Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Fig Leaf

I was actually against the war before the war. As a reservist attending Claremont McKenna College near LA, I attended the big day of student walkouts in February of 2003. There were speeches, a human peace sign, and a march through the middle of campus. I found myself surrounded by students and professors trying to relive the 60s. Their apparent ignorance was surpassed only by their lack of hygiene.

At our monthly drill in December of 2003 our Commanding Officer announced that the Marine Corps was seeking volunteers for the Third Civil Affairs Group. I jumped at the chance. I didn’t want to “miss the party.” I also believed at that time, along with most of America, that what we were doing in Iraq was cleaning up our mess. I thought it was responsible foreign policy, trying to do good by the Iraqi people.

I was activated two weeks before we were set to deploy. In between filling out forms and checking out gear, I got enough civil affairs training to learn that we would be working with the Iraqi people on local projects such as schools, clinics, mosques, and water projects. I was really excited about it. That was exactly what Bush was saying that we, as in Americans in Iraq, were doing there. I thought, “We are going to be leading the charge to rebuild Iraq.” (To Marines, every mission is a “charge.” Often times, Marines are tasked to lead the charge to clean the heads, or swab the decks, or stand around and smoke cigarettes.)

When I got to Iraq, it was a different story. We were six-man teams attached to battalions or regiments. And where we were in the Fallujah area, you couldn’t go anywhere without at least six humvees with machine guns. We often had to beg these infantry commanders to tag along on their convoys to accomplish our missions. We found ourselves constantly struggling to justify our existence. We even came up with a slogan: We care, so that you don’t have to.

Sure it was funny at the time, but in retrospect, it’s pretty messed up. Perhaps if the situation had been the other way around, namely that infantry units were attached to civil affairs teams, then the US military would have had some credibility with the Iraqi people when we told them that we were there to help them. But instead, we put the killers in charge. I’m not advocating a complete restructuring of the military here. Ours is the greatest on the earth, but it is designed to destroy other militaries. In the words of Jason Lemieux, “Hammers can’t fix computers.”

About halfway through my tour, I realized the futility of what we were doing in civil affairs and was forced to fall back on the old standard rationalization, “At least we’re keeping the fight off of American soil.” I was able to realize the fallacy of that soon after returning home. For every insurgent we kill today, there are two to kill tomorrow because we piss off so many people in the process.

The only way that I can describe the role of civil affairs in the occupation of Iraq is that it is a fig leaf. I was once praised for taking pictures of my team distributing humanitarian rations because they would be used in a propaganda magazine that would be distributed to Iraqis. I don’t believe it had much effect, (the Iraqi people know better) but it was clear that we were there more so that commanders could brag about all of the good we were doing rather than so that we could actually do any good.

We cared so that they didn’t have to. So that the infantry commanders didn’t have to. So that the joint chiefs didn’t have to. So that L. Paul Bremer (Director of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance until the “handover of power” on June 28th, 2004) didn’t have to. So that Donald Rumsfeld didn’t have to. So Dick Cheney didn’t have to, not that he ever pretended to. And so that least of all, President Bush didn’t have to while he gushed about making life better for the Iraqi people. I risked my life so that they could look good, and they still failed. We were a fig leaf.

This appeared in the first issue of the official IVAW newsletter, SIT-REP.

Berkeley without Hippies, a Convention with Hippies, and Exciting Stuff Coming Up

Last Wednesday, we held the first ever IVAW Truth in Recruiting Workshop at the Jazz School in Berkeley. Special thanks to IVAW members Jane Song for handling the logistics and to Kevin Turner for sharing his experiences with the Army and recruiters in his first public speaking event with IVAW. It was my first time hosting such a workshop, and as such, it was a sort of a trial run for the format that I have created. Despite low turnout, it was a resounding success. Everyone there was engaged and excited about the potential for Truth In Recruiting. Hopefully, the Bay Area Chapter (semi-defunct) will be reinvigorated as a result and host more workshops on their own.

This was the first in a series of workshops that I will be hosting, and hopefully many more IVAW chapters will also be hosting their own. The next one for me is this Friday in Santa Fe. The Santa Fe Chapter of Veterans For Peace (especially Ken Mayers) has been a great help in setting this up and promoting it.

This past weekend was the annual IVAW convention in St Louis. As it is traditionally, it was part of the Veterans For Peace annual convention. They are our parent organization, and as such, they take that mission to heart. They brought out their share of hippies, mainly as hangers on, but it was great to see the support that they showed us. It was there that I met Ken Murray, who was essential to making the Santa Fe workshop possible. I also got to be part of a lot of brainstorming and planning sessions that were immeasurably powerful. I even took the time to attend a “Warrior Writers” workshop, organized by the incredible Lovella Calica. So you can look forward to a little more of my creative side in the near future. (I can hear you cringing now!)

