Tuesday, December 21, 2010

After Action Report: Taking A Stand, Washington D.C. 12-16-2010

Ed Note:  This e-mail regarding the 12-16-2010 Take A Stand demonstrations, from Bill Homans (Watermelon Slim), a friend and fellow VVAW member, was originally sent for posting in the VVAW Veteran and on VVAW lists, when they publish the next ish.  It was so well done that after I saw it, I called and asked Slim if we could post it as an After-Action Report, here at VetSpeak, as well.  He readily assented. I believe that it is time that we all re-assess our impact on ending the war in Afghanistan, to date.  I have inserted photos by Bill Perry, Zach Choate, and Cheryl Biern.
Many believe, as I do, that we haven't been as effective as we could have and should have been.  That we should re-energize and re-organize, with the Veterans in the forefront of the anti-war movement as back in the day, and that the time for direct action is upon us.  Direct action that takes many forms but that requires personal commitment; not just words, but deeds. What we have been doing hasn't worked, so far. The 12-16-2010 Civil Disobedience actions in Washington D.C. are a reflection of that belief, and a lot of frustration, as well as an example of the power of commitment to principle, beyond political ideology.  We are all in this together, after all.  I am posting this and other follow-up here on our pages as inspiration for others to step up and join with us in ending these wars;  Not Tomorrow - Not Next Year - Now! WH
From: bill homans 
Subject: RE: [vvawcontacts] Thanks to DC protesters
To: varc@googlegroups.com
Date: Sunday, December 19, 2010, 1:50 AM

Well, Hola, Brothers and Sisters, 
Guess it's time I checked in. Zach Choate-- what a freakin HERO-- and Wayne Parker are halfway to Baton Rouge as I write, having dropped me off in Clarksdale around 10:15 CST.
It was an honor to have gone to Washington for my first time at a specifically antiwar demonstration since-- what-- January 1973?-- IN THE COMPANY OF SUCH STALWART BROTHERS AS THIS. Besides re-encountering my dear and close comrade from "the old days," Dave Ross!! Vietnam Veterans Against the War took more than active part in this action. I need only point you to the several videos which have already emerged from the action: VVAW members who are also members of VFP were numerous, by the VVAW buttons and patches everywhere evident.
Current "regular" members Doc Bjornson, Bill Perry, Al Kovnat, Sam Adams from Philadelphia, Patrick McCann from W. Maryland and Jim Baldridge from Baltimore, as well as this writer who came from Mississippi, represented the organization with grace, appropriate solemnity and that righteous anger that comes from standing next to the place where the levers of power are being handled by-- to be most generous-- a man not in control of an almost atavistic process of America desperately throwing its weight around. Flailing. Floundering.
Zach Choate, IVAW (with flag) at The Fence
The whole world now knows Zack Choate, the 10th Mountain Division Purple Heart Spec-4-- a gunner-- with whom I rode up to Washington. He and Wayne Parker, another Louisiana vet (Army 79-84) picked me up in Clarksdale, and we proceeded to operate with remarkable discipline (Who, Bill Homans?? ;) ). Zach and I were going to chain ourselves together on the fence. However, he was in his dress greens with one layer of thermals undernath, really not sufficient for this weather. He was at a bit of risk of hypothermia, so we opted not to chain ourselves back to back. But like a 10th Mtn. Div. trooper, he hung in there against the cold, until his turn came to be arrested. What a freaking WINTER SOLDIER. No greater honor could I have had than someone like this in my affinity group.
Zach Chaote, 10th Mtn Div., IVAW
Under Arrest 12-16-2010
There was what I must report, having watched the entire process, a certain moment of caving-in, or perhaps only lack of tactical preparedness on the part of the leaders of this nonetheless successful action (Holy shit did Ellsberg zing it!!). Plastic handcuffs were ready for use. There was a box of almost 200 of them (I brought a couple home for souvenirs, lol).  But somewhere between the briefing meeting Wednesday evening and the demo, someone forgot to distribute (or made the decision not to) the handcuffs, and then, inexplicably, showed up at the site with the whole box of them, which of course the Rangers said no, so there weren't any handcuffs. There was even talk about the distribution of the handcuffs, but I wasn't sure that anything was done (I was already prepared with my chain) about it. Unfortunately, it was not.
Thus, having concluded as well as possible that the police would be actively resisting the handcuffing, Sam and I decided that the best plan was for me to chain myself (since Zach would not be with me) as close to the fence as possible, in a place where I too would have to be arrested. We chose a lamp post that unfortunately ended up being the wrong end of the protest for press coverage, so I really didn't get very much coverage whatsoever. I did, however have the benefit of, as it were, an F.O. position, and was able to observe from a different, and better, angle than most the entire CD-and-arrest process, so it wasn't a total tactical blunder.
The police behavior was really quite exemplary. They were doing their jobs, and they knew that so were we. The gravitas of this crowd was one that they haven't ever dealt with, maybe. The police dealt with vets in '71. Now they're dealing with some of the same vets, but at their grandfather's age. It makes for respect, and I saw various sign of respect from the the police to the antiwar activists. Mike Hopkins, the IVAW infantry vet, is a really big ol' boy, pro linebacker size, and he insisted on being limp-dragged. The police assigned to him whined about it a little at first to him, but then did their jobs as cheerfully as possible, according to Hopkins. The holding and processing part was a bit slow, but there were rookies assigned (a few) on their FIRST DAY, and there were detectives at the end volunteeering to do the paperwork. And they were all cheerful. I gotta say, good job by them.
And the "Taps" ceremony was done with the greatest respect. I noted to the crowd that we needed not only to resist but to mourn, and that the burden of this war is being borne unevenly. The flag we used was (I couldn't make this up) at a thrift store, a St. Vincent's I think, and is obviously a coffin flag-- used once and then discarded!! I bought it for $15, and told them what it was-- it really didn't make that much of an impression on the ladies-- like, "Oh, that's nice. I never thought about that." I asked at the briefing meeting whether there were any Gold Star Mothers who would be attending, and no one spoke up, else we would have presented the flag to one after folding.

