Sunday, August 31, 2008

Who is the true Elitest?

MCCAIN’S HOUSES – 4? 7? 8?


Bonnie Cabrerax

Ed Note: Bonnie Cabrera is the wife of Calixto Cabrera, who is a fellow USMC Vietnam Veteran, and who has been a close and personal friend since back in the day. He is a VetSpeak original, and has been posting with us on various topics for a number of years; including from New Orleans, when he was a shelter manager with the Red Cross there and in Mississippi, following Katrina.WH

McCain says “Obama is affluent and elite.” Those living in multiple glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.

McCain doesn’t even know how many houses he has and the number keeps growing? Obama doesn’t zip between multiple houses in a private jet, and Michelle doesn’t spend $750,000 on credit cards in 1 month.

So between them who is really affluent? Let’s compare financial biographies.

McCain grew up in a privileged military family and for 30 years has enjoyed super wealth with multiple homes, a private jet, and a wife who can spend $750,000 on credit cards in 1 month. They have never struggled financially a day in their lives.

Obama was raised by a single mother on food stamps. His father abandoned them when he was 2. Michelle’s family of 4 lived in a 1 bedroom apartment. Barack and Michelle put themselves through school on scholarships and student loans. After college he worked as a community organizer on $10,000 a year with an old car. He and Michelle have 1 home, and in the last 4 years they have become wealthy.

McCain cannot relate to 95% of Americans. We don’t have 8 houses.

Many of us are trying to keep the one we have from foreclosure, or still dreaming about owning 1 home. McCain is out of touch with everyone except the wealthy.

So which affluent candidate will put “Country First?” Not McCain. Even though his family is extremely wealthy, he wants to give himself an even greater tax cut than Bush did, while the working and middle class get no new tax breaks.

Under Obama all the working and middle class receive tax cuts, while ONLY the very wealthy, including Obama, will pay higher taxes.

Obama is a diverse leader who can relate to all of us, not just the very wealthy. The Obamas have done it all - poor, middle class and wealthy, always maintaining solid family values. Michelle still buys toilet paper at Target.

McCain is so “affluent” he doesn’t even know how many houses he has.

He should stop throwing stones!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Healing (and Working) As family

Cynthia Orange

(from the Vets for Peace National Conference)

"How do Americans impacted by the war heal while most of America is in a state of denial?" asked Joan Najbar, a psychologist and mother of an Iraq vet in the workshop she led called "Grieving and Healing from the Wounds of War." One way, she said, is to honor ourselves, our losses, and our struggles by:
  • Talking about the impact this war has had on us and our families.
    (This doesn't only mean Iraq and Afghanistan vets. Michael and I know of so many Vietnam vets, peace activists, etc. who were re-traumatized when the U.S. invaded Iraq. We need to acknowledge and honor those old wounds, old scars too that surfaced again as we continue [with no awe but with plenty of ongoing shock] to witness another debacle)
  • Taking care of ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities.
  • Doing what we need to do to heal from the wounds of war, one day at a time. Joan said this could be by being in nature, doing yoga, opening our eyes and hearts to the beauty around us, doing some art [writing, photography, drawing, poetry. . .) by loving. . .
  • Believing we don't have to suffer in silence.
  • Coming together to take care of our veterans and their families.
  • Finding strength when we come together in action, celebration, and self care.

She demonstrated these last points by having those in attendance stand inside a big circle of spandex material we held behind us (sort of like holding a big, contiguous beach towel around you that extends from shoulders to knees). What became immediately apparent was that each of us leaning against the stretchy fabric allowed the others to also lean against it. We provided strength and resilience to each other, but if our "support" was withdrawn suddenly, the entire group was affected.

This reminded me of a story my dear friend Christina Baldwin (author of "Story Catcher") told me about a village in Africa that endured tribal wars where the guerrilla armies of the hill people stole the young boy children of the valley people and forced them to fight against their own tribe. UNICEF heard of this atrocity and decided to buy back the children and reintroduce them to their villages.

The UNICEF workers would drive into these remote villages with several boys who had been gone for two, three, four years; boys whose childhoods had been stolen, whose souls were wracked with the guilt of what they had done. They went to the tribal elders and asked them ‘We have brought them home to you, but they are not the same. What will you do?’
‘We will light a fire in the center of the village every night for a year,’ the elders replied. ‘The boys will be required to come and tell their stories and listen to the reactions of the villagers. We will weep together for what this war has done. We will talk until the war is talked out of them, until the sorrow is healed, until the fire is burned up.’

Christina reminds people that the word "heart" has "ear" in the middle of it, and she urges us to listen with the "ears of our hearts."