The main order of business for IVAW was to elect seven new members for our nine-man board of directors. There were fourteen candidates and in order of most votes received, the new members are: Camilo Mejia, Liam Madden, myself, Margaret Stevens, Phil Aliff, Jabar Magruder, and Jason Lemieux. We convened our first meeting that evening to select an executive committee of a Chairman, Co-Chair, Secretary, and Treasurer. By an incredible process of consensus and objectively evaluating each other without taking it to a vote, we selected Camilo Mejia as Chairman, myself as Co-Chair, Phil Aliff as Secretary, and Margaret Stevens as Treasurer. We were all incredibly excited about the strength of the new board. Personally, I am honored to be a part of it and feel that my selection is a great show of appreciation by the membership for the sacrifices I have made on behalf of IVAW since joining. I kept hearing, “You’re doing great work,” from many of the VFPers at the convention, and my reply was always, “We’re just getting started.”

Saturday night, we held a special screening of the documentary, "Meeting Resistance." It was incredibly powerful. Please check out their website. It is interesting to note that it was screened at Marine Corps Base Quantico. Sunday Morning was the "March to the Arch," followed by an afternoon packed with meetings until it was time to go to the airport. I will soon be organizing "Truckers Against the War." More to come.

Recently, I have been consumed with my preparations for National Truth in Recruiting Day and the ongoing IVAW TIR campaign. I was able to get a lot of people excited about it over the weekend and soon we should have a section of the IVAW website up and will be issuing a press release so we can start promoting it. I was also able to get a lot of folks committed for the September 15th week of action. At the rally in front of the capitol, IVAW will be leading the mass die-in with an honor guard that will be simulating a 21-gun salute before taps is played to start the die-in. Of course, it isn’t that smart to simulate anything with guns when surrounded by buildings guarded by snipers, so the seven men in the detail will be carrying the flags of various war profiteers (Halliburton, KBR, Blackwater, etc.) and will bang them on the ground to simulate rifle fire. If you can attend, please sign up at to wear cammies to represent one of the American fallen at the die-in.

In more fun news, I have been asked to be the guest of honor at August’s meeting of the Modernist Society at the Bourbon bar in Adams Morgan. There will be a lot of local IVAW members there, so it should be fun.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Momma Momma Can't You See

My first attempt at a music video. The lyrics are based on a marching cadence I learned in the Marines. Warning: Video contains graphic images of a dead Iraqi.

I wrote this when I was in Germany because our host had a recording studio and wanted us to record something but we never had time. Last night I was compelled to put this together at three in the morning and busted it out in about an hour, start to finish. Maybe someday there will be a version with better production values, but I'm not holding my breath. Enjoy.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Update on Marc Train and Eli Israel

Marc Train
Eli Israel
I spoke to Marc recently and he told me about his situation, which I will do my best to recount here. The first action the Army took against Marc was to charge him under Article 15 of the UCMJ for being AWOL for 114 days. The punishment was 45 days of extra duty and base restriction. He is working at the First Brigade, 3rd ID Headquarters. He does normal clerical Private BS work during the day from 6am to 6pm and does janitorial work until 11pm. He is working seven days a week, but evenings and weekends they mostly just hang out because there is a whole squad of soldiers in his situation and their only task is to clean their one building. But being the Army, they sit around until 11pm anyway.

They are now in the process of kicking him out under Chapter 12-14. From a Chapter 12-14 separation counseling sheet:

Your actions constitute serious misconduct. The least favorable type of separation you can receive is an Under Other Than Honorable discharge. You would lose all accrued leave and be reduced to E-1 upon separation. Your ability to obtain decent employment in the civilian community would be extremely limited.

So a little soft time at Fort Stewart and he should be home free. Marc, if it’s any consolation, I’m sure you will have no trouble obtaining decent employment in the civilian community.

Finally, we get to hear the whole story of Eli Israel in his own words. Enjoy.

The journey of a VIP bodyguard, sniper against the war

By Army National Guard Spc. Eleonai "Eli" Israel. August 9, 2007

Two months ago, I took a stand that changed my life forever. As a Soldier, a JVB Protective Service Agent, and a Sniper with the Army who had been in Iraq for a year (running over 250 combat missions), I refused to continue to be a part of the occupation. I regret nothing. This is my story. Currently, as I write this I am sitting in Kuwait, on "stand-by" to return to the States sometime hopefully this week. After getting out of the brig last week, I’m now scheduled to be discharged from the Army within the month. I'm looking forward to joining forces with anti-Iraq-War movements, such as Courage to Resist and Iraq Veterans Against the War.

What led me to this place in my life?

Joining up, the first time

I joined the U.S. Marine Corps in the spring of 1999, the month of my 18th birthday.

