Friday, July 31, 2009

Action Alert: VA Veteran Land Grab Rally

Join the Rally to Save Our Veterans’ Property

Once again we are being called to defend our land. This time it is not from a far away land but here at home. Our weapons of defense have changed from rifles to pens, laptops and protest signs. This time we are fighting over a broken promise. The promise is included in a 388-acre deed by John P. Jones and Arcadia de Baker to the United States. The deed states that this land is to be used for the “sole purpose of providing veterans a place to heal from war”. This property is now called the “VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System” and is managed by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Our new battle is with the VA and the “Veterans Park Conservancy.

In September 2007 the Los Angeles VA entered into a “Shared Property” agreement with an organized group of Brentwood and Beverly Hills residents calling themselves the “Veterans Park Conservancy” (VPC) to use 16 acres of that land, rent-free, as a public park. The agreement runs for 20 years with an option for 10 more. The $6M - $7M worth of improvements are to be paid for through donations collected by the Conservancy. Because the $6m - $7M includes the cost of permanent structures, reversing a “public agreement” is going to be next to impossible and the land will never revert back to its intended use.

The veterans along with Senator Alan Cranston and Senator Pete Wilson saved this land once before in 1986 when the Federal Government wanted to sell 80 acres for public development. In response to the veterans efforts the VPC made a statement that the "VETERANS TOUCHED OUR HEARTS AND INSPIRED US TO PRESERVE THEIR LAND" but their actions tell a different story. When the agreement was originally drafted the VA had a clause for a one-year termination-for-convenience. This meant that with a one-year notice the VA could rescind the agreement with the VPC and take the land back. The VPC and community supporters pressured the VA to remove the one-year termination-for-convenience clause because per Sue Young, the executive director of the VPC, “the clause would make fundraising impossible and would jeopardize the project”.

To further demonstrate their insincerity, VPC advertised the proposed park by placing a sign “Beauty, Honor, Country”, thus trivializing the US Military Academy’s motto “Duty, Honor, Country”. Their focus on “Beauty” rather than “Duty” clearly indicates they do not understand the sacrifices veterans and their families have endured to protect our country. To claim to have the veterans’ interest at heart is a slap in the face to all veterans.

Even the VPC’s original website stated: The 16-acre parcel will be for the “creation of the first new community park to be built in West Los Angeles in over 50 years. It further stated: “What we have in mind is a scaled-down version of a grand community park in the tradition of New York's Central Park. Most importantly, it will attract all segments of our West Los Angeles community: Veterans and civilians, children and adults, featuring numerous activities for everyone.”

The quest to turn the veteran’s land into a public park does not rest solely with the Conservancy group. They are backed by Congressional Representatives who would rather put this land in the hands of their wealthy constituents than honor the original deed agreement and provide the veterans that fought for this country a protected place to heal from war. That’s why the CA Veteran’s Democratic Caucus created a resolution to rescind the shared agreement. On July 19th the California Democratic Party’s Executive Board adopted the resolution, stating that the shared agreement “is inconsistent with the exclusive use for veterans envisioned by the donors, and the trust conveyed in their deed to the United States”.

Unfortunately, Representative Henry Waxman (D CA-30), in whose district the property falls, and Representative Bob Filner (D CA-51), the Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, and U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer can toss this resolution in the recycle basket if they wish. But if they toss the resolution aside it will put them in direct conflict with the philosophical belief of the California Democratic Party and all supporting veterans.

So we still need your support. A small group of dedicated veterans stand vigil over the veterans’ land in West Los Angeles every Sunday. Don’t let them stand-alone. We must all stand together to protect this land on behalf of all veterans and not let this land be stolen.

Join us on August 16th for a rally to “Save Our Veterans’ Land” at the corner of San Vicente and Wilshire Blvds. in West Los Angeles from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

Steve Crandall, President
CA Central Coast Chapter of the Vietnam Veterans Against The War

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Veterans caught up in ICE immigration dragnet nightmare...