For me, this is a large part of what this conference is all about: gathering in tribe as people have done since ancient times; sitting around our metaphorical fire as one family--warriors from many wars, peacemakers from different eras, and fathers and mothers who worry and wait for their soldiers to come home and grieve those who won't return to them.

I walk down the halls of the Ramada and hear so much laughter, witness so many embraces, watch as new friendships are forged, new intense conversations unfold. Attendees go from workshop to workshop (and there are so many diverse workshops), from experience to experience, and emerge revitalized; clearer in their peacemaking tasks, buoyed by just being together in family, as tribe.

As anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Friday, August 29, 2008

Heroes: Then, Now, and Still...

Cynthia Orange

Yesterday at lunch, my husband Michael asked Twin Cities peace icon and Vets for Peace member Marv Davidov who his heroes are today. Without hesitation, he nodded at one of the many Iraq Veterans Against the War who are here holding their own conference in conjunction with the Vets for Peace annual conference. “These young vets are my heroes,” said Davidov. “And my surgeon…”, he added.

Marv, some 70 years young, is still waiting for a kidney transplant. When he first met the doctor who will do the surgery, Marv asked him right off what he thought about the Iraq war. After stating his strong opposition to it, the doctor shared that he had been kicked out of the Air Force during Vietnam for refusing to drop cluster bombs on villages there. “I got kicked out of the Army!” Marv told him. The fact that Marv was the founder of the Honeywell Project—the corporation so infamous for making those horrific cluster bombs—only intensified the bond with his doctor.

Marv showed us a gorgeous book that has just been published about the 1960s freedom riders who rode buses to Mississippi to register southern blacks to vote. Of course Marv (who spent 45 days in a Mississippi jail for his civil rights activities) was one of the featured activists.

That was just one of his over 50 arrests for nonviolent civil disobedience, and he was lamenting the fact that he should probably no longer risk getting arrested because of his health. He has dialysis three times a week but was able to change dialysis days next week—so rest assured he’ll be marching on Sunday with Vets for Peace and on Monday during the RNC.

Through the years and various peace actions, we’ve had the privilege of listening to Marv tell his tales that are dotted with other paragons of peace: The Chicago Eight, Noam Chomsky, the Berrigan brothers, etc. etc. etc. etc.

This place is filled with heroes like Marv—the brave vets and their sisters and brothers in the peace movement, including the Gold Star families, who are also here, grieving together over the loved ones lost to the insanity of this war. They are threads in the colorful tapestry of peace we continue to weave. And in their tireless efforts, a bright hope emerges. . .

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Hearts and Voices United

Cynthia Orange

“Drums are a heartbeat,” explained Deborah Guerrero, before she helped launch the Veterans for Peace national conference today in the Twin Cities with her open-throated, open-hearted indigenous songs. And you could feel it...the heartbeats of veterans and those who support them, pounding in unison as the energy of being in community, in family, grew and enveloped us. She sang and drummed an “honor song,” paying tribute and giving back to those who have given so much. “Bless this path we all walk together,” she sang, and I envisioned the hundreds gathered together at the Ramada hotel—just across the way from that icon of excess: the Mall of America—garnering collective courage, walking together toward the common goal of peace.

And then Clyde Bellecourt, one of the founders of the American Indian Movement (AIM), whose spirit name is “Thunder Before the Storm,” talked about his warrior father, a veteran of World War I, who taught him it was the responsibility of those in the tribe to feed those who didn’t have a father or big brother to feed them. “We didn’t wait for the last Thursday of November,” he said. “For us, every day of the month and every month of the year was Thanksgiving.” Bellecourt said his brother who fought in World War II, carried the war with him until he died of alcoholism—an escape too many veterans seek.

And then he invited seven representatives to come forward and smoke the sacred peace pipe with him as world champion Native American drummers echoed more heartbeats.

It was the perfect start to what promises to be a memorable experience.

It is fitting that this conference began on this, the 45th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior’s “I Have a Dream” speech and the 80th anniversary of the day the government recognized that women had the right to vote. Michael McPhearson, Executive Director of Veterans for Peace, said it is no coincidence that these anniversaries come at a time when we had a Black man and a woman running for president and a Black man (McPhearson) standing before us as executive director of a predominantly white organization introducing a woman (Kelly Dougherty) who serves as executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW)—a predominantly male organization. It is a reminder, said McPhearson, that our rights belong to us—they are not the government’s to give.