I grew up in the custody of the state of Kentucky with little contact with my biological parents since I was 13. I had no family support system and ended up on the streets, doing what street kids do.

By 16, I had eased into hard drugs. I had not been to school since the first part of 9th grade, and I was short on about everything but street smarts, an untapped sense of ambition, and a tough guy attitude.

When I walked into the recruiting station I learned that in order to join the Corps, I would need either a high school diploma or a GED with a waiver—unless I also had certain college credits. When I told them that I was 16 and had only completed 8th grade, they quickly dismissed me, not expecting to see me again.

They were wrong.

Not only did I earn my GED, I also did a semester at the local college. A year and a half later the month I turned 18, March 1999, I walked back into the same recruiting station, spoke to the same recruiter, showed him my GED and my college transcripts and felt my first real sense of pride.

Thirteen weeks after arriving at Parris Island, I was changed forever. I graduated as the leader of a platoon squad with a meritorious promotion, and was now well on my way to a shining career as a Marine.

Then came September 11, 2001.

Re-enlisting for my country

Like many after September 11th I wanted to serve, again. I felt I owed something more to my country after my years of training. I trusted my president and my leadership to tell me the truth. I also trusted my own integrity. I knew that I would never willingly do anything that I knew to be immoral or wrong.

I re-enlisted in 2004—this time in the Army National Guard.

At the time I believed that those serving in the 'global war on terror' were doing so because they believed in what they were doing—not because they were under compulsion by a contract or retained by stop-loss. After having seen the situation on the ground, I now believe I was wrong. In 2006, I shipped out to Iraq.

Spc. Eli Israel on JVB duty in Iraq

In Iraq I was as a JVB Agent—the JVB (Joint Visitors Bureau) served as the protective service for "three star generals and above" and their "civilian equivalents". This included the Vice President, the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, their equivalents in a number of our "allied nations", and others. I trained for my job as part of this "special unit" prior to deployment, and I spent the majority of my tour in the company of the most powerful people connected to the "global war on terror".

Even as a JVB agent, my primary job was still infantry. On days when we didn't have any JVB missions, we would be called on for "search and cordon" operations and other infantry assignments. So, although I worked at the JVB, I was still on the roster of a sniper platoon tasked with various missions "outside the wire"—either as "sniper overwatch" or house raids.

I reasoned that my actions during these missions were justified in the name of "self-defense." However, I came to realize my perception was wrong. I was in a country that I had no right to be in, violating the lives of people, and doing so without regard to the same standards of dignity and respect that we as Americans hold our own homes and our own lives to.

Destroying lives

I have taken and/or destroyed the lives of people who were defending their families from being the "collateral damage" of the day. Iraqi boys are joining groups like "Al Qaeda" for the same reason street kids in the U.S. join the "Cribs" and the "Bloods". It’s about self protection, a sense of dignity, and making a stand.

The young man whose father and cousin we "accidentally" killed, and whose mother and siblings cry every time the tank rolls through the neighborhood, doesn't care who Osama Bin Laden is. The "militants" we attacked were usually no different than an armed neighborhood watch group who didn't trust their government. We didn’t trust the government either, and we put them in power!

Our own sacrifices, as tragic as they are (and they are tragic), are dwarfed in comparison to the carnage that has been brought on the Iraqi people.

"Success" in Iraq is not a matter of the number of coalition deaths "declining". Success would be an end of the catastrophe we have inflicted on a entire society, and restoration of dignity and sovereignty.

Iraqis continue to die at a rate 10 to 20 times that of the coalition forces. In Baghdad alone, five years and $950 billion later, the population suffers power and water outages that last for weeks at a time. Meanwhile, we often impose martial law so that no one can leave. The day I saw myself in the hateful eyes of a young Iraqi boy who stared at me was the day I realized I could no longer justify my role in the occupation.

I envy the soldier who is able to see the injustice of this war from afar, and has the courage and conviction to take the stand against it. There will be those who criticize soldiers for being willing to weigh moral convictions against political ambition. What matters is making the stand. Whether you chose not to join the military in the first place, or you realized after joining that it fell short of the requisite levels of integrity, the moment you realize the truth is the moment to take a stand. My moment came with only three weeks of combat missions remaining during my one year in Iraq. Moral conviction has no timing.

Taking a stand

I informed my chain of command of my beliefs. I could tell from that first conversation that things were not going to go well. I told them that I believed our presence in Iraq was unlawful. I explained that I no longer believed in a policy of war and that I would file as a conscientious objector. Simply put, I could no longer in good conscience participate in a combat role against the Iraqi people.

Seconds after the words left my mouth, my life changed. Inside I had more peace than I had felt in over a year. I knew immediately that I had done the right thing. However, I was aggressively disarmed, confined, and shut off from contacting anyone, including family or an attorney.

