This article and photo appear on pages 59 and 60 of the July 2010 issue of the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Reprinted with permission of the author.

by Michael Gillespie

     Four long-time Iowa activists defied the elements on April 15 to protest their government’s use of their tax dollars to fund wars.

     “We’ve been doing this for 20 years or more just to point out to people what a lot of their tax money goes to,” said Sherry Hutchison, standing under an umbrella in the rain on the sidewalk in front of the main U. S. Post Office in Des Moines, IA.

     “It goes to fund things like the war in Iraq and the war in Afghanistan, and they’re cutting back on human services, and they’re cutting back on schools, and they’re not funding jobs the way that they should.  It’s because of all that is going to fund the wars, and Iowans who are in the Guard and the Reserves have been called upon to go back over there time and time again,” said Hutchison.

     “We just want people to think about where their tax money goes,” said Hutchison.

     “We’re spending far to many of our tax dollars on war in Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Eloise Cranke, holding the umbrella she shared with her friend.

     “People here at home are suffering for lack of health care, for lack of education, for lack of jobs.  Our national priorities are completely skewed and need to be changed,” said Cranke.

     “It’s just ridiculous that we are spending all this money for war, and people are going along with it, it seems,” said Jane Magers, struggling to hold  a pole attached to one end of a banner buffeted by a stiff wind.

     “You don’t see really too many people refusing to pay their taxes.  We know a few people who do.  I’m not one right now because I don’t make enough money to pay taxes, but I used to,” said Magers.

     “I purposefully chose to live my life without a regular job so that I wouldn’t make more money than I needed, and I’m not sorry about that.  I’m sorry that we haven’t done any better at getting the war budget down even with President Obama.  It’s just the same.  We’re spending $720 million a day just in Iraq.  Now that’s an old figure,” said Magers.

     Magers said she is concerned that the U.S. economy will suffer and fall behind other countries that are not wasting money on foreign wars.

     “I just spoke to somebody from Germany who was visiting.  [The German government] pays $400 per month for each child. … You know, we could do things like that if we weren’t paying for wars around the world,” said Magers.

     “This protest is something the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom has been doing for a lot of years,” said Kathleen McQuillen, holding the pole at the other end of the banner.

     “Our main message is to ask, ‘How do you define security?  Having health care is a matter of security.  Having homes that you’re secure in and that you’re not going to lose to foreclosure, that’s security.

Having jobs, jobs that allow you to feed your family, that’s security.

But all of our attention on security is going to wars overseas, so we’re calling for a redirection of our funding to support our families at home,” said McQuillen, Iowa Program Coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee.