Thursday, May 17, 2007

Operation Ansbach Peace Herald, direct action by the IVAW German Expeditionary Team

Today, the IVAW German Expeditionary Team conducted its first on base action. Our host, Jurgen Wangler, drove the four of us to the US Army base in Ansbach. At the gate, we deployed Team 1, Chris Capps and Thomas Cassidy. Jurgen turned the car around and we watched as Chris used his military ID to get him and Tom on base.

Then Jurgen parked around the corner, and we deployed Team 2, Jeff Englehart and myself. When we got to the gate, the guard said that I couldn’t bring Jeff on with me because I was not registered in their system, even though I had a valid military ID. Jeff busted out the perfect story, “We’re backpacking around Europe, and we just wanted to come on base to use the PX. I just need to get some toiletries. See, I used to be in the Army too, but my ID is expired.” The guard suggested Jeff give me a list and wait for me. So I carried on alone.

Chris and Tom walked to the chow hall together, and got in line. While waiting in line, Tom had an awkward moment when he noticed that he was standing between two groups of soldiers he had met the night before at the Ansbach Spring Fest. They said, “What’s up?” and that was it. They paid and went through the chow line separately, then sat on opposite sides of the biggest room in the chow hall. When I got in, I saw Tom sitting at a table with a soldier and pretended that running into him was a coincidence. “Do you mind watching my gear while I get some chow? Anything good here?”

I got my chow and sat down next to him. The big screen TV in the corner was tuned to the Armed Forces Network, official TV station of the US military. It just so happened to be showing the O’Reilly Factor, and he was saying something about the “left wing hate machine” cranking up to slander Jerry Falwell right after his death. I made some offhand remark, and the soldier started talking about how much he hates O’Reilly.

I got up and put my tray onto the conveyor belt, then came back to Tom who did the same. Then it was time. I gave him the flyers from Jeff’s bag and walked to the far side of the room next to Chris. The flyers were just copies of this letter and the standard IVAW flyers. I said, in my commanding Marine Corps voice, “Can I have everyone’s attention please?” The room went silent and while Chris filmed, I read the following:

My name is Adam Kokesh and I am a former Marine and veteran of the occupation of Iraq. I am in Ansbach with the Ansbach Peace Coalition and I am here to deliver a message from the people of Ansbach:

May 17, 2007

To the American soldiers stationed in Ansbach,

The people of Ansbach support you, and you are welcome as always in our city. As we have always said, Americans are always welcome in Germany, just leave your guns at home.

As you know, twenty five hundred American Soldiers will soon be leaving this base to support the occupation of Iraq. Because of this, and the proposed expansion of this base, we are speaking out in opposition of the policies of the US government. But we want to make it clear that we stand in solidarity with the individual troops who are asked to sacrifice for the execution of these policies.

This Saturday, the 19th at 1430, we will have a demonstration in the middle of Ansbach to protest the use of German soil in the ongoing occupation of Iraq.

On Sunday, the 20th at 1700, we will be at the Shlossplatz praying for the victims of the war in Iraq. We pray for the people of Iraq, and the American servicemen who have died serving your country.

On Wednesday the 23rd at 1700 we will be at the gates of this base to protest the expansion of the base and the upcoming deployment.

Last August, the US Army announced its plans to expand this base and close off the road that runs through it. This would double the number of helicopters training here that wake us up in the middle of the night. This would also entail the theft of the land of local farmers, and necessitate that another road be built at the expense of the German taxpayers.

On Thursday the 24th, at 1000 during your farewell ceremony, we will be holding a vigil at the gates of this base to pray for your safe return.

You are all invited to join us this Friday for a beer at the Kammerspiele on Maximillian Street near the Gazebo at 1900. Please come meet with us to discuss the issues before us in a relaxed atmosphere.

Again, we support you, the troops who serve their country with honorable intentions to provide for your national defense, but we oppose the policies of the US Government that do nothing to defend America. If any of you should decide to leave the Army while in Germany and throw down your arms, the people of Ansbach will support you and do our best to provide you with aid, comfort, and sanctuary. We wish to build a new relationship between the people of Germany and the people of America on the basis of peace, reconciliation, and understanding.

Thank you,

The People of Ansbach

While I was reading the letter, an E-7 in ACUs came up to me and nearly whispered, “Can you stop reading that, please?” But I just ignored him and kept reading. Then he asked to see my ID and I kept reading. Then he walked away to harass Tom, who was “handling the literature.” The E-7 asked him how he got on post, and if he could see his ID, to which Tom gleefully replied, “No, I don’t think so.” The E-7 then made a few weak grabs at him and the flyers, which he ducked.

When I finished, I walked out into the entryway looking for Tom, who had been busy on the officers’ side of the chow hall. While Tom and Chris ducked out, an MP (Military Police) came in and one of the civilians working at the chow hall pointed me out to him. “Is everything alright, sir?” To which I replied, “Yeah, I’m cool.” Then walked out.

I saw Chris and Tom ahead of me on the sidewalk. They were being followed by the same E-7 that had harassed us earlier. After a few seconds, the group of soldiers walking behind him noticed that he had grabbed the wrong hat and was wearing one with a PFC’s insignia. He mumbled a weak excuse and kept following Tom and Chris. When they got to the gate, they were able to convince the German private security guard to give them Tom’s passport right before the E-7 tried to stop them. Tom grabbed it and ran down the street.

I saw the scuffle, and thought I should try to disassociate myself. I kept walking straight past the gate when the First Sergeant who was following me finally decided to let me know that he was actually following me. “Hey, you! Where are you going?” “Cash sales.” “You need to get out of here.” By then the civilian from the chow hall had caught up with us and was pointing at me. Since Tom and Chris had gotten through, I just kept walking to the gate. As I got to the security guard standing in the pedestrian passageway, the soldiers behind me started yelling. “Hey, stop that guy!” “Hey, you need to detain him!” “Stop him!” The security guard told me to stop and I just kept walking. He grabbed my sleeve, but didn’t even hold on. I turned the corner and just kept walking. I looked back and the First Sergeant was there watching me, but by then I was home free. Jurgen swung around the corner and I jumped in the car. As Chris passed the gate with his driver, the First Sergeant was left standing outside the gate, shaking his fist at the car with a look of perturbed confusion on his face.

A video of the action can be seen here.