Following the announcement by President Bush on Monday, March 17, 2003 that the U.S. would invade Iraq within 48 hours, and his follow-up on Tuesday that we would invade whether or not Saddam leaves Iraq, 28 of our members gathered at the Northbrook Public Library on very short notice to begin the discussion of what our group should do next. The consensus was that further activities aimed at preventing the invasion were probably futile.
Although at the start of the meeting people were in a very somber and discouraged mood, by the end of the meeting people were looking to the future. Several main areas drew peoples comments.
We do not get enough information or balanced coverage from the mainstream news outlets.
We should continue to speak out against U.S. foreign policy in Iraq, because speaking out is the patriotic and proper thing to do.
We should start now to work for changes in the next Congressional and Presidential elections.
We should attempt to work even more closely with peace groups in other towns.
110 people boarded the train in Northbrook and other nearby towns to ride the Peace Train into Chicago on Sunday, March 16, 2003. We carried banners, which were sewn together from squares our members decorated, as we marched to the Daley Center Plaza, where we joined with thousands of others to demonstrate against the invasion of Iraq.
Lecture March 2, 2003
Doug Cassel, Director of the Northwestern University for International Human Rights, spoke to over seventy members of our group at the Northbrook Public Library. His topic was the dangers inherent in an American invasion of Iraq. Some of Mr. Cassel's points were these:
If a ground war in Iraq becomes protracted and reaches Baghdad, there will be thousands of U.S. military and civilian casualties. We may see planeloads of body bags.
Saddam has shown himself to be a pragmatist who considers his own survival of utmost importance. If Saddam is "cornered," Israel will be highly vulnerable to missile attack. With our ground forces in Baghdad, retaliation by Israel would become problematic if not impossible.
Because of his strong survival instincts and the nature of his secular regime, Saddam has not trusted religious zealots with his weapons. An invasion by American forces would likely convince Saddam that joining forces with Al Qaeda, or another fanatical terrorist group, is preferable to being defeated by a larger, more imminently dangerous foe, the U.S. The threat of terrorist aggression would increase.
The case made to invade Iraq has been unconvincing, and the philosophy that promotes the invasion is morally and practicably indefensible. The potential for loss of life make it a choice that is unwise in every way.
Demonstration February 15, 2003
Twenty two of our members joined with millions of people in New York, London, and all across the globe in demonstrating against the invasion of Iraq. The day was significant because it was the day after the United Nations inspectors reported that they had not found any new evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. We stood at an intersection in downtown Northbrook holding signs, chanting, and waving to get across our message that the inspections should continue and that war should not begin. Our efforts were reported on radio and television. Some of our members also joined similar demonstrations sponsored by other local groups that took place in Chicago and other North Shore suburbs.
photo by Zachary Lorden
Visit to Congressman Kirks Office
On Friday, January 24 mor than 100 people showed up at the Deerfield office of Congressman Mark Kirk to tell him they opposed the planned invasion of Iraq. This event was organized by the Northbrook Peace Committee and was co-sponsored by North Suburban Women for Peace, Neighbors for Peace, and the Chicago area chapter of Fellowship of Reconciliation. Before the event, Kirks office had told us that everyone who showed up would be allowed into their office and would be able to speak their minds. But when we showed up, they refused to let us in and had the police run us off the property.
So, instead of giving our message of peace directly to our congressman, we walked to the corner and stood with our signs in 10-degree weather, as passing motorists honked and waved to show they also opposed the invasion of Iraq. We took the quart containers of oil that we were going to present to Congressman Kirk as a symbolic message that war should not be waged for Iraqs oil, and arranged them on the grass at the corner in the shape of a peace symbol.
Despite everyones dismay that our elected representative would lie to us, hide from us, and refuse to listen to what we had to say, there was a feeling of resolve to keep working for peace. We were especially thrilled to have so many new people joining us. Among our group were students from Glenbrook North High School, Glenbrook South High School, Highland Park High School, New Trier High School, and North Shore Country Day School. People came from Northbrook, Glencoe, Wheeling, Deerfield, Winnetka, Highwood, Highland Park, Lake Forest, Bannockburn, Buffalo Grove, Wilmette, Waukegan, and several other places. The spirit was strong among everyone in attendance.
Make Coffee, Not War Event
About 30 people gathered at Starbucks Coffee in downtown Northbrook on Saturday January 4, 2002. We used cell phones to call our Congressman and Senators. Although the offices were closed, we left messages letting them know we oppose the invasion of Iraq. We tried reaching the President, but the White House doesnt take phone calls from citizens on weekends.
