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.