a citizen’s journal by Thomas Nephew

The September 24 demonstration: what I saw, why I went

Posted by Thomas Nephew on September 25th, 2005

I went to the “March on Washington: End the War on Iraq” demonstration today. I met some online friends for the first time, and took a few pictures, and came away with a lot of impressions.

There were a *lot* of people. I didn’t arrive before the march began, so I didn’t get a look at the Ellipse before people started filing off to march past the White House. Afterwards, I heard on the radio that DC police chief Ramsey said he thought organizers had met their goal of 100,000, which suggests to me they probably got much more than that.

The ambience was festive, the signage imaginative and plentiful. One updated the old 60s slogan to “Make levees, not war.” Another said “Bush has done so much stuff I couldn’t fit it all on this sign.” A dance troupe of Iraqi bodies, led by a kind of pagan god drum major; people dressed as Cheney playing Bush on a marionette — and being played as a marionette by a devil behind him; Lady Liberty on stilts; “Billionaires for Bush” ironically supporting “Blood for Oil” and “Small Government — Big Wars” — in short, a wonderful, walking political circus.

It accompanied the thousands upon thousands of people with more serious signs. A seemingly endless chain of people carried a long cord with pieces of paper fluttering from it; on closer examination, the papers had names, portraits, and dates of death of soldiers. Other signs said “They Lied — They Died” with pictures of Bush, Cheney, Rice, and Rumsfeld atop a one and a half by two foot list of names in fine print. Other signs referred to Katrina; one black woman’s sign said “No Iraqis Left Me on a Roof.”

The march was also a chance to meet “eRobin” and her husband, and the Philadelphians they came to the march with — “Riggsveda“; Alana, Danny, and their folks — and “AltHippo“, a DC area blogger. It was a pleasure meeting all of them, particularly eRobin, who has been one of my most frequent stops in the “blogosphere.”

Lest anyone reading this be misled, I should say that it’s been a long, strange trip for me to get to this demonstration. As the record of this blog shows, I was initially skeptical of the looming war, but came around, basically in the belief that there was real WMD development going on that I assumed the Bush people would be able to prove. Obviously, that didn’t happen, any more than a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda could be shown.

Bush’s other supposed motivation — democracy in the Middle East — has been discredited by the immoral behavior his administration has allowed and encouraged, the lackadaisical approach to security in the aftermath of the fall of Baghdad, and the theocratic state that is on the horizon for Iraqis.

While it’s hard to pin down the correct proportions of stupidity, avarice, and depraved indifference involved in the Iraq debacle, it hardly matters as much as not having Americans pay for it with their lives and limbs and treasure any longer.

Nor should we pay for it with a diminished democracy here in the United States any longer. It was a blot on this country’s history that a known screwup and/or liar could be re-elected president, and that we (myself included) could allow a war in our name on such flimsy pretexts. Now the Katrina debacle seems to have finally taken the luster off what has been a Potemkin presidency — all show, no substance, photo ops and poses instead of competence and integrity. “Worst President Ever” was another popular sign, and it’s not too far off the mark.

In the meantime, though, we’ve become a less democratic, even brutalized country. Too many are all too ready to treat yet another swathe of humanity as subhuman; too many accept the diminishment of their own civil rights in the name of safety at all costs; too many accept the way elections themselves have become manipulated; too many are ready to smear and suppress dissent itself by any means necessary. At the end of the day, I care more about preserving real democracy in my own country than I do about trying to export it — let alone George W. Bush’s understanding of it — to another.

The only thing that made me waver before joining this demonstration was a feeling of responsibility towards a country whose blood was in some part also on my hands. But whatever the “mission” supposedly is in Iraq anymore, it’s not being designed, explained, or executed by anyone I trust. I can’t undo my earlier support for the war, however qualified and regretful it was. I can support not making it worse. I think our continued involvement in Iraq is making things worse. It’s time for us to go.

UPDATE, 9/27: Riggsveda, eRobin, and altHippo describe the march.

3 Responses to “The September 24 demonstration: what I saw, why I went”

  1. Riggsveda Says:

    I can’t get the trackback to work, so here’s a substitute.
    Great time!

  2. Thomas Nephew Says:

    Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on with the trackback thing. Probably something I did. Thanks very much for dropping by. Yours is the best writeup yet.
    I’m truly kind of astonished at the crabbed putdowns from folks like Steve Gilliard, James Wolcott and Nathan Newman, who I usually feel like I’m catching up to. Like you, I found the march itself exhilarating — so many different people, so funny, imaginative, decent.
    Unlike Gilliard et al, I guess, I never have paid much attention to the speakers at things like this. Other than headliners like Sheehan, many are just ticks on the elephant, and people who focus on them miss the point by a mile. “Man does not live by bread alone.” We also need some poetry, some fun, and some sense how many people more or less agree with us to go along with the de rigeur thankless organizing, the reasoned arguments at 20 paces, and isolated coffee-fueled snarkery at 2am. I think that’s part of what events like the 9/24 demonstration do for people.
    [return to “The September 24 demonstration…“]

  3. Riggsveda Says:

    It’s not something you did. I had the same problem with trying to trackback to AltHippo and Robin. No problem at all doing it to Max’s post, though. And they are all Haloscan.

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