Three members of IVAW, Jeff Englehart, Thomas Cassidy, and myself, are currently touring Germany to spread the message of IVAW, reach out to American active duty personnel, and support the German peace movement. Of particular interest is the community movement in Ansbach to stop the expansion of the US Army base there. Darnell Stephen Summers of the Stop the War Brigade, an international veterans peace organization based in Germany, organized the trip.
On the morning of Thursday, the 10 of May, after spending all night packing all my earthly belongings into my Bronco, I caught a bus from DC to New York to catch a flight to Frankfurt. It was only right before boarding that I got to meet Tom and Jeff. I had the pleasure of wearing my new “We Will Not Be Silent” t-shirt, which was supplied by Artists Against the War. This is their traditional t-shirt that says, “we will not be silent” in Arabic, and then underneath in English in small letters. This has particular relevance to the history of the Nazi Party. If you are not familiar with the story behind these t-shirts, please read the story here.
After a long flight, we arrived in Frankfurt and were met by Darnell and Rudi Friedrich of Connection E.V., which supports international war resistors and has been instrumental in organizing our trip. We then took a train to his home in Offenbach and spent most of the day planning and strategizing for the tour.
That evening we kicked off our tour with an appearance at an underground punk show in Frankfurt featuring Scheisse Minnelli and Christ on Parade. Meike Schubert coordinated the event. The concert was held literally underground in a vast cold storage cellar that had been used as a bomb shelter during World War II. I even got to have my picture taken by a sign that was spray-painted onto the bricks where there was an airlock for gas attacks. We got to meet a number of active duty soldiers stationed in Heidelberg. Most were decidedly anti-war, and one in particular described his friends as his anti-war crew of “about three squads.” I see an IVAW chapter waiting to happen.
The next day we got on a train to Ansbach, but for an unrevealed reason, the track was blocked, and after an hour we had to turn around and go back to Frankfurt, then take a circuitous route that got us to Ansbach at about nine. We met Boris Meyer, of the Ansbach Peace Coaltion, and Vice Chairman of the citizen action group, Enough is Enough, who took us to the home of our host in Ansbach, Jurgen Wangler, where we had a reception and a BBQ.
That evening we went to Darnell’s favorite hangout in Ansbach, Gazebo Billiards, which is a popular hangout for American troops stationed here. After making good on my promise to beat Darnell silly at the pool table, I got to meet with a number of soldiers who were grappling with their upcoming deployments to Iraq. One of them wanted to challenge me to a game of pool and wanted to bet drinks, so I told him if he won I would buy him a drink, but if he won, he had to read our IVAW pamphlet. I won.
Talking to these guys wasn’t easy, but most of our discussions ended with me telling them that if they go to Iraq, they should only do so after making an informed decision and having “done your homework first.” They all seemed to take that to heart.
Today we got to sleep in and Tom and Jeff went to Nuremburg for the day to revisit their old stomping grounds. I am the only one in our group who has not been stationed in Germany. I stayed back to translate our statement for the press conference tomorrow and continue planning with Boris. The advanced text of that statement is here below:
Statement for Press Conference 070514
We are Iraq Veterans Against the War. My name is Adam Kokesh and I served in Fallujah from February to September of 2004 with a Marine Corps Civil Affairs Team. Tom Cassidy served in Ba’qubah from February 2004 to February 2005 as a battalion logistics coordinator with the First Infantry Division. Jeff Englehart served in Ba’qubah from February 2004 to February 2005 as a Cavalry Scout with the First Infantry Division.
Iraq Veterans Against the War has three objectives. First and foremost, bring the troops home now. And when we say the troops, we mean all the troops. It doesn’t matter if they’re wearing an Army uniform, a Marine Corps uniform, a Navy uniform, an Air Force uniform, a Bechtel uniform, a CACI uniform, a Blackwater uniform, a KBR uniform, or a god-damned Halliburton uniform. And when we say now, we don’t mean six months from now, or eighteen months from now, or fifty years from now. Now means now.
Second, take care of the troops when they get home. Support the troops means support the veterans. We have troops returning from Iraq with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injury, missing limbs, and depleted uranium poisoning. The US government refuses to acknowledge the problems associated with depleted uranium, and troops cannot get tested. Of the 1.5 million veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, only one fourth of them have left the military and we are already seeing the inadequacies of the Department of Veterans Affairs. And there is no plan to accommodate the other three quarters. And yet the President of the United States still claims to support the troops.
Third, pay reparations to the Iraqi people. America owes them a debt, which we will never be able to repay. But we can try to put this behind us by acknowledging what we have done, apologizing, and attempting to make amends.
We are here to reach out to active duty members of the United States military stationed in Germany and let them know what they can do to help stop the US occupation of Iraq. Soldiers need to know that when they decide to resist, they will have the support and thanks of the global moral majority.
We are also here to support the German peace movement. As in the United States, protestors are often dismissed as ignorant and childish, but with the voices of veterans backing them up, they have the credibility they deserve. It is clear that real change will not come from your government or ours, but rather from the righteous voice of compassion.
The people of Ansbach have chosen to stand up not only to the imperialism of the United States, but also their own country’s history of complicity. The US military has long chosen its own tactical advantage over the consideration of the people in the communities that it affects and claims to protect. It is sad that it has taken so long for Germans to make this stand, but we support them in their opposition.
Germany has long been complicit in America’s aggression. There is no longer any valid premise for the vast American presence in this country. It is not for your security or benefit, but supposedly for the benefit of America, and it is not in the world’s best interest. The lesson of World War II should not be to remain silent during the next war of aggression.
In the words of Dante Alighieri, “The hottest layers of hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crises maintain their neutrality.
On behalf of all peace loving people of the world, wir shweigen nicht!