It’s an encouraging sign that the local March for Peace & Life, protesting the Iraq and Afghanistan military occupations, drew many younger participants Saturday.
Nathaniel Batchelder, one of the event’s organizer and director of the Oklahoma City Peace House, wrote this about the march and accompanying rally in a Facebook message:
The Oikos student-led Rally and march for Peace & Life today was the more powerful for the young activists who spoke. Emma Velez, Katie Williams, Stefan Warner, Andrew Stein, and Jessie MacArthur inspired adult listeners with hope that "the next generation" fully grasps the futility of war, and the urgent need to shift resources into life, justice, environmental, and human need priorities.
Students involved in OCU’s Oikos Scholars program, which promotes social justice, helped organized the event.
The 100 or so rally participants met outside at Oklahoma City University and held signs along 23rd Street encouraging drivers to honk for peace. They listened to speakers that also included Batchelder and Dr. David Macey, and then marched down Blackwelder to 30th Street to Classen and then back on 23rd Street to OCU.
Some speakers mentioned how the long length of the occupations—seven years in Iraq, nearly nine years in Afghanistan—has tragically normalized the idea of war and violence for many young people in the U.S. Younger people simply haven’t experienced extended years of peace in their lives. How has the sense of perpetual war influenced them?
As the speakers adamantly pointed out, war should not be normalized.
The rally’s participants also formed a line and went to a podium one-by-one to read the names of all the Oklahoma soldiers that have been killed in the two occupations.
According to The Washington Post, 4,378 American soldiers have died in the Iraq conflict and 1,033 have died in the Afghanistan conflict. Thousands more have been injured. The Post lists 94 Oklahomans who have died in the two conflicts.
Some organizations estimate that anywhere from approximately 100,00 to 1 million Iraqi civilians have been killed since the occupation began in 2003. The numbers vary greatly, but most everyone agrees there has been major casualties among the civilian population. The number of civilians killed in Afghanistan range from thousands to tens of thousands.
Costofwar.com estimates the costs of the two occupations so far has been nearly $987 billion. Oklahoma’s share of the cost is estimated at nearly $15 billion. Oklahoma City’s share of the cost is estimated at $2.3 billion. Tulsa’s share of the cost is $1.8 billion.