Greeting President Bush
While President Bush spoke at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Chicago on January 7, 2003, about 250 demonstrators, including folks from Northbrook, Skokie, Wilmette, DuPage County, and all over Chicagoland, stood outside holding signs and protesting the invasion of Iraq. Just as we have found at our events in Northbrook, the crowd included people of all ages. The president may not be listening, but our presence was reported by all the major news outlets, and a member of our group was interviewed briefly on the Channel 9 news.
Outreach to Area Clergy
A representative of our group met with the Northbrook Clergy Association and asked that their members speak from the pulpit in opposition to the invasion of Iraq.
Honk for Peace
On the last shopping weekend before Christmas, 19 of our supporters stood on Lake-Cook Road at the entrance to Northbrook Court Shopping Center with a banner that said "No To War With Iraq" and with other signs inviting passing motorists to honk if they support peace. Several thousand motorists passed by and saw our demonstration. We were very gratified at the number of people who honked and waved to show they also oppose the invasion of Iraq. One car stopped and the passenger shouted excitedly to us "We are from Iraq!"
Coffees for Peace
Recently a couple who were at one of our meetings asked our help in putting together a coffee for the people in her condo building, most of whom are senior citizens. We did and had a wonderful turnout (40 people). The discussion was far-ranging and touched on many important issues. Several people signed on to support our efforts against the invasion.
Due to the success of this meeting, we are encouraging others to hold coffees for peace. If you would like to host a coffee in your building or neighborhood, or for your friends, or if you belong to a club or organization that could host a meeting, please let us know and we will be happy to help however we can. There is no expense, and this is an excellent way to reach out to people who respect your opinions and who will welcome the opportunity to meet at a convenient location. Its a very pleasant and fulfilling way to expand the opposition to the invasion.
On December 15, 2002, several members of the Northbrook Peace Committee attended a peace vigil and candlelight procession on Chicagos Magnificent Mile. The event was sponsored by United for Peace, an interfaith group of religious leaders. (See their statement on our website under Statements.) The vigil took place at St. James Cathedral (Episcopal). The church quickly filled to capacity, so some of the roughly 2000 in attendance listened to speakers over loudspeakers on the sidewalk. Well-supplied volunteers distributed candles and programs (with song lyrics!) to all.
Calls to prayer, prayers for peace, and statements were heard from an impressive array of religious leaders. We were energized by the Rev. Dr. Calvin Morris of the Community Renewal Society, heard a call to prayer by Mohammad Jarad of the Council of Islamic Organizations, and then were led in songs. Petitions tucked inside the program allowed participants to sign an "Iraq pledge of resistance" sponsored by The Campaign of Conscience. A Chicago Tribune headline on Monday stated that hundreds inside the church signed those pledges.
As we walked amidst throngs of holiday shoppers down Michigan Avenue, we sang so Chicago could hear as well as see us. There were many home-made signs and banners sporting anti-war slogans. Most of the marchers had candles, although a nippy wind made them very difficult to keep lit. The marchers were a mix of ages, with the majority being in the 40-60 range.
Arriving at Riverside Plaza outside of the Tribune Tower and across from the Wrigley Building, we heard a brief address by Bishop C. Joseph Sprague of the United Methodist Church. He asked the question we have all heard from more cynical friends and family "Why bother? Isnt this administration going to war no matter what we say?" His answer was an inspirational message that we ARE making progress. Citing the recent Tribune poll showing that 55% are against a military attack on Iraq, he said we ARE making a difference, that people are hearing us. We must continue our actions, both large and small, to bring attention to this issue and change the minds of others. The event ended with more songs.
Several of our members attended a debate at New Trier High School in Winnetka on December 12, 2002. The debate was jointly sponsored by the school and by the North Shore Senior Center.
Robert Cleland, a long-time anti-nuclear and peace activist presented the position against invading Iraq. Mr. Cleland stated that the Presidents plan to invade was evidence of his administrations Imperialist inclinations. He spoke at some length about the destructive capabilities of modern warfare enabled by satellite surveillance, targeting, and communications.
Joe Morris, a frequent spokesperson for the Republican Party and conservative causes, presented the position favoring invasion. Mr. Morris likened the present to the situation leading up to World War Two, saying the U.S. should be prepared to respond with force to a "dangerous" world. He said the U.S. has the opportunity, because it is the only remaining military superpower, to restructure the worlds governments the way it wants.
