Iraq, Lest We Forget

November 4, 2008

Slipping from top of mind amid economic and election anxiety is the tragedy we call Iraq. But a soldier, a tiny plastic one in an unlikely place, reminded me today why Barack Obama appears on the verge of winning won the presidency.

Only Obama among Democratic contenders voted against the war. Without that opposition, he would have never won his party’s nomination. It was among the reasons I first felt the tug of his candidacy — long before he was an official candidate.

The unassuming soldier, a reminder of what we as a nation have wrought, brought the war back to me. How did it come to rest on a cafe’s outdoor table? Not just on a table but within the blood-red walls of a venue symbolic of smoke, fire, and death?

The Gold Rush Coffee Bar‘s barista old me that the soldier and another on an adjacent table simply appeared one day. He said similar ones have been scattered around Portland for several years. Where in the hell have I been?

Turns out many thousands of the soldiers are spread across the country. Many photos are here. In Portland, the People of Faith for Peace coalition has been distributing them.

“The beauty of it is that it’s so simple, and the message is absolutely unmistakable,” RCA Moore, the group’s organizer and First Unitarian Church member, told The Oregonian in 2006. A church committee bought five thousand of the soldiers.

“It does no harm,” said Moore, a Vietnam War veteran.

I say it does a lot of good.