She stood alone the first time I saw her, a petite woman on a small island of shade trees and grass, holding a clumsy, cardboard sign. It said, in letters large enough for drivers slowed by rotary traffic to read: ``Honk if you're against the war in Iraq.''
Few honked their horns. Some shouted obscenities; others used hand gestures to show their displeasure with her position against the war. That was about three years ago.
She must have wondered, in the early months of her protest, why she bothered. She must have been frustrated and angry that so many people didn't see that our war president was leading us down a road to regret; didn't understand that young men and women were dying for a flawed policy fueled by oil and ego.
I wanted to join her, but something else always takes precedence at that hour of the day. I'd honk. She'd wave.
A few months into her vigil, I noticed she had been joined by others. Some weeks there would be five or six holding signs calling attention to the misguided war in Iraq. I was happy to see she had company. I'd tap my horn a few times as I drove past, wishing I had the time to add my voice to their message.
Two weeks ago, that small rotary island was crowded with war protesters on all sides, and there was a cacophony of honks and beeps as those in rush hour traffic expressed their support for pulling our troops out of Iraq.
Things have changed over the last three years and many, this columnist included, relish the chance to say, ``I told you so.''
I told you so's don't change facts, however.
The tragedy of Iraq isn't about who was right and who was wrong. Pointing fingers and patting ourselves on the back just adds to the problem. The tragedy of Iraq is that no one - not even those who agree we should leave - seem capable of creating a sensible plan that ends the carnage but protects U.S. interest in the Middle East.
Like it or not, we need the goodwill of countries like Iran, Saudi Arabia and even Iraq. We need their oil. It's that product that gets us to and from work every day. Winter in many areas of this country get awfully cold. Without oil or gas to fuel our furnaces, we've got a serious problem.
War critics cheered earlier this week when Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relation Committee, called for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
One Washington reporter said Lugar's words ``set off a political earthquake,'' a curious paragraph in a story that also noted Lugar read his speech to a ``largely empty Senate chamber.''
``Mr. President, I rise today to offer observations on the continuing involvement of the United States in Iraq,'' he said. The president wasn't in the room.
``I speak to my fellow Senators when I say that the President is not the only American leader who will have to make adjustments to his or her thinking.'' Few senators were in the room.
Political earthquake? Well, maybe a small tectonic shift.
Maybe, just maybe, when the president comes back to Congress in September looking for a billions of dollars more to continue the fight in Iraq, Congress will put politics aside and look for a bipartisan solution that ends the slaughter of Americans and Iraqis but keeps a U.S. presence there - a compromise.
Lugar points out that U.S. troops are needed in Iraq for the same reasons Bush says they are needed - we must prevent Iraq from becoming a safe haven for terrorists; prevent sectarian violence from causing wider instability in the Middle East; keep Iran at bay; and limit the loss of credibility in the world (we broke Iraq so it's up to us to fix it).
The real hope for peace rests with people like that woman who stands on a grassy island a few times each month. Overwhelming opposition by the American people finally ended the war in Vietnam. That same kind of momentum is building for something other than war in Iraq.
Deb Gauthier of the MetroWest Daily News (Framingham, Mass.) can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com