Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Price of the Continuing War in Afghanistan...

Ed Note: This piece is actually taken from the comment string from the lisa Grey Winona360 Op-Ed that I posted on Friday, April 22d. It was written by Andrew Wilfahrt's father, Jeff, who has a healthy grasp on the causal aspects of our currently depressing national situation, including seeping loss of blood and treasure in foriegn sands . It is an especially poignant piece for families, but it is also a motivating piece for the rest of us, to do more to end our involvement in these illegal and/or unnecessary wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and now; Libya. America has paid it's dues to the world community, now it is time to collect reimbursement of those dues from our own government, who have abandoned the principles of Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, at a horrible cost.WH
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Who's Gonna Pay The Fiddler?
By Jeff Wilfahrt | Wed, 2011-03-30 09:19

I have something I want to say to every American willing to read.
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“Who’s gonna’ pay the fiddler?”
The jig would seem to be up and it may be time to pay the fiddler.
Those of us born in the shadow of World War II feared the atomic end of life as we know it; it was to be quick and sudden like a heart attack. While we watched and waited trying to avert an untimely end to America and all of its ideals, a slow malicious cancer grew among us.
In the late 1800s corporations gained the same legal status as living, breathing humans enjoyed. It has become an insidious cancer to our collective being. While we watched for the heart attack the cancer grew. President Eisenhower warned us in stark terms but we failed to heed his caution. The cancer now owns our politics. We have ceded our political institutions to corporations.
The politics of the left often use the pronoun “we”, while on the right of politics we hear the pronoun “me”. The press is full of derision of each approach and it all comes down to money. Perhaps the Tea Party should be referred to as the TBaalParty as in the Golden Calf of the Moses story. A friend once pointed out that the only known time Jesus lost his temper was in the Temple among the money changers. Like me this friend was a product of a parochial education in New Ulm.
The wealth of America is finite. It has not gone away; it is here somewhere among us. Our state budgets are in debt, our social contracts with the needy brutalized, and yet don’t the Judeo-Christian texts tell us the poor and needy would always be among us? We must be our brother’s keepers; the message is clear, “Everyone does better when everyone does better,” it is not that hard to figure out. Minnesota Gov. Dayton is correct to cite his father, to those whom much is given, much is to be expected.
So where has the wealth gone? Who’s gonna’ pay the fiddler? The wealth is in our wars. We have allowed our financial largess to be used for war. This is such a waste on our parts. War is the jig; war is the devil’s tune. We have cloaked our blood lust in the flag, and it is well known that patriotism is sometimes the last refuge of the scoundrel.
It is a myth that soldiers die for honor, freedom, patriotism and the flag. Those notions may spur them to enlist but soldiers die for those to the right or left of them. They are little concerned with our politics back home and only long to be with us once again. Ask them yourself, as we did here in our home just a few weekends ago, two of them fresh from Afghanistan, one of them right off of a plane. To a man they see no progress.
Lt. Gen. John Kelly is quoted in the Washington Post as saying “I just think if you are against the war, you should somehow try to change it,” and adds later, “Fight to bring us home.” I think he is trying to tell us it is time to end the jig and pay the fiddler. Please contact your representatives, let us now fight to bring our soldiers home as we did over Viet Nam.
This family now has blood in Afghani soil; we have some skin in the game as they say. Please, on our behalf, start thinking in terms of “we”, sacrifice is something done for another, not the “me”. Our family, despite its loss, rededicates itself to do good for others every day; we have paid the fiddler our share.
Let us end the devil’s tune, the longer he plays the greater the price to the rest of you.
In honor of CPL Andrew C. Wilfahrt, 552nd MP Company, KIA 2-27-2011, Kandahar, Afghanistan.
(Photo: Lisa Grey)
Sincerely,
Jeff Wilfahrt, father of Andrew.
 Lt. Gen. John Kelly’s article:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Update: Afghanistan & Collateral Damage on the Homefront; Broken Hearts & Smoldering Embers......