I was illegally confined to a cot in an operations room, placed under 24 hour guard, and escorted to the bathroom before I was formally charged with refusal to follow an order two weeks later. I remained confined until I pled guilty (with little choice) less than a week after that. I was immediately sent to Camp Arifjan in Kuwait to serve 30 days in a military prison. I was just released from the brig the other day and I’m now in the process of being "kicked out" with an "Other Than Honorable" discharge. I regret nothing.

After I told my command my beliefs, and once they realized they couldn't intimidate me and that I was serious, they decided that it was going to become an "information war".

I had many anti-war friends from MySpace and other online networks that got wind that I was being mistreated and it circulated around the world, literally overnight. Before I knew it, I was dragged into the First Sergeant’s office and they began yelling and screaming about how their names were "all over the internet". They didn't try to deny what was being said about them—that I was being treated unfairly and that they refused to acknowledge my claim as a conscientious objector—they were simply mad about the exposure.

Military strikes back

The next day I was told that I had been "flagged" as an OPSEC (operational security) “concern”. No reason given. They were hostile and consumed with the task of making "an example" out of me, and they were looking for ways to ruin my reputation and credibility.

They spent days typing up pages of fabricated "counseling statements" to retroactively discredit my military record. The fact that there were no prior record of statements made these accusations obviously fake, and they knew it. They "needed more".

They demanded repeatedly all of my Internet user names and pass words—MySpace, personal email, everything. All under the threat that "more charges" would be brought against me if I refused.

They wanted to read my emails, all my blogs, everything, in an attempt to find something. Anything they could use to make it look like I had been giving out classified information. They wanted to charge me and ruin my credibility as much as possible, and they desperately needed to be able to justify my illegal confinement.

Two weeks later, when they finally realized that they were not going to be able to charge me with "divulging intel", they finally charged me with a series of "not following orders". Not only did these include my refusal to continue combat missions, but ridiculous stuff like "not standing at parade rest" and "being late for work". You get the picture.

My command eventually offered to "chapter me out" if I would immediately plead guilty to everything and accept a summary court martial. My options were clear. I could play ball, spend 30 days in a brig, and get my life back. Or I could let them put me back on a fully confined restriction for the next two months, while they took every opportunity to make an example of me—to show everyone in the battalion, "this is what happens if you oppose the war.”

I’ll let them think they won, for now.


The truth will come out, and there is nothing they can do to hide it. The occupation is a disaster. I’m convinced that every day it continues that it makes America, and the Iraqis less safe.

Objecting to the war and standing up to the military was without question, one of the best decisions I have ever made. I made a stand that was the right one, and I have my freedom back as a bonus. Maybe ten years from now those of us resisting from within the military today will be seen as some of the first few to speak the truth and to follow up with action. Even now I have many to remind me that I'm not alone in my thinking, even a majority of Americans who know that all the pieces of this conflict simply don't add up.

Seek the truth. Make the stand.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Interesting Emails

From: Tim Date: Jun 4, 2007 11:13 PM

I read some of your blogs. I don't have a problem with you. Although, I have one question. Do you consider the consider the consequences of withdrawal from Iraq? We can get all poetic and talk about conundrums and quagmires all day long because ultimately that's what this is. Sadly I do believe the situation has gotten to a point where we have no choice but to stay for an unfortunately substantial amount of time. I was disillusioned in the Marines long before I made it to Iraq. If Marines don't die in Iraq, it will be Iran, Korea, Lebanon, Liberia, Pakistan, Africa, Haiti, the Philippines, or just about any other volatile area on Earth. It's peace time that consequently lures young (usually underprivileged) men into the military and war time that washes them out. What you are doing is valiant but make no mistake, the atrocities of this war can not compare to those of the past and inevitably of those to come.


From: Adam Date: Jun 6, 2007 7:03 AM I agree, and in my research about Vietnam, I have come to the conclusion that we fought in a little pussy war by comparison. And I do realize that there may be dire consequences to pulling out, but last year, they said it would be bad if we pulled out, now they're saying it'll be really really bad if we pull out. But if we pull out next year, it'll be really really really bad. Every day we stay there we make more enemies. Immediate withdrawal isn't going to be easy, but it's the best option. Peace, Adam


You're probably right. Well, good luck. Thanks for taking a stance on something.


From: MP GUMBY Date: Jun 5, 2007 8:45 AM

Dear SGT,

My Name is PV2 ******** ****** and i am with the Oregon ARNG as an MP. When i read about what was has been happenning to you I was appauled and could not believe they would go through all this trouble when there are more imortant things such as keeping our guys safe over there and getting us home now. please add me as a friend. I have not gone over to Iraq yet but i am set to soon when the Washington State MPs return home. I have many friends over there now in all branches of the military and have heard the horrible stories. You have the right to do what you did and by taking off the insignia's you were not wearing a military uniform at that point. it would have been no different then someone going to a military surplus store and purchasing the same stuff and wearing that to a protest. Keep up the good work.


