Since the first day of the US invasion of Afghanistan, October 7, 2001, residents of Corvallis, Oregon have held a vigil for peace every day, 365 days a year. The number of participants varies daily from two or three individuals to crowds of several hundred, but from 5-6 p.m. there is always at least a handful of people holding signs and flags, asking for military restraint, for diplomacy, for peace in the face of escalating militarism.
Corvallis resident, Ed Epley, has been the backbone of the group. When asked why he has been willing and able to make this sort of commitment, Epley explains: "After September 11, there was an overwhelming rush within the Bush Administration to use military action when it was not called for. What we needed then, and still need, is an international police force to deal with terrorists, and diplomacy to resolve differences between nations and ideologies." Epley explained that he and others wanted to create a visible presence to remind people there were viable solutions less destructive and less expensive than war. "Unfortunately, eight years later, our presence is still necessary. The occupation of Afghanistan not only continues, but may soon be escalated by the Obama Administration."
Epley recalls how passing cars have variously signaled support, yelled obscenities, thrown cups containing human saliva and "other things." Some people stop by with baked goods or ice cream bars; some stop by to engage in thoughtful discussion, while others hurl red-faced anger at those who dare to question US war policy. The vigil regulars have been both thanked and cursed in many different languages.
Another vigil regular, Joan Noyes, said there must be a change in US policy: "The United States needs to change its approach to Afghanistan. Military methods have repeatedly failed in this complex country where people do whatever they can to defend their homes," said Noyes. "We should approach Afghanistan by offering aid to its people rather than bombing their homeland."
On Wednesday, October 7, vigil-goers will again send hand-written postcards to President Obama, asking for an end to US militarism in Afghanistan. Following the vigil, the Corvallis Chapter of Veterans for Peace will screen the film "Rethink Afghanistan," produced by the Brave New Foundation and directed by Robert Greenwald ( http://rethinkafghanistan.com/videos.php).
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Digital photos of the daily vigil available upon request; contact Carol Alexander firstname.lastname@example.org 541-754-7479
Corvallis Alternatives to War http://www.alt2war.org/
Corvallis Veterans for Peace http://www.vfpcorvallis.org/