VOICES: 20 years ago today, 400 residents ran an ad opposed to the Iraq War

On Sunday, March 16, 2003 – twenty years ago today – the Dayton Daily News included a paid advertisement signed by a diverse group of 400 area citizens. The headline was “No Iraq War,” and contained the following carefully chosen words: “We call for a halt to our nation’s march to war. We are loyal to our nation and supportive of the individual men and women in our armed services. We do not condone terrorism, but oppose military aggression as a response to terrorism. We believe peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the escalating crises in Iraq will be more effective.” It went on to say, “Military action to remove Saddam Hussein will cost tens of thousands of lives.”

This ad in the Dayton Daily News and protests here and around the country were deemed misinformed, naïve, and a potential threat to troop morale. Iraq was soon invaded and there were indeed tens of thousands of lives lost, with estimates of 50,000-200,000 civilian deaths in addition to those of thousands of combatants, both ours and theirs. Weapons of mass destruction were never found.

A few years after our entry into war I joined a small group determined to commit an act of non-violent civil disobedience by standing outside Dayton’s federal building in an area where we’d be considered trespassers. A shrewd federal marshal got that patch of grass re-designated so we wouldn’t be arrested, which I admit was also something of a relief for me personally. The marshal and I had a conversation afterward, and while he freely admitted his antipathy toward most anti-war protesters he was willing to confess privately that he had questions of his own: “Why didn’t they ask people like me what we thought, who’ve been in the military? Why did we go to war with Iraq so quickly?”

We should not keep these kinds of questions to ourselves. These days we could ask if NATO’s eastward expansion and its perceived threat to Russia made its invasion of Ukraine more likely. Or if arming Ukraine in a rapidly escalating war against a nuclear power, however nobly intended, is more of a gamble than we’re hearing. And perhaps even ask if continuing to supply billions in unrestricted aid to an extreme Israeli government is making daily life so much worse for Palestinians that another major war is inevitable.

When it seems we can’t agree on much in this country, there is now a fairly wide consensus that the war in Iraq was a tragic mistake. Those who signed that ad twenty years ago feel some vindication, but what’s important now is not making more mistakes. Whenever our country chooses to intervene in a military conflict directly or through supplying weapons, or side with an oppressive government, citizens need to pay attention and not be intimidated by accusations of naivety, disloyalty or even antisemitism.

Yes, it’s 2023, and the world is not exactly as it once was, but we should still be calling for “peaceful and diplomatic solutions.” We should be acknowledging the fundamental humanity of all people, not just those we say look like us. We should be asking the harder questions of our leaders, including those with whom we normally align. We owe it to our fellow citizens, including those serving in the military, and we certainly owe it to everyone directly in harm’s way, both near and far, Ukrainians, Russians, Israelis, Palestinians.

This is not about isolating ourselves from the sufferings of other people in this world. It’s about taking responsibility for what our country is already doing in the world.

John Wagner is a retired United Methodist pastor from Middletown.