Thanks for your great message. It's great to hear that someone in your position is capable of looking at the situation objectively and coming to their own conclusions. More importantly about my case, is that the UCMJ is not intended to apply to the inactive reserve and I plan to fight this all the way to preserve the rights of everyone who will ever spend time in the IRR. I hope that you will also find the courage to join our organization and maybe even resist in your own way. Check out And of course,




From: Edward ######### []
Sent: Tue 6/5/2007 1:04 AM
To: Kokesh, Adam
Subject: Been There Too

What the hell is wrong with you ? Did you even think what wearing your
uniform to an event like that does for the enemy ? You may not have wanted
this to happen but it supports they enemy just like all these antiwar
protests do, I served in Iraq twice and Afghanistan once and would go again
if needed, not because I love this war but it is my duty and because I like
you am a Marine and we were attacked and we are at war. Understand this, we
fight them there or here, either way this thing goes on and on until we win
or lose. Man up and do the right thing, we all lost friends, I am confused
sometimes brother but come on back and be a Marine and keep that BS out of
the papers and news for the sake of your brothers and sisters who continue
to be in harms way. If you need to talk write back but think very carefully
before you make a mistake that effects our Corps and Country, these
protesters will use you and don't care about you, remember that Marine.

SSgt. B



You say we were attacked and are at war, but who attacked us? If you are referring to 9/11, the majority of the hijackers were Saudis. Wearing my uniform at an event representing a group that wants the US out of Iraq shows the enemy that not all of America is careless, racist, and aggressive. That's bad for their recruiting efforts. They recruit on the idea that all Americans hate all Muslims. We can try to show them otherwise. Yes, we fight them here or there, and that what my rationalization while I was there. "At least we're keeping the fight off American soil." But for every insurgent we kill today, there are two to kill the next day because of all the people we've pissed off in the process. People said if we left a year ago, it would be bad, and if we leave now, it will be really bad, but if we leave in a year, it will be really, really bad.




I am sure you are getting tons of e-mails, thanks for writing, and Iunderstand the frustration but I think you handled it wrong is all. I hatenegativity on the Corps and I am sure that is not what you wanted but boy itcame out like that. I guess we will see what the future holds, I don't knowwhat is right or wrong, when we should leave, etc... I do know that thiswill go on no matter what and it was coming no matter what and that is theirculture not ours.

Be well



As I've been telling people: In Kansas City, I stared down a corrupt element of this administration and they blinked first. Now, Iraq Veterans Against the War has the initiative. And just as we were taught in boot camp, when you have the initiative, you keep fighting. That’s what we’re going to do.So it's not about the Marine Corps, but rather a few corrupt elements, and I'm tying that to the administration. You can't deny there's at least some corruption there.




> As I am all for Freedom of speech and all you were still attached to
> the military even though you were inactive reserve. Even when I was
> inactive reserve I still was charged with following the rules of the
> USMJ. We all have our opinions about the Iraq conflict. I Served
> there as well with 1st tank btn during the start of the conflict. I may
> not see eye to eye with your idealisms I do however respect your
> feelings. HOWEVER devildog.. you should have waited to wave your flag
> of deceit for the government you swore to defend. We all have our
> ideas.. find a right time to voice them. Best of luck with the
> military courts.. With public opinion the way it is I am sure you will
> get a pass on this one.
> Ken Ishmael


Actually, there are three legal points on my side here. Your enlistment
contract says the rules (in wording that says all the rules) only apply
when active, training, or active reserve. Second, the 2nd article of the
UCMJ says it doesn't apply to IR. Third, a Supreme Court case. But
regardless of the legal considerations, the most important voices for or
against the occupation are the recently discharged vets. That is what
needs to be respected here.




From the Staff Sergeant who was my senior and mentor in Iraq:


The Corps will be something that we will love, and hate, for the rest of our lives. Your passion is without compare. I appreciate you and thank you for all you did for me over there. You truly had my back! I still pray for you daily. I am glad to see that you are pursuing you heart. It looks like you are staying fit too, I wonder if your bench press record still stands in Fallujah?

All The Best...


Tuesday, August 7, 2007

This is how the military convinces reservists and IRR members to go back to Iraq

I recieved this interesting email recently from someone at my old unit. Notice the last line in the first paragraph. I would translate it as, "volunteer now or get screwed later," or "If you don't volunteer now, you will have no control over 'what you may be doing' and will probably be burning shitters in Iraq for a year." I have deleted all the contact information for the good Colonel except for his email address. Feel free to contact him.

