Millions of Us Protested the U.S. Invasion of Iraq

Terry Baum
5 min readMar 24, 2023

On the 20th anniversary of our country’s invasion of Iraq, I’m reading lots of pundits cudgeling their brains about why the hell we committed this insane war crime. So far, I haven’t read mentions of the millions of us all over the world who hit the streets again and again with our picket signs to peacefully demonstrate against this callous and absurd land grab for oil.

I intend to write in more detail to debunk the supposed “reasons” the mighty United States was provoked to war. But first I want to honor and celebrate all of us who tried to stop it. There was so much passion and outrage and creativity in the picket signs at the demonstrations in San Francisco. I made a small booklet of my photos. I printed 2,000 copies and sold or gave away them all except one. Sheila Kuehl, a dyke & very progressive state senator at the time, bought 40 copies for Christmas presents. I was very proud of that.

The photo above is the cover of my little book, “This Is My Peace Sign.” When anyone contacted me who was in the book, I gave them 10 free copies. The family in the cover photo lived in Santa Rosa. The mother of the boy holding the sign saw the little book on the counter of her local bookstore. When she finally got in touch with me, I figured he was entitled to 25 copies, since he named the book.

Below is the first photo inside the book. The English translation is “Peace Builds, War Destroys.” I was moved by this man using the lid of a pizza box for his message. He stands alone, with an expression of calm certainty.

More photos from “This Is My Peace Sign”…

For those who don’t remember or were too young or for other reasons weren’t involved, the French refused to sign on to this wonderful opportunity to fuck up the world. They were roundly condemned by our leaders as cowards. I believe the favored phrase was “cheese-eating surrender monkeys.” I kid you not. Then came a concerted effort to get rid of the adjective “French” if it was attached to anything pleasurable. So the Congressional cafeteria changed French fries to “Freedom Fries.” Thus the sign below.

There was a group of giant woman puppets, each holding a body. I cannot tell you how powerful it was.

I’m crying a few tears now, remembering the anger and the joy we felt, all being together, out in public, huge masses of us again and again. We truly believed if enough of us protested, we could stop the invasion of Iraq.

You see, this was a different occasion from the Black Lives Matter or Me Too protests. Those were bringing attention to entrenched, complex injustices. We were protesting a specific action that the President was threatening to take. We believed our protests could pressure Congress to cut off funding for it. That’s how the Vietnam war was ended. People were marching all over the world protesting the looming invasion. We were filled with anger and hope.

Once the warships started steaming toward the Persian Gulf, we were told “It’s too late, it’s a done deal.” But why? Warships can turn around! The whole thing was so tragic and stupid. We kept marching.

How deeply this woman must have felt to have those words painted over her child who was almost ready to enter the world. And then she marched for hours like this, her bare pregnant belly displaying her love and anguish for the children of Iraq.

My sister Nancy and I made the sign below. We thought of it as our all-purpose sign that we could use at all future peace demonstrations. The idea was mine, and we were supposed to make it together. But she got tired of waiting for me, so she just made it. Nancy died in 2009, and I miss her so much. We were a good team in so many ways. I was the dreamer and she was the one to actually make something happen.

And then we invaded Iraq and the whole nightmare really began.

I wish the whole world had boycotted us after we invaded, like they boycotted South Africa. All U.S. citizens should have been barred from all international cultural, sporting and intellectual gatherings. It would have served us right. But no one ever punishes the United States. We do whatever the hell we want, and others suffer the consequences. This time, the consequences shattered a whole region.

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Terry Baum

Terry Baum is an actress, director, teacher, filmmaker, political activist, and award-winning lesbian playwright. Her blog BAUMBLOG is a “Top 100 LGBTQ Blog.”