Defense Committee Seeks Funds For Travel to VFP National Convention

Ed Note: This is an initiative that VetSpeak strongly supports. Jan Rhuman, our VetSpeak Operations Coordinator, and my friend, and VVAW Brother, of 37 years, has taken the issue of the deportation of America's Veterans, many with-out benefit of due process, to heart. Woe unto the HMFIC of that blatantly unconstitutional model of protection of American citizens. The light of Truth is about to shine, and chase away the cockroaches of spin. Jan's on the mission.

He has, out of pocket, along with an old school Bar Sinister (L.A. Law Collective that worked with VVAW 1972-1974) style lawyer, and a few Veterans who have fallen victim to this outrage, formed a Defense Committee, and is re-framing the argument regarding Veterans and immigration issues. In just the short time since we were all together there in SoCal, on the West Coast Tour these folks have made some very serious moves on behalf of this issue. They have motivated local and regional coalitions of progressive Veterans and Families groups to work on making it a focal issue in their mutually supportive agendas. This trip to the VFP Convention to present their case for National VFP support, is their first national outreach.

I hope that you will all find it in your heart, and in your pocket book, to support their immediate mission, and assist them in getting to the Convention, where their voices can be heard, in a national Veterans forum. WH

Jan's e-mail appeal:

Dear Friends,

Many of you are aware that we have begun working on a National Veterans Issue & Campaign seeking Justice for American Combat Veterans who have served our nation in the military and received honorable discharges, who have been incarcerated in Department of Homeland Security Prisons nation wide and are being processed for banishment from America the land they fought to defend.

The link below is an article from the front page of last Sundays, June 12th San Diego Union Tribune and a video interview of one of the Vietnam Era Veterans incarcerated and facing deportation:

We need your help in getting four Defense Committee members to DC to present the Veterans Facing Deportation Work Shop from the recent VFP Sub-Regional in Oceanside, Heather Boxeth, Attorney, myself, Louie Alvarez (vet facing deportation) and a family member Angelica Madrigal at the National Veterans For Peace Convention August 5th-9th. In addition we have been invited to meet with Congressional Committee Staff from several Congressmen.

The actual costs for flights, lodging, transportation and convention registrations fees are around $3,600.00. We have committed $2,350.00 cash on hand leaving $1,250 short at this point in time.

I am asking that you consider making a donation and help us raise the needed funds between now and next Tuesday, July 22nd when we commit $911.00 for housing the four delegate. It's personal contact we need with folks that may be willing to help us. I'm reaching out and doing the same with my friends and associates.

Please consider making a donation and sending out a request to anyone you deem appropriate.

Thank you for your help,

Jan A. Ruhman


On-line: Go to; on right side of home screen, you will see "donate" superimposed on a graphic of a homeless Veteran, just to the left of the Robin Long poster, click on the graphic, and use the General Donations Pay-Pal button, make donation and ref VFP Trip, if given the option, on the Pay-Pal form.

Snail Mail: Mail check or money order to Veterans For Peace, C/O Jan Ruhman, 8632 Garde Ct.,
San Diego, Ca 92126