CAGster Alumi:

Myself and Col Latsko (on cc line with my personal email) have been assigned the critical IMEF recruiting mission. These jobs are MEF wide. Highest priority is IMEF recruiting for OIF. Deployment lengths range from a high of 12months and down, depending on billet need and availability of Marines willing to fill them. Contract lengths are between a high of 18mo-24month active duty contracts and down, again depending on billet and availability of Marines willing to take them. Active duty start times may also be flexible much depending if you are OIF full length, OIF tack 1 or tack 2. If you are interested, fill out the Reserve Qualification Summary (RQS) and forward it back to me with an explanation telling me what you would like to do and your preferred length of time you could go on orders and approximate start service date. Things are ramping up so if your interested or know you fall within an involuntary activation category, now is the time to move and take some control as to what you may be doing.

Even if your on active duty or retired and are looking for an adventure, just let me know and I will do what I can to match desires, times, and qualifications with billets to get you to the war. Everyone of you knows me or have worked with me, so if you have questions all you have to do is give me a call and I will provide you as much straight scoop as possible. If you know of some other hard charger that may be interested in coming on active duty let me know and/or forward the RQS to them and my contact information.


Col. Eric S. Erdmann
I MEF Training and Experimentation Group

EDIT: Clarification: This email doesn't apply to me. It's interesting to note that they have not scrubbed their email list. Maybe they are hoping that guys who's IRR time has expired will be inspired to reenlist or something. Never mind that they could easily make four times as much money if they went to Iraq with a private security firm.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Amazing! I'm on the Front Page of the New Mexican Again

This story appeared on the front page of today's Santa Fe New Mexican with the photo of the parachute that is featured on the website with a small headshot of me from my press conference in Kansas City. I was sitting at the breakfast table with my step-mom and asked her if she thought "An Iraq war veteran . . . said Sunday that Iraqis should use nonviolent tactics to block the gates of U.S. bases in their country," constituted front page news. She shrugged, "It's a small town." It was right below a much more relevant headline, "GAO: 190,000 firearms missing in Iraq."

Sunday, August 5, 2007

9th Annual Peace Day Santa Fe

This morning I dragged my 14-year-old brother Alex and his friend Ram, to the 9th Annual Peace Day Santa Fe. The fact that the mayor of Santa Fe, David Coss, was speaking halfway through the festivities lent an otherwise lacking air of legitimacy. He was scheduled to speak at eleven, but when we showed up at eleven fifteen or so, there were still a number of people enthusiastically hanging strings of paper cranes on the Children’s Peace Monument while Zoe Evans played “Imagine” by John Lennon. We were offered to join in a number of times, once by a man wearing a white sheet and white pants that looked like they were made out of hemp. I had warned them that there would be hippies there.

I did get a chance to speak to the mayor after he spoke and told him about the “Truth in Recruiting” workshop that I’m planning and invited him to speak. Then we proceeded to “Socrates in the Trees,” or “Dialogue circles exploring the important questions related to ‘How can we transform our culture to a culture of peace and realize peace in our time?’” I’m not sure that they came up with an answer to the question. That’s a pretty tall order.

While I was there (wearing my IVAW t-shirt of course) I was approached by David Collins, a reporter from the Santa Fe New Mexican. He first wanted to talk about what I thought about the Peace Day, but quickly moved on to my case and I reminded him that I was on the front page of his publication just a couple months ago. I had to go into my whole back-story again, which I didn’t mind, except that I was eager to find out how we could realize peace in our time.

He interviewed me for a good thirty minutes and after I mentioned that I spoke Arabic, he asked me if I ever planned to go back to Iraq. I said I had no plans, but I would love to as a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, maybe to organize a nonviolent resistance. I described my outlandish fantasy of seeing all of the Iraqis in the insurgency stop shooting at Americans and instead get all of the hundred of thousands (if not millions, cumulatively, since the invasion) of protestors that were marching in the streets and get them to sit in around US military bases in Iraq. They could fairly easily shut down the occupation without any violence much more effectively than shooting at US troops.

It was then that Collins found it necessary to remind me that when speaking to him, I was “really speaking to the world.” He seemed to think it was a very radical idea and something I was crazy to suggest. I told him that it doesn’t reflect any abnormal sentiment or crazy desire. I’m against the occupation of Iraq, pro-sovereignty and self-determination for all people especially Iraqis, and I’m a proponent of nonviolent resistance. By simply combining these concepts, you get Iraqis doing sit-ins all over Iraq. It’s just a novel tactic that no one has really talked about yet. I don’t actually plan to go to Iraq to try to organize this. The Iraqi people aren’t dumb, and I’m sure that someone there has had the same idea. I just think the resistance is too fractured, and led by too many violent men with a death wish to come together this way. I just hope it gets there soon.

