Guest Commentary

A new book continues the fight to end the war in Iraq

While most Americans seem too benumbed to utter a syllable to stop the war, contributors to Cost of Freedom: An Anthology of Peace and Activism (Howling Dog Press, 166 pages, $25.95) are anything but numbed and inarticulate.

They come from all over the United States: Peace Nuns, Raging Grannies, Women in Black and other advocates of peace, including several Arizonans (myself included), are well-represented in essays, poetry, photographs and art. Laudatory blurbs for the book include endorsements by Noam Chomsky, Harry Belafonte, Ralph Nader and Ramsey Clark, who originated the movement.

One reader of Cost of Freedom calls the anthology "not just a book but a national movement." Another writes: "The Cost of Freedom anthology ... recognizes, records and celebrates the magnificent efforts of countless numbers of real people to bring peace and social justice to our beleaguered and exploited planet."

Cost of Freedom includes perspectives such as Minnesota octogenarian Polly Mann's concern with evasion on the part of institutions: "Churches are the biggest stumbling blocks to peace." One might ask if a "born again" president, whose ideology displays a certain insouciance about what happens before "we'll all be dead," can be very fervent in his quest for improving this world rather than the next. Publisher/designer/senior editor Michael Annis expresses awareness of this religious element in his essay called "American Addle," elaborating on the theme of "The National Descent Into the Dark Ages of Global Sadism in the Name of God and Country, a Cell Phone, an SUV, a Bible, a Big Mac ..."

Fred Bahnson of North Carolina addresses evasions of the media. Don Timmerman of Wisconsin writes that "the real reason why the troops are in Iraq is to privatize the oil for U.S. companies." Olivia Owen of New York laments the public's disconnectedness from responsibility in world affairs. She notes that artists are taking up the responsibility of peace efforts. Joe Rebholz, whose exhibition of anti-war graphics provoked both praise and vitriol in Tucson, is such an artist.

"The reality of war came briefly to Bisbee," writes Judy Plank, of a Quaker community near Douglas. She describes participating with Women in Black on the second anniversary of the Iraq war as they carried three flag-draped coffins in a procession through Bisbee. "Our government limits the public from seeing flag-draped coffins and dead Iraqi children with good reason. They are the truth of war."

Elaine Donovan of New York writes about encountering a group of Quakers "holding a silent peace vigil on the sidewalk in town. I joined them in their blessed silence. Later that day, I began to ask myself, 'Well, why can't we do that in our town?'" Of course, we, too, can in our town by participating in vigils and protests, including the Oct. 27 nationwide demonstrations for peace. Such opportunities are listed in the Tucson Peace Calendar.

In "Truth-Telling at the White House," Maria Allwine of Maryland reminds us, "The anti-war movement in this country is alive and well. At least 300,000 marched in September 2005, and the arrests on Sept. 26 marked the largest civil disobedience action in many decades ... !" She describes a 2,000-strong demonstration, at which gold-star mother Cindy Sheehan hung a picture of son Casey on the White House fence beside placards with the names of dead troops. Many demonstrators were arrested.

There is room here to mention only a few of the riches in Cost of Freedom--a cost we all pay. The book reminds readers that body counts are not just the scorecard the president insists on updating each day, as if he were running a baseball game, but bloody and mutilated bodies. There are also concerns for how critical domestic needs are ignored as the war goes on.

Though much civil disobedience has been ignored by both media and government--re-enforcing repressive power by forbidding photographs of flag-covered coffins and seducing reporters to accept the status of "embedded"--the voices in Cost of Freedom show that Big Brother can never succeed in muting all mouths and taping all eyes. And they remind us of our own complicity in a war that nobody sees the end of. Such a book is not only commendable; it is essential.

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