Ed Note:  This piece came in from a VetSpeakNet subscriber...thanks.  It originally appeared as an Op-Ed piece in the Winona360, a news and feature outlet in Minnesota, made up of college, community, and internet contributors. The piece is timely and relevant. It strikes at the heart of the political, moral and social contradictions inherent in serving ones country.  For those who serve, it is an altruistic undertaking on behalf of America and it's citizens, rather than as politically motivated operatives of either political party, or any self-serving political initiative, such as corporate, political or nationalistic imperialism. For their families, it is hell on earth.  Ending these wars of imperialism will require each of us to take action.  This piece offers some good reasons, and some suggestions. Honor the Warrior - Not The War. WH 
Op-Ed: It's Time--A reflection on War, Family, and Action
Article | 03.28.11 | By Lisa Gray
The headline in The Washington Post March 2, 2011 read: “Lt. Gen. John Kelly, who lost his son to war, says U.S. largely unaware of sacrifice.”
No truer words have been spoken. Until recently, I could stand on one side of that statement and hang my head in shame because it’s clear he was speaking to me. On February 27, 2011, Corporal Andrew Wilfarht, cousin to my husband, and son to Jeff and Lori Wilfahrt of Rosemount, Minn., was killed in Afghanistan.
This begins a story I did not know needed to be told.
An uncle of mine served in Vietnam. He survived, came home to receive a purple heart for his efforts, and rarely spoke of it. Later, he would enter counseling, conquer alcoholism, and forgo having his own family because he didn’t trust himself. He has spent an entire lifetime battling the demons we civilians won’t know by becoming a counselor himself. He made several return trips to Vietnam, and later produced a video for returning soldiers called, “Coming Home.” 
My own cousin was a Marine and later became a part of The Green Berets, a special forces unit of the Army. He served as the medic in his team and the trials he endured go untold. We know he served the Bosnian refugees during their plight. Stories are rumored to be told of babies delivered in fields en route to escape. But he’s always come home.
I have friends with relatives in the service; other relatives who’ve served; and I was shuffled along as a kid to the Memorial Day Parades and patriotic concerts around the 4th of July; and like anyone, can describe in great detail what I was doing when the towers fell.
What I can’t explain is why I did nothing after the towers fell. 
So enter Andrew Wilfahrt, a young man I met at various family gatherings with the Wilfahrt crew. They are a silly bunch with a bit of a musical streak. Andrew was by far the most gifted; composing and mastering the piano and clarinet and any other instrument he touched. A stand-out memory includes my husband on guitar, mother-in-law on accordion, uncle on guitar, and Andrew on clarinet. It was Christmas and they were “performing," but it was so ridiculous that Andrew honked his clarinet consistently throughout due to laughter. He didn’t show off and gamely participated in mediocrity with the rest of the family band while we held our lighters aloft in delight. Later, this same young man’s eyes would sparkle as he played with my kids in a way that suggested enjoyment rather than endurance. 
When Andrew joined the Army, it was a surprise move made at the age of 29. He’d done many things and gone many places and battled some of his own demons. His mother, Lori Wilfahrt, told Minnesota Public Radio her son was an “interesting, wonderful young man” who joined the service because he was “looking for a purpose.” Andrew wanted to be with a “group of people that would be working together toward something.”
Still, our thoughts weren’t firmly in place as to the enormity of the decision. Besides, Afghanistan and Iraq were like old wallpaper in the guest bathroom. It’s there; no one likes it; yet no one really pays attention to it. This is not to say I didn’t worry about his safety, but for months he was in Hawaii—bored, sick of it, and then…deployment to Afghanistan. Our ears perked as we rigorously paid attention to the news, but we would soon learn the price to pay for complacency. I wouldn’t consider myself a peace activist, yet who admits to being “for war”? But I learned, through a shocking introduction to icasualites.org—which tracks the deaths of all of our fallen soldiers—that I have been living foolishly under the assumption that “they” doesn’t really mean “me."
Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said it best in this email to a reporter from The Washington Post: “I worry that we could wake up one day and the American people will no longer know us, and we won't know them.” 
Later, in a speech given by Lt. General Kelly, he said, “We are in a life-and-death struggle, but not our whole country. One percent of Americans are touched by this war. Then there is a much smaller club of families who have given all." He spoke of the anger that some combat veterans feel toward the war's opponents. "They hold in disdain those who claim to support them but not the cause that takes their innocence, their limbs and even their lives.”
Lt. General Kelly then clarified in an interview that he is opposed to indifference, not dissent. "I just think if you are against the war, you should somehow try to change it," he said. "Fight to bring us home."
And this is where I am left. I can no longer be indifferent after attending Andrew’s funeral, which was executed in full-on military style. Andrew would be the first to claim that his life was no more important than another’s, but the Army clearly felt differently. There were high ranking military officials in attendance along with Governor Dayton. To look at that small box of Andrew’s remains surrounded by grieving family on a crisp winter day where 154 “Patriot Riders” stood at attention with a firm grasp on their flag is to be touched in a way that changes the shape of the heart. The guns fired, Taps played, and sobs echoed throughout Fort Snelling.
I looked SPC Kevin Gill, Andrew’s platoon mate, in the eyes as he told me the story of Andrew’s last patrol. Andrew was handing out candy to some Afghani children; children he loved as much as any children he’s met, and shooed them away. Platoon 3 marched over 100 meters of control wire where three IED’s were remotely triggered. SPC Gill walked over one and Andrew another. Only one of the three detonated—Andrew’s. I soaked in SPC Gill’s pride and pain, and felt his tears while realizing this man is forever changed. 
It seems disrespectful to return to life as we know when a bright, colorful, articulate, gentle soul, is gone simply because he wanted to be part of something bigger.
I, too, want to be a part of something bigger. I want to be a part of a country that doesn’t let those who are fighting for an idea that we take for granted every single day go unnoticed. I want them to be remembered and respected and I want them to come home. We, I think, have done our time in Afghanistan. We have sacrificed too many to those who clearly can’t find their way even with our help. Ten years is long enough and every day the number of families and soldiers who will never be the same increases.
Andrew’s platoon members went back to work within 36 hours of his death.
It’s time for us to join those who have been trying to no avail. Contact your representatives. Attend a peace rally. Send an e-mail. Start a letter writing campaign.  As Jeff, Andrew’s father said, “Prayers aren’t cutting it. Prayer has been going on since the beginning of time and clearly, it’s not enough.” Join in being part of the message to our leaders that says it is time bring our soldiers home.
Please don’t look away from the next headline. That wall paper is someone’s life. The next name you see is also Andrew’s; his family’s; my family; yours. These are people whose hearts are in complete disrepair, and we owe them nothing less than our willingness to speak out on their behalf. Andrew did it; I am trying. I need more to join me. To not do so is nothing less than shameful. 
Submitted photo of Corporal Andrew Wilfahrdt
To further educate yourself, please consider these resources:
1.    The article from the Washington Post in its entirety can be found here: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/03/01/AR2011030106355.html?sid=ST2011030106452
2.    Icasualties.org tracks the loss of life from Iraq and Afghanistan.
3.    Lori Wilfahrt was interviewed by Cathy Wurzer and the audio can be found here: http://minnesota.publicradio.org/display/web/2011/03/04/mother-remembers-soldier-killed-in-afghanistan/
4.    Jeff Wilfahrt was interviewed for the CNN news blog about viral celebrity tweets versus our interest in the war here:
5.    Contact your local representatives from Winona and area districts: https://writerep.house.gov/htbin/wrep_findrep
6.    Please take one minute to seek out this website where your name will be added to a petition seeking to bring our soldiers home from Afghanistan: http://act.credoaction.com/campaign/july11_withdrawal/

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Veteran's Commentary on American Values & Priorities...

Ed Note:  My friend, Rafe Pilgrim, first posted this piece to OP ED News, on 8 April 2011.  When I asked him for permission to re-post on VetSpeak, he informed me that it was available to all who would share it with their readers. I find it well worth sharing...so, here it is...hope y'all will share it, too...WH

The Old Lie:  It is Sweet and Fitting to Die for One’s Country
By  Rafe Pilgrim
Guest Contributer

In my small town on the bay side of central Florida, our demographics consist of 2 percent Afro-American, 3 percent Hispanic, and 95 percent Other. The Other is more or less equally divided between, on the one hand, Retirees from northern states (whose incomes consist of social security entitlements, pension checks, investment earnings, etc.) and on the other hand, Workers, mostly of local origin, who service the Retirees as electricians, plumbers, mechanics, bank tellers, wait staff, small business operators, grocery clerks and cashiers, etc., many who when losing a job, must immediately depend upon unemployment compensation for their subsistence.
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The very latest official unemployment index in my county is in excess of 12 percent, significantly less favorable than the national index, but nonetheless a gross understatement of the county's economic woes since many of our Workers -- once so abundantly employed in the pre-2008 housing construction boom -- have now been unemployed so long beyond the parameters of the government's unemployment rolls that they have disappeared from not only the entitlements of the system but also from the embrace of the statistics. Moreover, the local imbalance between the former construction workers and those of other occupations is skewed beyond what is typically the case with unemployment statistics across other areas of the country. This presents us with a deceptively low official unemployment index, with actual unemployment of our local Workers probably ranging from the mid-to-higher-twenties percent range.
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Addressing this bifurcated milieu, one might expect extreme differences in their socio-economic persuasions, but strangely they congeal in two aspects. One is in their religiosity in which God will provide the answer to all of our problems, and -- make no mistake -- He has no use for Muslims! The other is in their obeisance to Republican political fundamentalism: we've got to put an end to these freeloaders, those unions, the welfare state, all foreign aid, and tell the U.N. to get lost.
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In addition, any endeavor to examine issues of American military behavior is to be shouted down with the "Support Our Troops" mantra. Examination of issues or debate becomes unpatriotic, and dissent treasonous. Reasonable doubt becomes "conspiracy theory." So, as with "the colonel's lady and Judy O'Grady" our financially cosseted retirees and our jobless who have exhausted their unemployment benefits, are in these respects bizarrely "sisters under their skins."
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We have our share, or more, here of casualties of our historically disgraceful War (What was it for?) in the Middle East, not surprisingly with most of the deaths and amputees from families of economically challenged status. (It is difficult to resist the lure of the $40,000 enlistment bonuses or even the modest subsistence of barracks life in favor of crowded survival in a "single-wide" staked off a dirt road.) None of these pitiful casualties is reported as a victim who wasted his life by hazarding to step on an IED (Improvised Explosive Device, the newly coined weapon-of-man-destruction of this war) but always as a "hero protecting us and defending America," or something very similar.
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Military funerals here are more than sincere expressions of grief and family loss, assuming a celebratory context. Individual caskets are tracked by the press, out of the Eastern Hemisphere and into Dover Air Base in Delaware, then to the hometown, then to the local church for the service, then to perhaps Arlington National Cemetery. Between stops there are parades featuring military color guards, flags and banners, and large public attendance (in most casual attire) at the local football stadium to celebrate our heroes' sacrifice to preserve our freedoms.
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"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." Horace penned it with an air of idealistic superiority. Wilfred Owen knew it for the exploitive lie it had become. When will we learn -- as he knew -- the cost of this treacherous propaganda? When -- by anyone's God! -- will we spare the deaths and the amputations of our youngsters in the service of the greed masters and those who lust for power?
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Our captive media heap napalm upon the vicious fire, extolling the War (of Lies) and beatifying its American victim-soldiers, while suppressing any criticism or even questions. One Florida newspaper, the Citrus County Chronicle, recently featured as its top page-one headline, in expose fashion, the tale of a local high school teacher (who also serves as the school's basketball coach) who dared to show his class in government a video questioning the official version of the cause of the World Trade Center's collapse in 2001. In additional columns farther back in the paper, the account ran on of the visits by "mad" parents protesting the teacher's conduct, but it was noted that this teacher had an otherwise outstanding record. Nonetheless, the County Superintendent of Education would initiate an "investigation" into the matter.
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The Citrus County Chronicle chose not to print my letter to its editor, wherein I offered my appreciation to the pilloried teacher "for introducing an exceptional example -- however contrary to popular sentiment -- of the uncompromising importance of inquiry and the supreme need for truth to our students." The Chronicle did several days thereafter, however, feature an editorial headlined: "Conspiracy theories have no place in the classroom."
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Where does this leave us? It seems that Inquiry is now Conspiracy. Truth is now Unpatriotic, perhaps Treacherous, as well as Career-Threatening.
"Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori." The seductive lie goes on and on -- and very likely will until it destroys us all.
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Wednesday, April 06, 2011

After Action Report: Washington, DC - 19 March 2011 & Quantico, Va - 20 March 2011