I ended up in a very interesting discussion with a member of Senator Jeff Bingaman’s New Mexico staff hosted by Concerned Citizens for Nuclear Safety. Before leaving to take Alex to his polo game, I got a chance to speak to Sadaf Cameron of CCNS. Just as she was getting into certain futilities of the peace movement, I was able to whip out my letter about National Truth in Recruiting Day. (More on that coming soon.) When the conversation got a bit serious, I decided she was ready for The People’s Army of America. I can’t wait to see if she joins.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

The Roosevelt Doctrine: Speak softly and carry a big stick.
The Bush Doctrine: Speak incoherently and hit someone with a stick.

And now, updates. Starting with the last part of the bus tour:

Fort Drum was, as anticipated, the best stop on the tour. Whenever we were down, or worrying that we weren’t being effective enough, it always cheered us up to think about how great the stop at Fort Drum was going to be. It did not disappoint.

Fort Drum was our first and only active duty chapter at the time, and it had already filled its ranks with fifteen active duty soldiers. They were planning on doubling that when we came to have our cook out and concert. The concert was held at the Different Drummer internet café in Watertown, not far from base, which is the unofficial home of the Fort Drum Chapter.

The Advanced Party (Jimmy Massey and myself) got there the afternoon of the day before and we met with a gentleman who was doing a documentary about Jimmy. I took a nap while he did the interview, but he ended up interviewing almost everyone on the bus eventually. Then we met the bus crew and a few of the active duty chapter members at the Different Drummer where everyone was staying the night. We strategized for a while and decided to promote the cook out at some local bars.

Somehow I ended up at a bar by myself talking to a couple of reservist soldiers who were in town for a couple weeks for their AT (Annual Training) and a bouncer who had been in the invasion, but gotten out soon after. Back at the Different Drummer, I rolled out my mattress pad and stayed up too late trying to respond to all of my emails.

The group of civilians that turned out to support us at the cook out was great, but we had to tell the woman with the rainbow pinwheel who was trying to start a drum circle to secure that shit or keep her distance. She chose to put her stuff away and pretended to not be a hippy for the duration of the afternoon. I had the opportunity to meet Michael Blake’s father and Nate Lewis’s twin brother, which was a trip because they both have the exact same very distinct rhythm of speech and accent.

Phil Ailif, President of the Fort Drum IVAW Chapter was there with his usual suspects, but decided that there were enough people who had promised to come that weren’t there to warrant making a few trips back to base to pick some of them up. Phil and Liam Madden took Liam’s car and parked in the guest area and got a one-day pass from the guard shack before proceeding to the gate.

Just then, I was pulling up with a soldier who was stationed at Fort Drum. We walked into the guard shack with my license, registration and proof of insurance. Before the guard (who was wearing a blue Department of the Army Police uniform underneath an orange reflective vest) even looked at my paperwork he said, “Good afternoon, Adam. How’s it going?” “Pretty good, yourself?” The bulletin board behind him was covered with mug shots of people who were barred from base with BOLO (Be On the Look Out) written over them. I scanned it for a photo of myself, and was somewhat disappointed that I hadn’t earned a place on their wall of fame. Apparently, I didn’t need it.

“How did you know my name?” “We all know who you are. I’ve been reading your blog actually. In fact, we saw your Bronco coming a mile away.” Meanwhile, Liam and Phil had been stopped at the gate and were told to pull to the side and standby until finally being asked to turn around. The guy in the orange vest told us to wait for someone else to come talk to us. A few minutes later two plain-clothes DoA Detectives came in from behind the guard shack. “You are not going to be allowed on base today.” I demanded to see some ID and to know what agency he was with. He flashed me his ID and I said I didn’t get his name. He said that was deliberate because he didn’t want to see his name on this blog in twelve hours. I later discovered his name but will allow him to remain anonymous out of respect. He and his partner complained that it was our fault that they had to come in on a day they would normally have off.

He asked that we step outside so we did and chatted for a while and allowed things to relax and even become friendly. I found out that the official reason we were not being allowed on base was, “Because it would not be in the best interest of the Army.” He remarked about some of the material on this blog. He said he actually “sympathized” with our point of view but had to do his job. I found myself making an appeal to conscience that has become a desperate refrain lately. It seems there are a lot of people who realize that they could be speaking out in a very powerful way but haven’t worked up the courage yet. (Just a few days ago I met a man who works for the Department of Defense in “foreign arms sales,” who hasn’t spoken out yet for fear of losing his job.)

On the way back I had Jimmy, Sholom, and Steve in the Bronco. Sholom had been invited to speak at the monthly meeting of the Manhattan Libertarian Party that Friday and invited us to share the stage with him. Then it was on to Philly to drop off Steve before getting in to DC at three in the morning. The next day we took to relax before the final leg of the journey.

