Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Last Action in Ansbach/The Stand Off

The IVAW German Expeditionary Team left Berlin Wednesday morning for Ansbach. After a harrowing run-in with autobahn traffic, we pulled up to the base at Katterbach just in time for the demonstration being hosted by the Ansbach Peace Coalition and the Ansbach Appeal. Reverend Hansjörg Meyer began with a speech, and I followed:

My fellow Americans,

My name is Adam Kokesh and I am a veteran of the occupation of Iraq. I served in Fallujah from February to September of 2004 with a Marine Corps Civil Affairs Team.

America is in a state of crisis. We are fighting a supposed war on the other side of the world, and there is no end in sight. It is draining our country of the financial resources to address the problems that face us at home and draining the lives and youths of Americas best and brightest. You are all patriots for putting on the uniform you wear today. I once wore such a uniform with great pride myself.

As Thomas Jefferson said, “Dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” That is why we are here today representing Iraq Veterans Against the War. I can only ask you to think for yourselves. As you prepare to deploy, I know that you are struggling with the reasons and rationalizations for our presence in Iraq. When I was there, I told myself, “At least we’re keeping the fight off American soil.” But for every insurgent we kill, there are two to kill the next day. We are making more enemies than we can count.

As patriots and citizens of the United States, you have certain rights, but with those rights come responsibilities. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom. We must be vigilant to threats from within as well as from abroad. Ask yourself, where is the greater threat coming from? As General George Washington said, “When we assumed the Soldier, we did not lay aside the Citizen.”

I would not ask anyone to desert lightly, and I do not do so here today. I only ask that you ensure your actions are commensurate with your responsibilities as a United States citizen and patriot. Know your rights, explore your options. Learn what it means to be a conscientious objector. Succeed where I have failed. Should you choose to desert, the people of Ansbach will support you. It is not without great courage and consideration that they extend this offer. I hope you can appreciate that.

On behalf of Iraq Veterans Against the War, thank you for listening with an open mind.

Then Thomas Cassidy, Jeff Englehart, and Chris Capps spoke. Chris told the story of his recent desertion. Then while Darnell Summers was speaking, and very effectively interacting with the troops passing by, Chris got in some trouble. Here is the story in his words:

I wasn't feeling that good after the long ride down to Ansbach so I gave a small speech. I just told my story of how I deserted. I knew Darnell had gotten a large reaction for quoting me and calling for soldiers to desert so it wasn't a giant surprise to me that I got a reaction from the "authorities" as well. First a uniformed polizei came up to me in the middle of the crowd and asked for my identification. He said, "The Army is looking for a Man named Capps but I don't think its you." He said they had a picture of this Chris Capps and it didn't look like me. At the point I decided to get the fuck out of there. The polizei wasn’t telling me to stay there or trying to detain me or anything so Meike and I walked to the van. People in civilian clothes and MP's followed us to the van. I got into the van but before Meike got into the van she was stopped by one f the people in civilian clothes. They lifted up their shirt to reveal a badge on their belt; they explained to Meike they were criminal polizei. The MP's then walked up to us and asked for my ID. I claimed I didn't have my military ID and handed them my passport. The CSM in charge of the MP's asked me if I was a marine (???????) and looked at a picture in his hand and compared it to me on my ID. I tried to pass off my military ID to Meike's back pocket but one of the polizei saw me and took my military ID. I thought they were getting ready to take me into custody on the spot but I heard them talking about the protest and at that point Michael Sharp from the Military Counseling Network showed up. Its is very easy to mistake Michael Sharp for a lawyer the way he acts and then cameras from the press started showing up and taking pictures. I knew my odds had just gone up then. The polizei started hassling the camera people and the MP CSM was on the phone trying to call up a patrol car to come pick me up. I told them that I was on leave until I was processed out of the army. Technically I am still under the MP's jurisdiction and they still could have taken me into custody, but then I told a young E-5 mp that I was on leave. He immediately asked to see my leave form, which I provided. He showed it to the CSM, they talked for a little while and analyzed the situation and then realized there was no just reason to detain me and that detaining me in front of what they thought was a lawyer, press, cameramen, and a protest would not be a good situation.

After that incident, I had noticed some soldiers gathering by the gate on the inside, and I decided that I would see if I could still get on base with my military ID to talk to them. I walked up to the gate and handed the private security guard my ID and driver’s license. He gave them back to me, and said to wait, then exchanged a few words in German with another guard, who said something about not letting me on. Then the first guard asked to see my IDs again. I said, “That’s OK. If you’re not going to let me on, why should I show them to you?” Then one of the MPs got involved and asked to see my military ID. I told him that I didn’t trust him, but I would hold it where he could see it. Then he asked to have it again. “Look, Sergeant, I don’t trust you. Is that too hard to understand? You can see my ID just fine without touching it.” “OK, can I see the back?” I flashed him the back and he got a call on his cell phone. “What? Did you need to get my social security number?” Then he said to no one in particular, “It’s OK, we’ve already got his social.”

The second guard emerged from the guard shack holding a small piece of paper and held it up in front of me. He said, “Yes, it’s him,” in German. I said, “Was ist das? Warum habst du das photo? Ist das mir in das photo?” “What is that? Why do you have that photo? Is that me in that photo?” He ignored me, so I said, “Was ist los? Kannst du sprachen?” “What’s wrong, can’t you talk?”

I chatted with the PFC who had the misfortune of being at the gate that afternoon, and had a nice conversation about living on the east coast. All the while, his Sergeant was there on the phone. Eventually the Polizei came up to me and told me that I wasn’t going to be allowed on base and they would arrest me if I went on base. I told them I was cool just hanging out at the gate, and so I did, just chatting with soldiers as they went by.

Later that night we had our send-off BBQ at Bernard’s house, and I must say, Germans grilling put American BBQs to shame. When we were finally able to tear everyone away, the students we had met with from the SDP presented us with some beautiful IVAW key chains that they had made for us. Then we were finally able to give Yana the time for her interview, which went until two in the morning. Then it was back to Flachi’s to get an hour’s sleep before catching the train to Frankfurt for the flight home. But that was just for Jeff and I. Tom had decided to stay in Germany until the G8. He doesn’t have any money, or a job, but he has lots of friends in Ansbach.