Kelly Dougherty had just come back from the Democratic National Convention in Denver. She described the amazing victory IVAW had there when they teamed up with the popular band “Rage Against the Machine” at the Denver Coliseum to deliver their message of peace to an audience of 9,000. “We announced from the stage that we were leading a march (unpermitted) to the DNC at the Pepsi Center. It started out with about 3,500 and grew to 8,000-10,000.” Dougherty said it was their intention to deliver a letter to Barack Obama stating the goals of IVAW and asking him—the purported anti-war candidate—to endorse their stances on veterans’ rights and issues. She described being blown away by the cooperation of the police, who escorted them to the Pepsi Center and their ability to deliver their letter to Obama staff. Her victory was shared by the audience who rose as one to give her—and IVAW—the standing ovation they so deserve.

Father Roy Bourgeois, a cofounder of the School of America watch, described his first time in jail as a “sacred” experience. “When we are compelled to follow our conscience, we are free,” he said, reminding us of Bishop Romero’s words: “Let those who have a voice speak for those whose voices have been taken away. Let those who have a voice work for justice.” Those who gather together at this conference as veterans and peacemakers have a voice, he said. It is up to us to speak clearly and boldly in the difficult days ahead.

Folksinger and peace activist Larry Long concluded the opening ceremony with stories of his own journey as a conscientious objector during the Vietnam War and peace activist with a song he wrote for his friend, John, who died from complications of Agent Orange exposure last year. “I thought the war was over, but the war has just begun for my wife and children; for the ones I love. They said there was no danger; this I did believe. I was bound to serve my country. My country ‘tis of thee.”

For the hundreds of Vets for Peace and those who support them--witnesses of too much war and too much pain—the war and the world is too much with them. But their voices—those brave and strong voices who dare speak truth to power—are coming together here at this conference, singing their songs of peace and hope. And their hearts—their warrior hearts that ache with the heavy burdens they bear—beat together in a unified drumbeat they hope the world will hear.


PO Box 8296«Philadelphia, PA 19101«Tel: 215.241.7123«Fax: 215.241.7177

August 28, 2008
CONTACT: Clarissa Singleton, 215-241-7123

Iraq vets lead biggest successful action of DNC: push Obama toward real antiwar position...

Denver, Colorado – Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) led a non-violent march of 8,000 allies, including members of Rage Against the Machine, to the front entrance of the Pepsi Center. There they delivered a letter containing their three points of unity to the Obama campaign’s veteran staff. IVAW’s three points of unity are:
  • Immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq
  • Full benefits and healthcare for returning veterans
  • Reparations to the Iraqi people

IVAW is calling on Senator Obama to allow an IVAW representative to read the letter to the delegates.

Senator Obama’s veterans’ liaison, Phil Carter, told IVAW that they could expect a response from the Senator’s campaign staff regarding their request. IVAW plans to hold Senator Obama’s campaign team to their word.

IVAW members Jared Hood, Jeff Key and Josh Earle are available for comment throughout the day...

  • Jared Hood, who lives here in Denver, served as a specialist in the Colorado Army National Guard from 2004-2007. During that time he served in Camp Navistar, Kuwait and Vilseck, Germany.
  • Josh Earl served as a Military Police Specialist in Iraq from 2003-2004 with the Denver-based 220th Military Police Company of the Colorado Army National Guard.
  • Jeff Key, a former Marine Corp lance corporal, served in Iraq in 2003. Mr. Key currently performs his one-man show, The Eyes of Babylon, which tells his story as a Marine in Iraq, in theaters across the country. He was also one of the IVAW members to speak with Obama’s veterans’ liaison on Aug. 27.

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was founded in July of 2004 to allow servicemen and women from all branches of the military a chance to come together and speak out against an illegal, unjust and unwinnable occupation. IVAW currently has over 1,300 members in 49 states, Canada and on military bases in the United States and overseas. To learn more about IVAW you can visit our website at http:

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Coming to town

I have made it a habit of always coming to conventions early to be able to see everyone come in. I have also set my departure at least a day later to see everyone off. I do this because I just can't get enough of these Family reunions.
Iraq Veterans Against the War, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, and Gold Star Families for Peace are five groups yet one Family. For all of us to gather in one place is something that I don't want to miss, not even a minute. "How long must we suffer, before we realized that we must stand united." - Bob Marley

I'm not going to argue with Bob. Peace comes when we tear down our barriers to see that all life is precious and humanity is shared by all. This is our mission.

There are voices within the White House that would love for us to divide. They would love for us to bicker between ourselves and to call each other names to the point of meltdown.

Too bad for them.
We have already gone through the fires of war and we didn't melt. Here we stand together tall and confident. Our voices speak truth to power in a way no wall could be constructed. Instead we use those bricks to build a solid foundation for the house of Peace and Justice. This house will not wash away.