Getting Marc Train to Fort Stewart was our last mission. I met him at the March 27th march on the Pentagon. After seeing the way he was dressed, I was shocked to see that he was carrying a military ID card. On his feet were the “rough-side-out” army boots that have become standard issue since the invasion of Iraq. He was wearing black gym pants and a white t-shirt covered in graffiti. He wore an “old-school” camouflage top with the sleeves ripped off mid-upper arm and a white, circled anarchy “A” spray-painted on the back. He wore a red bandana on his head and was waving a small, plain red flag held aloft by two tent stakes. It was that day that he decided to go AWOL.

From my understanding, there are two frames of mind one is in when they go AWOL. Either they flee and flee for good, or they stay AWOL long enough to become a deserter, turn themselves in, and pray for mercy. In the case of Chris Capps, that mercy was a three-day out-processing and an Other Than Honorable discharge. For him, it was a world better than being party to a war crime. Except for not being party to a war crime, Marc didn’t have much of a plan.

He was adopted by the peace movement in DC and taken care of, but needed direction. Everyone around him had come to the conclusion that he needed to turn himself in because he wanted to stay in America, eventually get a job and have a normal life. He had no desire or plan to leave the country. He was going to come on the bus tour and turn himself in halfway through, but it was decided by consensus at the last minute that he would be a liability to the tour.

I had hooked him up with my attorney, Mike Lebowitz, who had made arrangements with his command to make the out-processing as easy as possible and not charge him with anything other than desertion. He was afraid that certain comments he had made online may have been construed as “disloyal statements” and after the case of Liam Madden, this was not an unfounded concern. By the time we got to Fort Drum, he still hadn’t made plans to turn himself in and was staying with a friend of Tina Richards in Mt Rainier, MD. I called him (and gave him the appropriate kick in the ass) and told him that he was betraying everyone who had helped him on the premise that he was turning himself in, especially Mike, by not acting. I offered to give him a ride down to Fort Stewart, his former duty station after the bus tour.

We picked him up the next morning and took the straight shot down the 95 to Fayetteville to drop off Jimmy where we picked him and he had left his car. Then it was on to Fort Stewart. We got in late and spent the night at a Days Inn (free wireless) before actually going on base. When we got to the gate the next morning the guard asked me what my shirt said. “Iraq Veterans Against the War.” He collected our ID cards and then ran them down a list in a binder, handed them back to us, and waved us through. Maybe Fort Stewart hadn’t been alerted since it wasn’t a planned stop on the tour. We took Marc to the Legal Defense Council’s office and made sure he was comfortable with his situation before we took off. While we were waiting outside with his stuff, a Sergeant comes out with some paperwork under his arm and stern look on his face. He had a Third ID patch on his left shoulder and a 10th Mountain Division combat patch on his right. He passed us and just a step later turned back to Sholom. “What does your shirt say?” he demanded. Sholom turned and puffed out his chest: Iraq Veterans Against the War.” “Sweet. How do I join you guys?” I was flabbergasted, but Sholom turned on a dime and grabbed a packet out of my glove box to give the guy. Sometimes, it’s that easy.

Then it was back to DC for more random craziness. Sholom and I conducted Operation Yellow Elephant, but I’m still working on editing the video. Hopefully it will be on YouTube in a few days. Basically, we went to the College Republican National Convention to ask the future leaders of the party some tough questions. “If you think the occupation of Iraq is such a good idea, why don’t you go find out for yourself?” “Are you not joining the military because you are gay or because you don’t think you could hack it?” “Are you aware that because of the difficulty the Army has had in recruiting, they have drastically relaxed weight requirements?” “Do you feel like a hypocrite for supporting a war politically, and yet doing nothing of substance to support it? Or is that normal for Republicans?” We met a couple of vets, (one who had gotten out of the Army for medical reasons and one in the Air Guard) had some great conversations, and bagged us some yellow elephants. I gained a new appreciation for the deepening divides within the party over Iraq and Bush.

The DC Chapter of IVAW launched the FUNDING THE WAR IS KILLING THE TROOPS campaign.
The phot above is from a article that Radar Magazine did on me.

I went to the planning meeting with the ANSWER Coalition for their next big mobilization on September 15th. We’ve got some very cool stuff in the works including an IVAW National Truth in Recruiting Day, (more info coming soon) and a mass die-in/civil disobedience. Basically, Brian Becker, National Coordinator of ANSWER, is allowing for a much more collaborative process in designing the march/rally. Together with ANSER, Tina Richards (Grassroots America) and I have made the theme, “Protesting is not enough. Come for the rally, stay for a week of direct action.” It’s going to be off of the hook. Seriously. All the way off.

Right now I’m in Santa Fe, visiting my folks and seeing old friends. I’m trying to raise enough money before I go back to DC to allow me to continue to do this full time. I’m also conspiring and making all sorts of devious plans to make the world a better place. Wish me luck.