A decade later, troubling questions about war and democracy remain

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Guardian cover from March 2003.

Ten years ago, during my second week working here at the Guardian, San Franciscans rose up to protest the Iraq War and shut down the city. Five years ago, I revisited that moment and its impact on people's sense of democratic empowerment, writing this Maggie-award-winning essay. Today, on the anniversary of the start of that long war, it's hard to imagine a critical mass of San Franciscans being so organized and engaged with a cause larger than ourselves.

Listening to the segment about the anniversary on KQED's Forum this morning was sad and dispiriting, with disillusioned soldiers, bitter activists, and the survivors of the fallen still trying to make sense of the official lies that created such pointless death and destruction, and why nobody in power was ever called to account for their crimes.

Even as drone strikes continue to kill in our names with little oversight or meaningful review, we powerlessly twitter our days away. The latest technology boom has provided ever more tools to connect us, and yet it increasingly feels like we all live in bubbles of our creation, able to filter out anything that disturbs or displeases us. The mass media seems to be devolving into an endless array of echo chambers adorned with celebrity gossip and pet photos.

Could we rise up again today, over anything, the way we did after the bombing began on March 19, 2003? Do the people still have the power to shut the city down if we choose, with the nearly 2,000 arrests on the first full day of war barely putting a dent in a crowd in the streets approaching 100,000 committed souls?

And if the answer is no, then what kind of system are we now living under?

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