Mid-Missouri Peaceworks protests Afghan war 17 years after initial attack

Mid-Missouri Peaceworks members and volunteers explained why demilitarization is still important on the 17th anniversary of U.S. involvement with Afghanistan.

Mid-Missouri Peaceworks marked the 17th anniversary of the U.S. involvement with Afghanistan. They held the same demonstration that has continued on a weekly basis every Wednesday in Columbia, MO since October 2001, days after the U. S. military began airstrikes in Afghanistan on Oct. 10.

This 17-year tradition, named the weekly “rush hour peace demonstration,” is held at the busy intersection of Broadway and Providence. It is here that the participants of the demonstration hold signs and banners to remind the Columbia community that the U.S. is still at war.

Peaceworks Director Mark Haim said the military-industrial complex is geared to produce profits rather than provide national security and that it is a misuse of tax dollars.

“I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have a military, but there’s no threat that justifies the amount of money and resources being put into these perpetual wars,” Haim said. “Real security would [instead] come from investing in people, in infrastructure, in dealing with the climate crisis because the climate threat poses a greater threat to our country than any enemy country.”

Two days before the commemorative demonstration, on Oct. 8, a new poll conducted by YouGov and commissioned by the Charles Koch Institute and RealClearPolitics, showed 53 percent of Americans and 60 percent of veterans do not think that the United States has a clear strategic objective in Afghanistan. This is in stark contrast to a poll conducted by Gallup in November 2001, where less than 1 in 10 Americans said that U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was a mistake.

The weekly Rush Hour Peace Demonstration is one of Peaceworks many contributions to the anti-militarization effort.

“One of the key things that happens is that people are reminded that there is a war going on, people are reminded that other people are losing their lives and people are given a vehicle to, in the very minimal sense, to express solidarity with our efforts by honking their horns,” Haim said. Although there is often a smaller attendance during these demonstrations than some of Peacwork’s larger events, Haim believes the demonstrations are effectual. Haim adds, “And, you know, it’s a very small thing to drive by and honk your horn but it is a way that you're saying, this matters to me, this is something important.”

According to their website, Peaceworks began as a nuclear freeze group. They have since expanded their focus to a variety of issues including peace, justice and sustainability. Peaceworks is a grassroots organization made up of approximately 500 people. Some of their projects include The Center for Sustainable Living and Missourians for Safe Energy.

Joan Wilcox, a member of the Columbia community present at the demonstration, has been involved with Mid-Missouri Peaceworks as a volunteer for the past four to five years. She became involved after meeting Haim while working with another non-for-profit, Grassroots Campaigns.

“As you can see there are a lot of positive responses, [but] sometimes not so,” Wilcox said. “A lot have probably honked their horns every Wednesday for the past five years.”

Peaceworks conducts other demonstrations, some much larger, like their fourth annual Climate Walk in September. The Climate Walk was multigenerational and included many University of Missouri students and Columbia Community Members.

In contrast to the Climate Walk, the 11 participants at the demonstration on Oct. 10 veered towards an older generation.

“I don't see this issue as one that uniquely effects older folks,” Haim said. “I think that, in fact, the permanent war most profoundly affects young people, because your generation is the generation growing up knowing nothing but war. We’ve been at war continuously for 17 years now, and that has a pernicious effect on democracy.”

Edited by Caitlyn Rosen | crosen@themaneater.com

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