Thursday, March 13, 2008

March 13, 2008

Anniversary of war recalls reason not to celebrate

by Amy L. Cornell Community columnist |
March 13, 2008

March of 2003. I am in my hometown in Ohio for spring vacation, and I am in a loud neighborhood pub where I sit at the bar and become riveted by the five televisions blaring Fox News for the world to see. It is a big news day. You see, the USA is about to invade the sovereign nation of Iraq.

The bar celebrates the occasion. A handwritten sign behind the bar says free beer for anyone wearing a military uniform. The crowd is drawn to the televisions full of live action and up-to-the minute reporting. It’s hard to decide just which iteration of Fox News to watch. The garish graphics help promote the circus-like atmosphere in this bar. As Fox News announces that it is one more hour until the invasion, the crowd lifts their glasses for a cheer. Is it my imagination or did someone just brag about going and getting some “towel heads”? My head swivels back and forth between old friends in the bar and all the television screens. I am sure what I am witnessing is somehow an optical illusion. If I could just look at it properly, it would seem not so much like the carnival that it is.

I suddenly feel ill. I look backwards over my shoulder at the door wishing I could leave. I keep my anti-war opinions to myself here in this hometown of mine.

I overhear someone say, “He can’t wait until his unit is called up and he can go over there and get started.”

“Thirty minutes till invasion,” the news announcer says, “and the tanks are starting to roll.” I feel like they are rolling down the street outside this bar.

My eyes are fixated on the screens. Like a bad traffic accident, I can’t look away. The words and images are becoming jumbled in my head. Are we really sending people to war while a bar cheers? If news in this format had been around after the invasion of Pearl Harbor would this scene have happened?

I have broken into a cold sweat. I can think of absolutely nothing to say to my friends who I once knew so well. I can only look at them and then watch the alert banner which says “20 minutes till invasion” reflect in their eyeglasses.

I excuse myself and go into the bathroom and throw up. I look at myself in the mirror for a long time. This is my home I say to myself, and these are my friends. I am still somehow a part of the sour beer and the drums beating on Fox News and the buzz of patrons cheering and whispering about victory. I shudder a bit as I rinse off my face.

Back at the bar, I watch the embedded journalists describe every thought and feeling as the guns and bombs begin to fly. I debate whether to bolt and run — back to the safety of my car and my new hometown in the hills of southern Indiana. I realize sadly that this is not the only bar in the U.S. where this exact scene is playing.

Like we all remember where we were when those planes hit the World Trade Center, I will always remember where I was the night the U.S. invaded Iraq.

March 19, 2008, will mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion. May we all be mindful of our neighbors, friends and family serving the USA in the armed forces and of their families who wait for them at home. May this war and the occupation come to a swift conclusion, and may the Iraqi people know peace as well.

Amy Cornell’s column appears every other Thursday in The Herald-Times. You can reach her at

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