BY ROBERT C. KOEHLER
"The question that remains is: Are
we who want the killing to stop as committed to peace as those
who are committed to war?"
Ouch, this is a devilishly tough question, unless you're
content to answer it in the negative. Then, of course, no
problem. A bitter grimace and a stiff drink or whatever (name
your poison) will get you through the day. Watch the opinion
polls plummet - Gallup this week finds two-thirds of Americans
opposed to the war in Iraq - and shrug in wonder that it doesn't
seem to matter, but exercise patience. When three-quarters
of Americans oppose the war, then the politicians - surely
the Democrats at least, surely Hillary - will lip-sync a different
tune . . .
Or you can scream.
One recent e-mail correspondent, after reciting the familiar
litany of insanity about this war, from the lies to the slaughter
to the cynicism, signed off her letter: "Wounded to the
If, like her (and like me) you don't merely "oppose,"
in some abstract way, a la Gallup, the Bush administration's
high-tech exercise in nation-wrecking, but feel wounded to
the soul about it, then perhaps it's time to face the question
quoted above, which Ted Glick posed recently in an essay for
truthout.org: "The war machine will certainly commit
the lives of our children and Iraqi children. But will we
commit our own lives?"
This was Glick's way of announcing his participation in a
nationwide fast to protest the war in Iraq, Troops Home Fast
(troopshomefast.org), sponsored by CODEPINK,
Global Exchange and Gold Star Families for Peace. It began
on the Fourth of July and now has more than 3,700 people -
including Dick Gregory, Daniel Ellsberg, Cindy Sheehan, Susan
Sarandon, Willie Nelson, two congresswomen (Cynthia McKinney
and Lynn Woolsey) and many other high-profile participants
- committed to depriving themselves of food for at least 24
hours. This is a "rolling fast." The idea is to
keep it going till Sept. 21, which is International Peace
To the isolated cynics out there, and to the isolated cynic
in myself, who wonder what the point is - how is this going
to help? - I dedicate the rest of the column. I see the fast
as nothing less than an attempt - the beginning of an attempt,
a heartfelt, anguished groping in the tradition of Gandhi
- to rewire American society, to make it physically responsive
to a kind of violence we're not adequately prepared to deal
with, the kind that originates from within.
It's a leap of self-sacrifice for an idea: that our future
is better served not by the reflexive swatting back at an
"enemy" - not when swatting back means causing indiscriminate
civilian casualties, the generation of undying animosity toward
us guaranteeing endless hostility and insecurity, and the
use and continued development of doomsday weaponry that is
poisoning the planet as we speak - but by the recognition
of our interdependence with others and a common, borderless
The fast is deliberately counter-instinctive. It's where
politics and evolution meet. The Bush administration has forced
the issue by breaking contract with every compromise of the
past, which balanced fear-based governance with diplomacy
and global outreach. Bush governs solely on fear, amplified
to a decibel level that justifies virtually any response to
Thus another e-mail correspondent, after shrugging off recent
U.S. war crimes as a small matter compared to the importance
of our mission in Iraq, concluded his response to a recent
"I can only hope you travel to Iraq and fall into the
hands of the Iraqi insurgents so they can treat you to some
of their renown Islamofascist fairness and tolerance. Maybe
as you sit in your filthy cage waiting to be beheaded you'll
come to realize what a great country America is, the America
you now seem to hate so much."
You wish, pal. I towel off the spittle and take another peek
at that Gallup poll. Yep, two-thirds, it says. That's how
many respondents indicated they were tired of this kind of
rhetoric and now see, perhaps, that the conjured horrors in
it refer to our own actions (Guantanamo, Abu Ghraib) as much
as those of the "Islamofascists," and are ready
for us to stop.
We have a war machine that's fed by hate and fear - indeed,
by the need for enemies without the least humanity, because
that absolves us of the need to have any ourselves. It's the
age-old formula for war, but we have entered a time when it
is globally life-threatening. When the world's only superpower
swaggers through the Middle East with that kind of delusional
anger and a military budget of half a trillion dollars that
requires annual justification, watch out. It is time for new
So I write about a fast and imagine participants numbering
not in the thousands but in the millions - a critical mass
of people gathering enough courage to go hungry for a measured
period of time, a day or longer, and telling others what they
are doing and why.
I also know the only way such a vision has a chance to become
reality is if I commit to put my own body on the line, and
so, publicly, I do. I not only support but join the Troops
Home Fast for the day of this column's release date. And I
invite others to consider joining this effort. Visit the Web
site to sign up. And let me know if you do.
Robert Koehler, an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist,
is an editor at Tribune Media Services and nationally syndicated
writer. You can respond to this column at firstname.lastname@example.org
or visit his Web site at commonwonders.com.
© 2006 TRIBUNE MEDIA SERVICES, INC.