Hart Viges

Monday, August 25, 2008


August 25, 2008
CONTACT: Francesca Lo Basso, 215-498-3347
Updated Schedule of IVAW Events
DNC, Denver, CO

Tuesday, Aug. 26
Operation First Casualty 10:30am, starts at Cuernavaca Park
Press Opportunity Noon-1pm, Civic Center Park (between Colfax & Broadway at

Veterans' Memorial)
Wednesday, Aug. 27
Rage Against the Machine Concert at Denver Coliseum
Non-Violent March following concert

Iraq Veterans Against the War call on Sen. Obama to endorse organization's goals:
Denver, CO, Today, during the morning of Aug. 25, Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) delivered a letter to Senator Barack Obama's DNC campaign headquarters asking that he endorse the organization's three points of unity:

  • The immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Iraq.
  • Full and adequate health care and benefits to all returning service members and veterans.
  • Reparations made to the Iraqi people for the destruction caused by the U.S. war and occupation.

The letter states, "A Presidential candidate dedicated to an anti-war platform should have no objections to the goals of our organization." For a full copy of the letter, please visit IVAW's website at
IVAW has requested a response from Senator Obama by 3pm Wednesday Aug. 27. The letter goes on to state, "In the spirit of grassroots democracy that praise as the means of change in American society, we will be marching non-violently [following Rage Against the Machine's performance at the Denver Coliseum]. Our march will hold accountable the Democratic Party for their initial and continued support for the illegal occupation of Iraq."
*Members of IVAW will be available for comment from Noon-1pm at Civic Center Park on Tuesday Aug. 26, 2008 during their enactment of Operation First Casualty (OFC).
OFC is an action where veterans reenact situations commonly encountered while deployed in the modern conflicts in the Middle East. The action is treated like a military operation with participants in full military uniform, however, there are no weapons used at any time. OFC illustrates what daily life is like for the citizens of occupied countries. OFC has already taken place in five major cities around the country since June 2007.
Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was founded in July of 2004 to allow servicemen and women from all branches of the military a chance to come together and speak out against an illegal, unjust and unwinnable occupation. IVAW currently has over 1,300 members in 49 states, Canada and on military bases in the United States and overseas. To learn more about IVAW you can visit our website at

Francesca Lo Basso
National Media Coordinator
Iraq Veterans Against the War (267) 519-4596

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Saying hello


I'm signing on as a blogger for the Vets for Peace national convention here in St. Paul. I look forward to sharing my thoughts as the conference procedes and during the peace demonstrations, celebrations, and vigils during the RNC Convention that follows.

Agent Orange

Michael (Agent Orange) served in the Marines from 1968 to 1970, including a one-year tour of duty in Vietnam. He experienced combat in numerous patrols, search-and-destroy missions, and other major operations. Following his discharge, he witnessed the events leading up to the shootings at Kent State University, where he was a student. Thereafter, he actively participated in the peace movement until the War’s end in 1975, including the famed veterans’ march on Washington in 1971, when veterans, led by John Kerry, protested against the war they fought by throwing their medals over the Capitol fence. In 2001, he published a memoir of his service, Fire in the Hole: A Mortarman in Vietnam (Writers Club Press).

Since 1984, Michael has studied the Vietnam War and has volunteered as a guest lecturer for history and social studies classes. Currently, he co-teaches a class entitled, The 60s: The War in Vietnam and at Home, at the University of Minnesota, Compleat Scholar Program and another entitled, Into the Quagmire: A Discussion about the US Involvement in Vietnam and Lessons for Today, through the Seminar for InQuiring Minds Program. He is a longtime active member of Vets for Peace.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Onward Through The Fog...

Conditions On The Ground
Randy Ludacer

After listening to the latest debate on when we might withdraw forces from Iraq it is clear that the latest operative euphemism for determining when to leave is the "conditions on the ground" as viewed by the commanders on the ground. General Petreaus, after crowing on all of the successes resulting from the surge, cautioned that all of these results are "fragile" and could be reversed quickly. So much for finality and victory.
The political side of the problem, the one the Iraqis themselves were going to solve with the benefit of the additional time provided by the surge, seems equally elusive and beyond reach.
Suspecting a red herring, or school of them, I looked elsewhere, eager to determine what issues concerned the Iraqis and what progress toward resolution had been made. Iraqi's former Prime Minister Allawi was appearing at a session of the Carnegie Endowment to speak on the surge, a golden opportunity. After listening to his rambling circumlocutionary diatribe, during which he tipped his hat to all the issues but suggested nothing concerning their resolution, I decided never to play poker with these guys, they don't have any "tells." Coming from a bazaari culture, this is somewhat understandable, since if you never take any position, you can never be accused of making a mistake and consequently cannot be held accountable if anything goes wrong.
I tried to narrow my concerns to what in the Iraqi mind would constitute political success to the point where the standing by of the United States Army was no longer required. Stability appears to be the next buzz word. Did that mean the complete settling of old scores and the guarantee that those presently in control of the government, would continue as the control group? Given the volatile nature of politics in general, of Arabian politics in particular and the fact that some major fractional differences still exist and will continue to exist in Iraq's body politics, the prospect for continued disagreement seems all but assured.
Are we looking for an end to a chicken and egg argument when all disagreement is resolved and all dissent quashed ? Does conditions on the ground mean we stay at the ready until Iraq is as quiescent as Switzerland ?
Nothing happens in that part of the world without deadlines, and since all parties are in general agreement that 16 months seems reasonable, lets end the debate !

