no time for retreat. If we do bug out, an escalation of violence into all-out civil war would become a very real prospect.

The new blog aimed at mustering donations of items to be sent as care packages to the troops is now up and running: From Our Hearts, run by Benny and Dianne Rankin, owners of T-Bone Tooter restaurant in Churchville, where we had the dinner for Herb Harman last October.

Pilgrimmage to Appomattox

Appomattox montage Jacqueline and I missed the big event in Staunton because we paid a visit to Appomattox, where Lee surrendered to Grant on April 9, 1865, nearly 141 years ago. It was a very moving experience, and the theme of healing the wounds of a war-torn nation is very appropriate for the United States today. Let us not forget President Lincoln's words: "With malice toward none; with charity for all..." See the new Appomattox photo gallery page.

UPDATE: Remembering Tom Fox

Ever since it was learned that Virginia peace activist Tom Fox was killed in Iraq last week (see Washington Post), I have been searching for the right words to express my mixed feelings on this. Fox was a Quaker who had attended courses at Eastern Mennonite University (located in Harrisonburg), which has a strong peace studies program. Since my support for the war is based more on reasoned calculation than on "gung ho" patriotic sentiment, I can empathize with war opponents perhaps more than most war supporters. Thankfully, I just came across a refreshingly thoughtful blog post at Sic Semper Tyrannis that reflects my own thoughts and feelings very accurately.