Saturday, July 11, 2009

After Action Report: IVAW Southeast Regional Retreat 07/03 - 07/05

Fire On The Mountain…

Willie Hager
x Cracker Swamp, Fl – A week has passed, since my friend of 26 years, Josh, and myself, returned from camping with, meeting with, and partying with, the future of the progressive Veterans movement, here in the Southeastern region of the United States. We were up on Red Top Mountain, just outside Cartersville, Georgia, a few miles north of Atlanta, for the IVAW Southeast Regional Retreat, held 7/3 - 7/5, 2009.
We were there representing Vietnam Veterans Against The War (VVAW), in the capacity of what I refer to as elder statespersons or VVAW old schoolers, rather than as Old Folks with a lot of time on their hands. The very types, in the context of Veterans progressive grassroots activism, that are, by definition and from my perspective, those that, through their actions as VVAW members, back in The Day; laid the foundations and set the standards for the creation and development, as well as produced much of the original leadership of Vietnam Veterans Of America, Veterans For Peace (VFP), and who worked logistics and staffed security for IVAW's Winter Soldier Iraq &Afghanistan, in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Today, VVAW's 41 year history of activism as an anti-imperialist progressive Veterans organization speaks for itself, and is the result of the political principles & ideals, strategies, and activities, that are well documented, on these pages and in historical archives all over America...pages lived and written by actions of these old school progressive movement types.
VVAW's focus issues have aways been oriented to ending militaristic involvement in campaigns of political and capital imperialism; equally proper care and treatment of Veterans by the VA, in both the medical and mental health claims, service delivery systems, and claims processing; anti-sexism and racism with-in the military, as well as society, in general; and, GI Rights & Resistance. The folks that I refer to have been always been there, as the grass-roots impetus to the writing of VVAW's inspiring history.
I believe that many of us old schoolers see our role, since coming together at the VVAW 40th Reunion, as that of a known quantity resource for IVAW, and also as a resource group, for the mounting of a national campaign to build a unified front of progressive Veteran and Allied groups and supporters, who are rallied around a core group of focal issues and actions.
This is a strategy model that has emanated from the coming together of that 40th Reunion gathering. This is an effort that began in earnest with the VVAW National Coordinators West Coast Tour, this past Spring, and that is continuing as an organizing strategy, as we all move forward in the 21st century. Thus, our presence, representing VVAW at the IVAW SE Retreat. My personal take on all of this is, that VVAW's soul has always been out in the grass-roots, that it's spirit of political activism is still alive and well, and is at work in their communities (...still crazy after all these years?), and that it is that spirit which is VVAW, today.
There were two of us old schoolers from VVAW, there on Red Top Mountain with the IVAW, the first day of the IVAW SE Retreat; Josh (Vietnam Veterans of North Florida/VVAW), Mike Hearington (the Atlanta VFP contact), and myself (VVNF/VVAW). Mike Burke, who is the VVAW Atlanta contact, came out and joined us at the encampment on Saturday morning.
Our combined VVAW mission task, was to invite IVAW's active participation in our own Southeast Regional gathering, to be held in Tallahassee, Florida, July 24th thru July 26th.
I am happy to report that the assigned mission was a success. As a result of our outreach, IVAW Southeastern Region will be represented in Tallahassee, in the persons of Jason Hurd, the IVAW Southeast Regional Coordinator; Zach Choate, the Atlanta area organizer, along with several other Georgia IVAW members one of whom is an active duty GI. Also in attendance will be representatives from the Gainesville, Fl Chapter of IVAW. Due to mild attacks of CRS, I only recall Micah Goulet's name, from the G'ville bunch...good meeting and talking with you, Micah. (Photo, L to R; Josh M., Mike H., and your's truly)
VVAW was on the agenda to present to the group on Friday evening. By then, we had managed to do some "socializing" and everyone was definitely in the spirit of the event as we gathered around the campfire in the waning light of a great afternoon of getting to know one another.
I presented on our behalf, and made three proposals to the gathering; that the SE Region attend our VVAW SE Regional meeting in Tallahassee, that VVAW, VFP, and IVAW work together in staging a major SE Winter Soldier event; that we all rally our membership and our resources in support of the School Of The America's Vigil at Ft. Benning, Ga., this coming November.
At a meeting of the IVAW membership, held on Saturday morning, all three proposals were discussed and agreed to, and will appear on our VVAW SE agenda, for discussion of our mutual strategy.
