Today we started out with a vibrant pink presence outside the White House with over a dozen fasters. We were joined by several young women from the Youth Summer of Resistance program, a mom and daughter pair who drove up from Florida, and Rae, who flew in from San Francisco with more pink banners and umbrellas, and a big heart banner with messages of support from Bay Area CODEPINK for the fasters. We were getting situated in the park and beginning to flyer and sing, when all of a sudden a troop of kids in military camo came marching two by two through the park and up to the fence of the White House. These “Young Marines” were little kids—maybe 7-14 years old—who were head-to-toe mini-soldiers: The front two carried flags, and their combat boots marched in perfect unison. We grabbed the bullhorn and banners and led a rousing chorus of “I ain't going to study war no more.” Much to the angry adult Marine's chagrin, we encouraged these young folks to question authority, play instead of fighting, and study peace. They looked at us with bewilderment and stifled interest. They snapped their photos and then quickly evacuated the area, as swiftly as they entered, leaving our hearts heavy and our minds busy trying to understand how parents could cultivate discipline through teaching violence so young.
The excitement of yesterday's fast outside the Iraqi Embassy—where we set up “Camp Al-Maliki” in an attempt to meet with Iraq's prime minister, Al-Maliki (hyperlink to Medea's blog yesterday)—made us very hopeful at the start of our day today. After meeting with the Ambassador yesterday evening, receiving his verbal support, concern for our well being, and offering of cold water, we felt confident that today he would arrange a meeting with Cindy Sheehan and the fasters. We sent out a national email alert asking CODEPINK supporters to call the Iraqi Embassy to encourage the Prime Minister to meet with us. We're not naïve; we knew it was a long shot—but we were encouraged by the Ambassador's approach to the fast, and we wanted to let the embassy know the depth of our commitment to bring our troops home and end the occupation.
At noon Cindy Sheehan, Medea, and several other fasters convened outside the embassy to meet with Al-Maliki, or at least someone at the embassy. However, we were denied access inside, and waited for 7 hours in vain. Finally, in preparation for a reception for Al-Maliki being held at the embassy this evening, the cops came and cornered off the street, ordering us to leave immediately. Five of us decided to stay sitting outside the embassy, consciously risking arrest because we wanted our message to be heard by the embassy.
Supporters of the fast gathered on two street corners behind the yellow caution tape, holding pink banners. The cops built up their presence, prepared their plastic cuffs, called in the paddy wagon, and waited. Though they continued to do their job, the DC Metro Police officers on duty and numerous secret service uniformed cops were very supportive. Finally a very friendly cop issued the third notice for arrest, and at the last minute, an unknown man seemingly from the embassy got on his cell phone with the ambassador and then handed the phone to Medea. Medea spoke with the ambassador, who told her that if they cleared the street and did not get arrested, then he would try his best to ensure that Medea and Cindy would be invited into the 6 pm evening reception with Prime Minister Al-Maliki, and obtain an audience with him. They would also have to agree to break bread with the Iraqi leaders (thereby breaking their fast) at the reception.
Medea agreed to this proposal, embracing the beautiful idea of breaking her fast in the Iraqi Embassy with such a heartfelt gesture of warmth and greeting on behalf of the Iraqi government. The motorcade with Al-Maliki and his accompaniment arrived, and as the black cars drove into the blocked off street, the fasters all held up peace signs and sang, “All we are saying is give peace a chance.” We were all hopeful, eager to accomplish something for this great sacrifice that we, and over 5,000 people around the country, are making in the name of Peace. Those who have been fasting for 22 days were anxious for a breakthrough, for some glimmer of hope, and so we embraced this idea. And we waited. And waited.
Minutes ticked by, then a half hour, and then an hour passed. By 7 pm no action had been taken to invite Medea and Cindy into the Embassy for the reception, and Medea had not heard back from the ambassador, who had promised that if there were any complications he would be in touch with her directly. Then the big embassy doors again groaned open, the diplomats reemerged and speedily repopulated their black cars and drove away.
The group was left with the hollow feeling of false promises, the all-too-familiar sense of betrayal at the hands of a political persona. Our hopes had soared, only to again face a lack of response. Twice we waited—once at midday and once at the end of the day—and twice we were denied. We thanked everyone who had stayed to bear witness to the course of the day's actions, and we dispersed, without even a single cell phone number for anyone at the embassy. We had called the office numerous times over the past 24 hours, and our calls were matched by calls from all over the country. The words of the ambassador, who had assured Medea that the prime minister was very sympathetic to cause and worried about the fasters, hung in the air, kissing the faster's determined faces with deception.
Each incident such as the one we were a part of tonight inscribes upon us a sense of distrust, but we are still too stubborn and fiercely compassionate to succumb to the Sisyphus myth. We know that every action, however diminished the results, makes an impact, not only on our global leaders, but on passersby, and on ourselves. Our politicians may not be faithful to their words, but our faith in the transformative power of fasting, nonviolent action, and peace, only grows stronger.
Resolved to make a difference, to stop the war, to make our voices heard, we make plans to vigil outside Congress during Al-Maliki's visit tomorrow.