Ed Note: In spite of having posted on these pages my own journey to DC for this event, I am now posting Bill Homans' journey, as well. More expansive than mine, his is a two part report; Washington, DC on 03-20-11 & Quantico MCB re Free Bradley Manning, on 03-21-11. We both came up from the Southeast, he from Mississippi, and I, from Florida. We both brought OIF/OEF folks with us; members from the Baton Rouge and the Savannah chapters of IVAW. We were both there, not only for the demonstrations, and CDO actions (we were both arrested at the White House), we were there to rally other VVAW folks sitting at home, who might have thought VVAW wasn't still in the game, and to hopefully inspire others to commit to action, once again, through our example of presence and unity of purpose with the our other co-endorsing anti-war Veterans' organizations; VFP, IVAW, and March Forward, in future similar actions. Finally; Bill's report on Quantico is a very powerful piece, on it's own. No one can tell it, or play it, like Slim.WH

By Bill Homans AKA Watermelon Slim
VVAW Life Member & VVAW Ms Contact


Washington, DC - March 19, 2011

On Thursday the 17th, Army Iraq vet Zach Choate and Coast Guard vet Ethan Crowell (who served in SE Asia) drove up from Baton Rouge, after Zach had picked Ethan up in Mobile. We took off from Clarksdale. We hammered it in about 16 hours, 955 miles, getting into Washington early into the afternoon.

After a few misdirections by our GPS, who was known as either "Linda" or "Shutup, bitch," we pulled into the Harrington Hotel. As soon as we got into a room, it was time to go to the big music-and-briefing meeting at the coffee/internet bar, Busboys and Poets.
Watermelon Slim @ Busboys & Poets
(Photo: Sue Thompson)

I was able to give people an inspiring moment when movement musician and band-leader-for-the-night Margaret Flowers brought me to the stage to sing my song, "Blues for Howard" about Howard Zinn, with the band, that had actually practiced it!

I assured them that the spirit of my dear comrade Howard was with us all, just as it was in the last communication Howard ever sent me. In that letter, Howard Zinn sent me $1000 and told me to do what was best with it. I gave it to IVAW toward the WSI in Austin.

After some other magical, if rough, musical moments with the band over the duration of the meeting, I finished the show with Sweet Home Chicago (honest, it was on their set list!). Tip o the hat to y'all up in National.

A beer or two was had at Harry's, at the Harrington, and we got a good night's sleep. In the morning, after a good breakfast served by sympathetic people, it was off to the site, where everyone busied themselves about all the things that are required for a good demonstration. Stage erection, literature ready, PA system there and working on time (as a musician, I'll tell you that one's real important, lol), tables set in place.

It is the same in the movement as it is in the music-festival business: the movement culture sustains itself through volunteers and volunteerism.

The speeches of Ralph Nader, Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges and Ann Wright are all on Youtube now, so I won't summarize them. My remarks, representing VVAW, on the morning of Saturday, March 19, were short, and directed to President Obama.
Col Ann Wright Speaks at Lafayette Park
(Photo: Willie Hager)
I noted at the beginning that the President was not currently there and listening, but urged whoever was listening to take notice. I declared that several things having to do with the wars in Afghanistan (and Iraq, whether they will still call it a war or not) were unacceptable.

"First, bankrupting our children and grandchildren with the need for ever more deficit spending to cover two wars-- economically unacceptable!

Militarily overextending US forces for years, to the point that there would not be sufficient forces to bring to bear in the event of attack by a potential real enemy like North Korea-- militarily unacceptable!

And the creation of more and more combat veterans, maimed in body and mind, in a war that has no real prospect to end-- socially and morally unacceptable!

Mr. Obama, these started as Bush's wars. They are your wars now, and I can't believe I'm having to say that. Why not bring our troops home and let the country reap the peace dividend of the net difference between logistically supporting two wars, and threatening in other theatres, and bringing the troops lunch on the southern border?

I have a suggestion for you: why don't you bring our troops home and station them on the southern border if you want to satisfy both right and left at the same time? If you provide a military mission that honorably defends America, you will never lack for recruits.

A US combat role in Afghanistan through at least 2014? Utterly unacceptable!