Zach C. arrives at WH with Tri-fold Flag
In all dispatches I may make, I am going to continue to say "Vietnam Veterans Against the War did .... or said...." when we act. We all must do so, and if someone wants to be in the position of denying what the organization DOES, then that's his or their decision. I speak for this organization, just like all us contacts-- all us members-- do.  But VVAW was definitely part of the December 16 action. I and the other members were proud to represent us, and those around us were proud that we were there. 
I made it home thinking I might go back out to the juke joint (oh, btw, the after-party was very small but memorable. Wouldn't be surprised if you saw some good Youtube video, including my song "WBCN" about us and the Nazis at The Last Patrol).

Bill Homans
VVAW Mississippi Contact
Prouder than ever Life Member

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Washington D.C. 12-16-2010: Veterans Move from Mobilization to Resistance

These are the times that try men's souls...
The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated. Thomas Paine, The Crises, 12-23-1776.

Bill Homans (Watermelon Slim) A 21st century Winter Soldier, chained to a White House light pole in protest against the war in Afghanistan 12-16-2010

Slim (VVAW Ms) was in D,C. in the company of other VVAW members, who were there in support of Veterans For Peace's call to action for Civil Disobediance; that of chaining themselves to the White House fence at the end of a march from Lafayette park, to the White House.  Slim had come to town with Zach Choate, a SouthEast Region IVAW member, that is an Operation Recovery activist and spokesperson. 
Those in this photo (courtesy of Bill Perry), are Al Kovnat, Dr Jon Bjornson, Sam Adams, and Bill Perry of the Philly Chapter of VVAW, and Jim Baldridge (holding the flag staff) of the Baltimore Chapter. I have no idea who it was that is kneeling in front, or holding up the flag tip on the right side; but, thanks for being there with my brothers. These folks joined with others at the White House fence, and handcuffed or chained themselves to it in solidarity, and with unity of purpose; that of ending the continuing war in Afghanistan...all were arrested, as seen in the compelling video (below) of the speech by Chris Hedges, and the accompanying arrests of all Winter Soldiers present and accounted for...
Watermelon Slim (VVAW) rallies the troops

Mike Hearington (VFP),  Zach Choate (IVAW); CDn' at The Fence

In all, 131 activists from VFP, VVAW, and IVAW, including Daniel Ellsberg and members of supporting organizations were arrested as a result of their Civil Disobedience.  It is reported that two-thirds were Veterans, and the remainder were from Code Pink and other organizations that were there to Take A Stand For Peace On Earth. They were unified in purpose in calling for an immediate end to the continuing war in Afghanistan
Join us as the resistance continues to grow:
Vietnam Veterans Against The War
Veterans For Peace
Iraq Veterans Against The War

Semper Fi!
Willie Hager

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Anti-war Veterans and Supporters Mass at the Gates of Power....

Taking A Stand!

Washington, D.C - Members of Veterans for Veterans For Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against The War, and Iraq Veterans Against The War rallied with other peace and justice organizations in Washington D.C., today.  Together, they delivered a unified and powerful message of Peace On Earth - NOW!, to the gates of the White House. The delivery came in the form of Post Cards of Peace floated over the White House Fence, and 120 Veterans and other activists chaining themselves to the White House Fence in solidarity, and commitment to up the ante in the struggle for peace, in the coming months.  

Please share this compelling video, courtesy of davidcnswanson, with your social networks and list shares. Hopefully, this action will be the start of a prairie fire of grassroots activism in the name of Peace & Justice that will end US involvement in the current wars in Iraq (Yes, we're still there...after all these years) & in Afghanistan.

