COLUMBIA — Citing the financial, moral and relationship costs of the war, six community panelists agreed at a town hall meeting Wednesday night that the war in Iraq needs to end.
More than 100 people, many of whom who were holding signs that read, “Support The Troops. End The War,” attended the meeting, sponsored by Pro-Vote, at the Boone County Government Center. Pro-Vote is a national organization that works to elect progressive politicians through grass-roots action.
Panelists and others at the meeting were hoping to bring their concerns to the attention of U.S. Rep. Kenny Hulshof, R-Mo., who was invited but did not attend. They encouraged those in attendance to send letters and e-mails and make phone calls to Hulshof, voicing their opinions.
“This is our country, our war, our people,” Duane Burghard said at the meeting. Burghard ran against Hulshof in the 2006 congressional elections.
Both panelists and community members shared their opinions on what should be done, including setting a date to start withdrawing troops.
Members of the panel included Glenn Rehn, an MU senior majoring in political science; Janel Martin-Miranda, a mother of a lieutenant in Iraq; Stacy Hafley, wife of an Iraq war veteran and president of the Missouri and Midwest chapter of Military Families Speak Out; Monta Welch, director of the Columbia Climate Change Coalition; Maureen Dickmann, pastor at Rock Bridge Christian Church; and Mark Robertson, an advocate for responsible public policy.
“Making your voice heard — that’s the only way you can affect change,” Rehn said.
At the meeting, some audience members wore name tags displaying an altered photo of Hulshof wearing a red and white striped hat reminiscent of the “Where’s Waldo” books that read, “Where’s Kenny?”
Hafley read a prepared statement on behalf of her husband, who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder from his time in Iraq.
“While we are fighting this war, the rest of the country is at the mall,” Joe Hafley wrote.
Before the meeting Hafley’s wife said, when her husband returned home after a year in Iraq, he was “a 100-percent different person.”
Dickmann, who has participated in peace rallies for years, said Wednesday afternoon the U.S. should not impose its will on other countries.
“We went into it with a lot of hubris and thinking that democracy would just bloom in the desert,” she said.
Martin-Miranda expressed disdain for extravagancies such as Hummers, quoting her daughter-in-law who has served in Iraq: “Oh yeah, I’ve driven a Hummer. I had a gas mask on and was driving for my life.”
The panel closed the meeting by asking for community input.
Robin Remington, who introduced herself as someone who “had studied the causes of war,” was met by applause.
“Our soldiers are victims of George Bush’s experiment of empire building based on lies.”
Missourian reporter Rebekah Heil
contributed to the report.