NO IRAQ WAR We call for a halt to our nation’s march to war. We are loyal to our nation and supportive of the individual men and women in our armed serves. We do not condone terrorism, but oppose military aggression as a response to terrorism. We believe peaceful and diplomatic solutions to the escalating crises in Iraq will be more effective. *Iraq does not pose an immediate threat * A preemptive strike will mark the USA as an aggressor nation and set a dangerous precedent for others * Military action to remove Saddam Hussein will cost tens of thousands of lives * Alternatives to war, which have proven more effective, have not yet been exhausted. *War with Iraq is the real threat to our nation. (These statements were followed by notices of several different educational events and rallies, as well as contact information for those who might want to get more involved in protesting the war. The following persons were then listed as endorsing the advertisement. They each paid, I believe, $25 to have their names included. ) Irwin Abrams, Dr Mary & Dr. James Agna, Bashir G Ahmed, Wendy Aker, Fred & Chris Allen, William M. Allen, American Friends Service Committee, American Muslim Council, Southwest Ohio, Kim Armentrout, John Benvenuto, Dennis Bailey, Dennis Bailey, John Baker, Barbie G, Dr Wayne and June Barr, Michael Bashaw, Barbara Bayliff, Paul Benson, Rev. Reanna E. Biddle, Pastors Liz & Greg Bidgood Enders, Rev. Robert and Karen Bierman, John Blakelock, Toby Blume, Steve Bognar, Alexandra and Stephen Bohler, Drs John & Carolyn S Bohler, Joy Bossman, Jack Bowman, Robert Brecha & Katherine Siedl, Maddi Breslin, Dr. Charles Brown, Mary Carol Burkhardt, Ann Byrd, Una M Cadegan, Karen Callahan, Nick Cardilino, Dr. Norman & Cecile Cary, Mary Beth Caudill, Mary & Gordon Cahpman, Jarred Chase, Peter Chase, Sarah Chase, Gertrude Chasens, Joseph Cimoch, Clark County Peace Coalition, Linda L Cole, Committee to Save the Iraqi People, Congregation of Reconciliation, Robert C Conrad, Rev. Eugene Contadino SM, Margaret & Michael Coogan, Lindsey Cooper, Sherron Courneen, Gary Courts, Bruce A & Cheryl C Craver, Willa and Meredith Dallas, Judy Dalton, Bea Delph, Rev. Michael Denton, Peggy DesAutels, Rachel Dewey, Kelvin Dickinson, Kevin S. Donahoe, Meagan Doty, Dennis M Doyle, Shannon Driscoll, Ellen and Seth Duell, Terry K Duvall, Claire Earnhart, Richard & Wilberta Eastman, Carl W Eger III, David R & Nan L Erbaugh, Eternal Joy Metropolitan Community Church, John & Paula Ewers, Darryl Fairchild, Betty Ruth & Garner Fanning, Dr Kathleen and Edward Farmer, Lauren Farrell, Munis Faruqui, Leigh Farrell, Bonita & Rudy Fichtenbaum, Marilyn Fisher, Ellen Fleischmann, Larry Flockerzie, Daniel C Fouke, Hal & Rose Fox, Ed & Lori Francis, Larry & Lena Gera, Victor Garcia, Nancy Garner, Mary Sue Gmeiner, Judy & Igor Golovcsenko, Matthew Borden, Suzanne K Gourlie, Greater Dayton Christian Connections (GDCC), Gary Greenberg, Edward Grimm, Bob Hadley, Judy Hadley, Joseph Hadlock, Ifpikhar & Nighat Haq, Jill & Jeff Hardenbrook, Mary L Harmon, Donald Hayashi, Maureen Heacock, Vicki Hendricks, Stan & Andrea Hirtle, Tom & Kay Hissong, Barry & Kay Hollister, Barbara Hopkins, Bill Houston, Jim & Betsy Hughes, David Hurwitz, John Inglis, Leanne M Jablonski FMI PhD, Ellis Jacobs, Jerry Jenkins, Kelly Johnson, Patricia A Johnson, Rev Robert E and Karen Jones, Susann E Jones RN, Rev Satish Joseph CFFR, Patricia Kambitsch, Jane & Ron Katsuyama, Judith A Kearney, Mary E Kenton, Ann King, Marty Kline, Margaret Knapke, Sandy Lee Kreitzer, Mary & Joe Kunkel, Daniel Landis, Elizabeth Landis, Dr Hillary Lerman, Geri Lester, Mary Letson, Jane Lieberth, Claire Liszkay, James Lucas, Maureen Lynch, M Therese Lysaught PhD, Linda & Theo Majka, Amber Mapp, Judith G. Martin SSJ, Susan & Joe Mauser, Brian T May, Dr Kendall McCabe, James J McCarthy, Deborah McCarthy Smith, Brendan McCrann, Rec Eric McGlade, Allen & Heidi McGrew, Marjorie McLellan, Laura McManamon, Dr Anne G McWilliams, Wanda L Merritt, George Mertz, Dona Middaugh, Betty Mills, Dorla Morgan, Peggy Morrison, Virgene Moser, Kurt Mosser, Harry & Sets Nagaoka, Bettie Jean Nickell, Mary Niebler, Christopher R Nieport, Kristen Oganowski, Gwen Elaine Owen, Annette Oxindine, Gary & Dorothea Pacernick, Mary Jo Pfander, Rev & Mrs Kenneth Pohly, Rick and Margie Polhamus, Rev Mike Pratt, Thomas Preisser, Beverly Price, Jean & Harold Putnam, Vernellia R Randall, Robyn Reed, Julia Reichert, Julie Reiter, M Kathryn Reynolds, Rebecca Riggs, Rev Richard L Righter, Willie Righter, Karen Righter Malesko, Elisabeth L Righter MD, Lee A & Gwyneth Risley, Barbara Roberts, Emilie Kayla & Alexis Roberts, Barbara Robinson, Rayna C Rogers, Deb & Aaron Rose-Milavec, Colleen Rosshirt, Don Roth, Jan Rudd, Katherine R Schaefer, Ulrike Schellhammer, Seth Schlotterbeck, Anwyl & Don Scott, Dorothy and Doug Scott, Ruth A Scott, Bill Sees, September 11 Coalition, Rev. Kathryn & Richard Shaeffer, Mehrzad Yasmeen & Shahram Shariff, Angeline Shiley, Evelyn & Walter Sikes, Dale & Barbara Siler, Stephanie Slowinski, Anthony B Smith, Kevin Smith, Sol Smith, Suzanne Smith, Julie Sommer, Gary Staiger, Judy Stermer, Andrea Stiles, Pastor Walter & Genevieve Stuber, Sam & Stephanie Studebaker, Robert Sumser, Eric J Suttman, Helen Sutton, Robert & Helen Swab, Clare Talwalker, Cy L Tebbetts, Teresa Thompson, Maureen and Terry Tilley, Jim Tredinnick, Bill and Gayle Trollinger, Hazel Tulek, Richard Venus, Vincent Brothers Company, Elizabeth Voitik, Rev John & JoAnn Wagner, Dr Robert & Mary Walker, Jim & Pat Walker, Marcia Wallgren, James & Ruth Ward, Rev Daryl Ward, Susan Wawrose, Jean Weaver, Juanita & Bob Wehrle-Einhorn, Dr Lawrence L Welborn, Ann Wrightman, Kimberly Willardson, Tommy Willardson, Mark R. Willis, Cindy and George Wineburgh, Nancy Winfrey, Linda Winter, Edward Witte, Mary C Wlodarski, Wayne Wlodarski, David & Virginia Wood, Angela Yancik, Rev Richard P Young, Dr G Edwin Zeiders, Lila Lerman Zucker

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