Mr. Obama, the Vietnam Veterans Against the War are back in Washington, as we were in 1971 when the man in the White House was Richard Nixon. We're saying now exactly what we were saying then:
VVAW returning medals, Washington DC, 1971 - Operation Dewey Canyon III (Photo: VVAW File)
Bring 'em home. Bring our brothers home. Bring our brothers and sisters home-- NOW."
VVAW Silent March to Fontainebleau Hotel (Nixon Bunker), RNC, Miami, Fl 1972 - Operation Last Patrol (Photo: VVAW File)

(Photo: Willie Hager)
That night, there were IVAW events which raised significant money for Operation Recovery. This reporter sat back in room 533 at the Harrington and played his guitar, thinking to go to sleep early-- big day tomorrow in Quantico-- but ended up doin' a little concert for VVAWs Willie Hager and Marcia Westbrook, as well as former VVAW brother Scott Camil, and some of their friends from Florida, and some other VFP and Code Pink folks, we had the room pretty full pretty late. I knew Zach, Ethan and I were going to highball back south as soon as we were done in Quantico, so I had to pull out the instruments sometime, lol.
(Photo: Willie Hager)

Quantico MCB, Virginia - March 21, 2011

(Photo: Willie Hager)
We got to Quantico Marine Base, south of Washington in Virginia, early Sunday afternoon. There were somewhere pushing 1000 people at the first action in Washington-- probably 800-- and my estimate of the crowd which eventually assembled on the land across from the Iwo Jima Memorial was also around that.

(Photo: Willie Hager)
I would say that there was more press at the second action than the first, though brother Ward Reilly says he saw plenty at the first. One thing about a world where Japan's reactors are threatening to melt down and the US is projecting military force into Libya-- which they did, it is not to be forgotten, on the very day we are deploring in infamy, the invasion of Iraq in 2003!-- antiwar demonstrations might easily get lost in the shuffle!

Zach Choate was first to speak. The 10th Mountain division turret gunner was given the Purple Heart when he suffered injuries from an IED attack. He resurrected all the ghosts of Operation Dewey Canyon III when he asked, "What does this Constitution mean, when Bradley Manning is being treated like this?" He tossed the pocket copy of the US Constitution to the ground.
(video: )
"What do all these ribbons mean? They're worthless, if he's being treated this way." And with that ripped medals, Combat Action Badge, Unit Commendation and name tag off his dress greens, leaving nothing on the shirt but a "Free Bradley Manning" button.
L to R: Ward Reilly, Bill Homans, Willie Hager - VVAW, Unidentified Member - VFP, Tassie McKee (behind Zach) and Jason Hurd - IVAW & Ryan Endicott - March Forward (Photo: Sue Thompson)
Zach had to really work hard to get through his speech, but he had his brothers standing behind him. This is a young man with a great soul.
(Photo: Bill Perry)
Among the other speakers was David Hames (sp?), who somehow has been able to see Bradley Manning. This is a spectacular looking and speaking young "computer scientist", as he identified himself. I suggested to him that he was a special person for Bradley Manning, and to keep on being there for him.

Eventually, after I had played Taps, Choate, Ellsberg, Wright, Camil and several others were able to go and lay flowers at the Memorial. Or-- no, wait a minute, at the last moment, the police, or the Marines, or the DoD-- never was clear about that-- denied the representative group access to the grounds to actually lay the flowers on the Memorial.
At the Barricades, Quanatico MCB - 03-21-2011
(Photo: Ward Reilly)
The flowers had to be laid through the fence. Rather significant symbolism, I thought, but there was no help for it. Eventually, Ellsberg, Wright and 28 others were arrested by the Virginia State Police for sitting down in the road opposite the Memorial.
Daniel Ellsberg, Col. Ann Wright and 28 others stage sit-in, and are arrested
(Photo: Willie Hager)
I have written at length on agents provocateurs, and their role in the furtherance of right-wing policy throughout my 40 years of political history. It was, in fact, in March of 1971, while loading wetcast concrete forms in one of my various dead-end jobs of the early 70s, that my ruminations on the war were reaching a climax. A month later I would be in Washington for my first great moratorium march. I was a VVAW the next month, and I'm a Life Member today.

It is up to those of us who have the hard, first-hand experience (one defendant in the Gainesville Eight Trial was present at both actions, and arrested-- voluntarily this time-- in DC) with agents provocateurs to police the movement. At the Quantico action we identified two police posing as protesters, circulating through the crowd-- big, burly, buzz-cut fellows, couldn't have been more obvious.
(Photo: Willie Hager)
A few people loudly baited them. The more serious among us surveilled them. Pictures exist, digitally and in people's minds. Those two fellas will never be effective undercover in the antiwar movement. Job done, even though there might have been more of them that we didn't catch.

