In the months leading up to the invasion of Iraq, an unprecedented movement developed to stop the rush to war, a movement so large and diverse that the New York Times wrote of "two superpowers on the planet: the United States and world public opinion."
Tragically, the Bush administration ignored the majority of humankind and launched the invasion of Iraq on March 19, 2003. The third anniversary of the Iraq War will be marked with demonstrations in hundreds of cities across America, including a rally in Lafayette Square at 4 p.m. Saturday.
An anniversary is an appropriate time for reflection, and looking back on the last three years, two points stand out. First, the anti-war movement has been proven correct in its prewar assessment and warnings. Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction. Invading Iraq destabilized the Middle East, damaged U.S.-Arab relations and created a new breeding ground for terrorists and violent Islamic fundamentalists.
The war has been a humanitarian disaster, costing the lives of more than 2,300 U.S. soldiers and an estimated 100,000 Iraqi civilians, according to a study by public health experts at Johns Hopkins University. The economic cost of the war is also astronomical - nearly $250 billion and growing, with some $934 million coming from Erie County alone, according to the National Priorities Project, a nonpartisan research group.
Second, the supporters of the war, whether in the Bush administration, Congress or the media, had it wrong. The reasons they gave to go to war have proven false, our troops weren't greeted as liberators and the war has had a negative effect on our prestige abroad. Yet, for some reason, many still look to these discredited voices for leadership on the Iraq issue.
American involvement in Iraq is at a crossroads. The same voices that once told us we needed an invasion to eliminate imaginary weapons of mass destruction are now saying we need an ongoing occupation to prevent an Iraqi civil war.
Don't listen to the advice of President Bush, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and the other architects of the disaster in Iraq, who argue that "staying the course" will somehow produce a new outcome. Rather, we should heed the anti-war voices, who argue that U.S. occupation fuels chaos and carnage.
Better still, why not simply accept the judgment of the majority of Americans, who are found in poll after poll to support a concrete plan for the return of our troops? Or the 72 percent of U.S. soldiers in Iraq who believe we should leave Iraq in the next year, according to a recent Zogby poll?
Politicians like Sen. Hillary R. Clinton and Rep. Brian M. Higgins would seem to disagree. Both have failed to support sensible measures in Congress that would create a concrete plan and time line for the safe return of our troops.
This raises a crucial question in this election year - do Clinton and Higgins side with the anti-war majority, both civilian and military, or with discredited prowar figures like Bush?
Colin Eager is executive director of the Western New York Peace Center.