Our assigned mission was accomplished; face to face communications had been established as a first step in forming a network of Veterans' activists and resources, that are willing to work together, on pre-defined focal issues, presenting a unified front (our most powerful lobbying tool/political capital, in my opinion) to our elected representatives and self serving political power brokers. The fire to be fanned is in the hearts and minds of the American electorate; now, just the same as it was, back in the day.
That fire of political consciousness was definitely re-ignited among the folks who were lucky enough to have been there on the mountain, together, on Independance Day. The energy was that was flowing, was palpable, and infectous. When we looked into their young faces and eyes, we were seeing another side of ourselves, from another time, and yet there didn't seem to be any time separating us, as we made friends, and talked together, late into the mountain night.
Che Guevara once said, "You North Americans are very lucky, you live in the heart of the beast..."; Che always wanted to ride the rankest bull. Well, my friends, in the world of progressive political organizing, the Southeast, is the rankest bull in the bunch.
Long ago, VVAW had a history here; Last Patrol & the '72 Republican Convention, The Gainesville 8 (actually 12) Conspiracy Trial, Operation County Fair in Bogue Chitto, Ala, in partnership with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) group from that area. I, and many of my friends from VVAW, who have sine re-newed their membership, were there with VVAW for these actions and operations. Since those heady times, with all of the voting rights, and civil rights headway that was made, the wave of political consciousness and Democratic party gains that were so hard won, have, somehow, long since, slipped away.
The Southeast, these days is, once again, the heart of the far-right conservative beast. A far cry from where we brought it to, only thirty years ago. As a result of the grass-roots political and social struggles there, it became a beacon of hope and progress, for those who believed in the power of the people. Power that they had physically seized from the clutches of Nixon's version of Republicanism...we called it fascism. Since then, the neocons re-took political ground with the Gingrich revolution, the Contract With America, and what George Lakoff refers to as re-framing the arguement in his book, Don't Think Of An Elephant.
Although they have suffered some serious set-backs to these initiatives, up to, and including the election of Obama. They have not given up the fight; they are just even more pissed off than they were back in the Gingrich hey-day. They've still got plenty of PAC money, Rush, the FOX News gang, and the Swift Boats in several of their manifestations, all out there stirring up the base at the grass-roots, and trying to once again re-frame the political arguement, to fit their political needs. The folks that we met with, in Georgia, certainly seemed up for the fight to re-take the political high-ground from them, here in Dixie.
VVAW National Coordinators, Barry Romo and Marty Webster will be there in Tally to meet with us, and to participate in the dialogue, as well. If you are a VVAW, VFP, IVAW, or allied group (i.e. MFSO) member, somewhere in the Southeast, and wish to join the fight, and rally with us at the VVAW SE Regional Planning, Organizing, and Tasking Conference, in Tally, on the week-end of the 24th-26th of July, for the purposes of designing a Southeastern grass-roots strategy to attain our mutual national goals; please contact me at, with VVAW SE Regional in the Subject field. I will get right back to you with conference location and registration info, ASAP.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Di Wood Revisits Winter Soldier II - 05/07/2009

First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis
900 Mount Curve Avenue; Minneapolis, MN 55403; Phone 612.377.6608; Fax 612.377.2151

Summer Assembly Previews

7/5/09 “Remembering Winter Soldier 2: A First-
Hand Report”

Speaker: Diane Ford Wood
Diane Ford Wood, granddaughter-in-law of Abe and Ida Kaufman, guarded “the box” at Winter Soldier 2 in March 2008 and heard every word of testimony from just a few feet away.
Diane’s volunteer job involved securing the area directly in front of the dais where American veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan war bravely told their tales to an international media audience. Pro-war protestors, angered that veterans would “air America’s dirty laundry in public,” worked hard to invade and disrupt the proceedings, creating a tense, even dangerous atmosphere.
While Amy Goodman of Democracy Now and both did a thorough job, of reporting these events, most American media did not attend. Backed by a few veteran friends who were also there, Diane will tell what it was like from her perspective and what she believes to be the legacy and lessons of the event.