Two New Trier students who are involved in the schools debate program gave short presentations summarizing the first speakers. The speakers took several questions from people in the audience. The presentations were very well prepared and presented.
On December 7, 2002, the anniversary of the invasion at Pearl Harbor and the day that Iraq turned over its inventory of weapons to the U.N., we assembled for a short meeting in Northbrook and then joined the North Suburban Peace Initiative (an Evanston based group) for a program at the North Shore Unitarian Church in Deerfield. The speaker was David Cortright, PhD, president of the Fourth Freedom Forum (www.fourthfreedom.org) an independent foreign policy think tank whose goal is to create a more civilized world based on the force of law rather than the law of force. Mr. Cortright, is a visiting faculty member of the Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame and is the author of several books about peace and justice issues.
Mr. Cortright summarized a report he recently published entitled "Winning Without War: Sensible Security Options for Dealing With Iraq". The report states that over the past decade, UN weapons inspections, sanctions, and military deterrence have reduced the threat that Iraq can or will use nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and ballistic missiles. Furthermore, nonmilitary means are available for protecting against aggressive action by Iraq. These include:
Improved monitoring of Iraqs borders
Advanced monitoring technology
Establishing sanctions assistance missions
Improved cargo monitoring at the port of Aqaba
Incentives to gain cooperation of Iraqs trading partners
Penalizing arms embargo violations
Tightening controls on Iraqi oil marketing
Requiring Iraqi oil purchasers to submit financial reports
Control or shut down of the Syria-Iraq pipeline
Strengthening collective deterrence against Iraqi aggression
Mr. Cortright also answered questions from the audience.
The program concluded with an open exchange, during which heard from others who are active in this locale.
Our First Rally
On Sunday November 3, 2002, fifty-five people got together and marched through Northbrooks downtown shopping area. (This may have been the first-ever demonstration in Northbrook on a controversial issue!) Some of the signs we carried said:
"Make Sense, Not War"
"Patriots for Peace"
"Hands of Peace not Arms of War"
"U.S. Be a Leader, Not a Rogue Nation"
"No War, No Way."
After the march we met at the Northbrook Public Library for an open forum. Some of the concerns expressed by individuals were:
Invasion will cause death and suffering for innocent, powerless civilians in Iraq.
The U.S. will have a difficult time "winning" the war.
The war is not moral and is not a just war.
The expense of the war will damage our fragile economy and will drain off money that could be better spent.
The invasion is really about oil.
President Bush is seeking revenge for Saddams threats against Bushs father.
If attacked, Saddam will attack Israel.
Saddam will retaliate using biological, chemical, and nuclear weapons.
A preemptive attack by the U.S. would violate international law.
The U.S. has not exhausted non-military options.
War could lead to more terrorist attacks in the Middle East and in the U.S.
Invasion will resurrect the draft.
We will not be able to find Saddam.
Whoever replaces Saddam may be just as bad, or worse.
The U.S. will not adequately rebuild what it destroys.
Our military will be in Iraq for years after the war.
The U.S. will lose credibility with other countries.
The invasion will undermine the U.N.
The war is being forced on the American people.
The U.S. Congress has abdicated its responsibilities and turned them over to the President.
Iraq is no more of a threat now than at any time since the end of Desert Storm.
The consensus was that we should continue to work individually and as a group to oppose the invasion.
\During November, we erected a coffin-shaped sign with the message "War = Death" in Triangle Park facing the Metra train station in Northbrook. The sign was flanked by American and Iraqi flags. The display was vandalized on seven occasions.
The display was intended to focus viewers attention on one central reality of war. No matter what else war is intended to do, it is deliberate killing. Comments about the display have been both positive and negative, as would be expected of an evocative piece of public art. Among the opinions expressed in letters to the editor of the Northbrook Star were the following:
"I am appalled that they would use public property to display their selfishness."
"Please do us all a favor and remove the disgraceful casket and Iraqi flag from our beloved Northbrook triangle. It shows a lack of respect for our community, our country and mostly our service men and women."
"It is a time to support the administration and our troops overseas, not a time for anti-war rhetoric."
The paper has run several articles about the display, and has also recently run a letter opposing the war:
"Now is not the time for panic and unilateral imperialism on the world stage or at home
Let us reenergize our great potential for diplomacy in the Middle East by working toward a peaceful resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian crisis rather than running off to war with Saddam Hussein."
The Chicago Tribune ran an article "Peace display sets off uproar."
The display seems to have served its intended purpose.