The Final "Final Friday"
30 Dec 2011

FUMCOG members Anne Ewing, Bill Ewing (With his back turned), Julie & Dick Cox

Members of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown (FUMCOG) have been joined by many peace groups in their "Final Friday" vigil many times, but the church has always been the core group since the vigil began in late 2006.

Jeff Harmon, the fellow with the "Honk for Peace" sign is the one who started the vigil. He was doing it with his son, FUMCOG member and Gold Star Mother Celeste Zappala (She lost her son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, in the Iraq War,  he was the first member of the PA National Guard to have been killed since World War II) noticed him demonstrating in front of the Armed Forces Recruiting Center and decided that he had a good idea. We joined in on his vigil on September 2006 and just ended it as of December 2011.

Brandywine Peace Community has been a faithful member of the vigil.

So, what's the current status of Iraq, now that the US has pulled out? In a piece dated September 2008, the Center for American Progress concluded that the US presence in that country was making a true conclusion to the war, a genuine reconciliation impossible. They saw the end of the "Surge" as essentially having frozen the various internal competitors into place. The increasing fraction and disunity that's happening now is what would have happened three years ago and what would still have happened had the US remained for another five years.

Reverend Michelle Bartlow, FUMCOG's Senior Pastor, who retired a few months ago.

Fox News is terribly upset that President Obama won't throw a "grand, flag-waving, red-white-and-blue homecoming" for the troops that are arriving back from Iraq, but it's kinda hard to enjoy such a celebration when there really hasn't been any sort of victory. The Iraq War officially ended (The US "leaves behind a very large foot print which is its largest embassy in the world") and no, US troops weren't chased to the boats and didn't undertake any sort of frantic evacuation, but with conflicts between Iraqis simply having been deferred, there's not much point in victory parades.

Young one looks on as Brandywine bell ringer slowly rings the bell.

How have the architects of the Iraq War fared? How many combined years are they all serving in prison for their many crimes against humanity? Unfortunately, the answer to that is "Zero." Chris Hayes goes over how each architect is doing. I agree, the best line from his retrospective is:

HAYES: Doug Feith, the Undersecretary of Defense, who Geneal Tommy Franks once called "the f-ing stupidest guy on the face of the earth," is advising Rick Perry on foreign policy.

line of sign-holders
  How do Iraqis feel about the US departure? Pretty good, actually.

Baghdad- Thousands of Iraqis gathered in the capital Baghdad on Friday to celebrate the withdrawal of US troops from the country after nearly nine years of military involvement.

Led by clergy, they chanted slogans against the 'occupation' that started in 2003 and called the pullout earlier this month a 'day of liberation and evacuation.'

Sandy Rich
Two Navy vet peaceniks, Sandy Fulton & Rich Gardner. Sandy is wearing the sweatshirt for the Delaware Valley Veterans for America.

How about the Sunnis, an ethnic minority within Iraq? Erm, not so good, actually.

BAGHDAD (AP) — The question was disturbing: Why do you live here?

Ahmed al-Azami, a Sunni Muslim, has owned a house in Baghdad's Shiite neighborhood of Shaab since 1999. But when Shiite residents recently began questioning why he, a Sunni, was living among them, he decided it was time to leave.

His story and similar tales by other Sunnis suggest Iraqis are again segregating themselves along sectarian lines, prompted by a political crisis pulling at the explosive Sunni-Shiite divide just weeks after the American withdrawal left Iraq to chart its own future.

bellringer with vigilers in background

How fares Fallujah, that city that was the scene of the biggest single battle between Americans and insurgents in Iraq? Not very good. One in five births within the city has severe birth defects. Fallujah suffered an extensive use of chemicals.

Granny Peace Brigade
The Granny Peace Brigade presents Celeste Zappala with an award.

Back in October, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put the best face on the situation:

“This was an ongoing discussion,” Clinton said. “At the end of the day as in many discussions, an agreement was reached that met the needs of both sides. We have fullfilled the commitment requested by the Iraqis … [and] we expect to have a continuing strong security relationship for many years to come.”

Celeste Zappala speaks of the long years at our vigil during which an occasional passing motorist would expres disagreement with our stand. Over time, the complaints got fewer and fewer and the signs of support grew and grew. We often counted all of the supportive honks of horns (We usually got about 400 in the hour) and yes, if someone passed by on foot or on a bicycle and said "Honk!" we counted that, too!