Personally, and as a Vietnam Veteran Against the War, I was honored to speak from the same platform as Daniel Ellsberg , Ralph Nader and Col. (Ret.) Ann Wright Saturday morning before being arrested at the White House fence again. Ellsberg and Wright were arrested for committing civil disobedience twice in successive days, first in Washington, and then in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial, at Quantico.

I was also honored to have joined Ellsberg in arrest twice now, though my musical role, and my security role, were more important at Quantico. We had to get home, and could not spend the night in a Virginia jail, so we busted ass back for Mississippi, or in Zach Choate's case, Baton Rouge. He oughta be as far south as Jackson now, on the Blues Highway (US 61 runs right from Clarksdale to Baton Rouge).
I will be back in Washington again. The wars are not going away.

And no one protest is going to make them. This is not Egypt or Tunisia, or Libya.

The political, social and economic system of the US is built with quantums more redundancy of responsibility and chain of command than it is in those countries. There are no peasants in America; even the illiterate have the boob tube. All the better to behaviorally modify you with, my dear!?

We have not felt the pinch of an economy sufficiently desperate and a government sufficiently oppressive simultaneously to make the middle class vote in an enlightened manner, i.e., run against and throw out all the bums responsible for our messes (very crudely stated). And we certainly have not reached the beyond threadbare shape of a Libyan society that had to resort to arms against the longest-ruling dictator (oh, that one on the island doesn't count).

I don't know what it will take to truly threaten the American people into taking to the streets, into being a society in which being in "the movement" is a reality for a majority, instead of what I acknowledge that I am, one of the commited hard core of; a relatively tiny minority. I would question whether more than a few million people in the US-- maybe 10?-- have even done so much as to send a check to Vets for Peace, or VVAW, IVAW, ANSWER, March Forward!, or any of the liberal orgs like MoveOn, PDA. etc.

As for real activists-- well, I'm purty sure that nationwide we've got hundreds of thousands of people who will stand on the corner with a "Stop the War" sign, or will go to a demonstration if it's not too far away. People who are actually ready to do civil disobedience (and this has been the civilest disobedience I ever took part in; the cops, Capitol and Park primarily, were exemplary in Washington), are probably in the thousands, maybe 10s of 1000s nationwide, but it's hard to tell that, because the people just haven't been pinched enough.

However, those numbers could go up with stimuli as direct as $5.00 at the pump, or as indirect as an unseen cloud of radiation from Japan.

An aside on police relations:

I would say that relations between protesters in Washington and police have never been so good! We were literally being asked for consultation as to what we intend to do, and they were allowing us to do it. Of course, we won't be lulled, but I've had first-hand contact with one high-ranking police person, and he was very cordial.

Along the way, in DC, I committed a funny tactical error: I had myself all nicely chained up to the White House fence when one of the cops came by and told us that the arrest area would be some distance down from where I was chained. So after thinking about it, I concluded that I was going to have to unchain and re-chainup further down the fence.

Wrong move. As I was taking my leisurely time (seeing as how the police were being so nice) finding another spot, the captain supervising the entire police presence tapped me on the shoulder and told me they couldn't just let me do that. "You were already chained up, you had your chance," he said, shaking his head.


Bill Homans & Officer Friendly re chains
(Photo: Marcia Westbrook)
He was cordial, I didn't plead much with him. He said something quite cool too, as I was removing the chain and giving it and the lock to him personally: "I'm just trying to protect my people the way I know you'd be protecting yours." Given my proactive attitude toward security, he was righter than he knew.

VVAWs present included Bill Perry, Ward Reilly, Al Kovnat, Sam Adams, Doc Bjornson, Pat McCann, Marcia Westbrook, Willie Hager, and a whole raft of brothers from the old days who wear the VFP colors too-- but there were certainly 30 wearing ours. I am encouraged (though only slightly so; I would have sworn the good weather would have brought out more "sunshine patriot" movement supporters. Those who came were dern sure enthusiastic, and many constructive contacts were made!

Others will undoubtedly report, but this'll be the longest and most personal of 'em, I'll wager.



Free Bradley Manning!

VVAW's Roots Run Deep - 1971
(Photo: "The New Soldier", Collier 1971)