In Unity,
Willie Hager

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Action Alert: Rally For Peace On Earth: Washington D.C. 12-16-2010

Take A Stand For Peace!

An Anti-war Veteran Primer

In the beginning, there was Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Inc. (VVAW); a national veterans' organization that was founded in New York City in 1967 after six Vietnam vets marched together in a peace demonstration. It was organized to voice the growing opposition among returning servicemen and women to the still-raging war in Indochina, and grew rapidly to a membership of over 30,000 throughout the United States as well as active duty GIs stationed in Vietnam. Through ongoing actions and grassroots organizations, VVAW exposed the ugly truth about US involvement in Southeast Asia and our first-hand experiences helped many other Americans to see the unjust nature of that war.


Statue of Liberty Takeover - Not once, but twice...

 On December 26, 1971, fifteen VVAW activists barricaded and occupied the Statue of Liberty for two days in a successful attempt to bring attention to the antiwar cause. Simultaneous protests took place across the country, such as at the historic Betsy Ross house in Philadelphia (for 45 minutes) and Travis Air Force Base in California (for 12 hours). Other VVAW members in California also briefly occupied the Saigon Government consulate in San Francisco. VVAW occupied the Statue of Liberty a second time in 1976 to bring renewed attention to veteran issues.[30][31][32]

Winter Soldier - Detroit 1971  
The "Winter Soldier Investigation" was media event sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) from January 31, 1971 – February 2, 1971. It was intended to publicize war crimes and atrocities by the United States Armed Forces and their allies in the Vietnam War. The VVAW challenged the morality and conduct of the war by showing the direct relationship between military policies and war crimes in Vietnam. The three-day gathering of 109 veterans and 16 civilians took place in DetroitMichigan. Discharged servicemen from each branch of military service, as well as civilian contractors, medical personnel and academics, all gave testimony about war crimes they had committed or witnessed during the years of 1963–1970.[1][2][3

Operation Dewey Canyon III - A limited Incursion into the Country of Congress 

"This peaceful anti-war protest organized by VVAW took its name from two short military invasions of Laos and Cambodia by US and South Vietnamese forces. Dubbed "Operation Dewey Canyon III," it took place in Washington, D.C, April 19 through April 23, 1971. It was referred to by the participants as "a limited incursion into the country of Congress." .[17][18]

 "On Friday, April 23, more than 800 veterans, one by one, tossed their medals, ribbons, discharge papers and other war mementos on the steps of the Capitol, rejecting the Vietnam war and the significance of those awards. Several hearings in Congress were held that week regarding atrocities committed in Vietnam and the media's inaccurate coverage of the war. There were  also hearings on proposals to end the United States' participation in the war. The vets planted a tree on the mall as part of a ceremony symbolizing the veterans' wish to preserve life and the environment."[25]

In addition, they also rallied on capitol Hill...
"I would like to say for the record, and for the men behind me who are also wearing the 
uniform and their medals, that my being here is really symbolic. I am not here as John Kerry,but as one member of a group of one thousand, which in turn is a small representation of a 
very much larger group of veterans in this country. Were it possible for all of them to sit at 
this table they would be here and present the same kind of testimony." 
John Kerry to Senate Foreign Relations Committee, April 22, 1971

Operation Last Patrol - Facing off with Nixon at Republican National Convention, Miami 1972

"I was in Miami in 1972, with the California contingent of the Last Patrol, and was on the Silent March. We were faced off with the Florida Highway Patrol, and elements of the 82nd Airborne and Florida National Guard. There was fear in their eyes as we shuffled silently by, on our way to the Fontainebleau, where Nixon was holed up. 
        Our silence 
unnerved them, just as it was intended to do. I am sure that many of them thought that we were going to keep marching right up to the Fontainebleau penthouse (Nixon Bunker) and drag him out into the streets, for all to see and publically revile. They were visibly relieved when we pulled up and rallied around the front of the hotel and began making speeches supporting our Demands, and accusing Nixon and his cronies of being war criminals. You coulda' cut the tension in the air with a knife. What a rush!" (WH, The Veteran, Fall 2008)

Unity - Struggle - Victory

Vietnam Veterans Against The War at Paris Peace Accord Negotiations

Now We Again Take A Stand For Peace - Dec 16, 2010 -  Washington D.C.
Join Us!

VVAW members from all over the country are very much still in the fight for peace and justice.  There will be a contingent of VVAW members rallying under the VVAW banner in Lafayette Park for the Dec 16th demonstrations. They will be joining other anti-war Veterans organizations as they Take A Stand For Peace at the White House Fence.  If you are a VVAW member and will be in D.C. for this critical action, and would like to rally with VVAW; contact Bill Perry, Philly Chapter VVAW, at 215-945-3350 or 215-945-1259 for VVAW rally location and time.  Bill will be coordinating activities on location on behalf of the VVAW Veterans Advisory & Resource Caucus.