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

VetSpeak Foreign Policy & Campaign Topic Update:

Georgia On My Mind
Ed Note: Uncle Russ, VetSpeak's on-line sales and consignment editor, in light of the recent, and seemingly media spin driven political crisis, sent these lyrics as a suggestion for posting. The purpose; to once again bring attention to the fact, that the cold war repugs are still in the game and dangerously close lethal power, even though their time has mistakenly been believed to be long past. Not only does the title of this old standard bring to mind current political considerations; but the lyrics seem to echo the deja vu theme seen throughout our pages, re the view of the world from the old guard Right Wing tyrants, i.e. Kissinger, et al; based not on their long failed and also currently failing policies, as it applies to dealing politically with the rest of the world, then and now. WH

Georgia, Georgia, the whole day through
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind...
Georgia, Georgia, a song of you
Comes as sweet and clear as moonlight through the pines...

Other arms reach out to me
Other eyes smile tenderly
Still, in peaceful dreams I see
The road leads back to you...

Georgia, Georgia, no peace I find...
Just an old sweet song keeps Georgia on my mind...
And the beat goes on...

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Price of War Revisited

The Price of War and Who Pays It?

Ed Note: This piece came in to VetSpeak by e-mail, and I believe that given the recent topical direction of the Obama & McCain campaigns, needs to be brought, once again, to the attention of the American voters, as an example of a real political consideration or priority, rather than the vote pandering spectacle that we have going on today and that is centered on media hype and race. It is my belief that where the candidates stand on the topic of the below piece, by Randy Ludacer, would be much more instructive than what the media is feeding us now. WH

What a filthy, disgusting business is war; always in the final analysis, the product of competing ideologies, its result is the slaughter of the innocents, the butchery of its young men, very young men, who rarely fully grasp an understanding of the dogmas for whom their lives are forfeit. The war lovers are rarely men who have experienced war first hand. They thank you for your service and say they support the troops but they really mean they support the war. They support the prolongation of the war as if this somehow demonstrates their patriotism and justifies your sacrifice.

On days devoted to memorial people speak of the purpose, the nobility of sacrifice. Yet young soldiers are not in the business of sacrifice. They strive for survival as they are subjected to the sweat of fear, the stink of the blood, cordite and excrement of their slaughtered comrades, those cut to pieces by shrapnel and bullets, blown to bits by explosives. Their sacrifice comes from protecting one another, taking risks for their comrades, not in the service of a noble cause. Their young lives are taken from them without their consent to being sacrificed, their dreams and promise being snuffed out by newer and more deadly technologies as mankind supposedly achieves progress.

On these occasions sanctimonious politicians applaud their service ...mouth platitudes and decorate the graves with flowers and flags,never having witnessed the mindless ugliness of their passing, never having shared their sense of loss and the blind hopelessness of the business of slaughter. The most soaring rhetoric comes from those who have not seen lines of body bags being loaded into helicopters or blood flowing from comrades newly created stumps, their severed limbs lying in the mud. They have never witnessed a wounded man dying in mid sentence as he bled out.

The survivors with shattered bodies are persuaded as to the necessity and nobility of their crippling and are expected to feel grateful for their prosthetics and penurious pensions and grudgingly granted education benefits and under staffed VA clinics.

And somehow, after the killing and crippling of our children there is ultimately a reconciliation, a forgiveness, as if our competing ideologies were not irreconcilable, that after all in the spirit of compromise and humanity we can sort out the differences and agree to get along at least until the next righteous crusade or jihad takes shape. Until then business as usual.

In the meanwhile, we glorify the dead for their noble sacrifice and marginalize the survivors with their shattered bodies, nightmares and damaged futures.

Such is the nobility of war !

Randy Ludacer
Lake Placid FL