Monday, February 11, 2008

A Chance Encounter With GOE National Director for Operations Chris Hill, An Apology, and a Challenge

On my way to a speaking engagement at Wesleyan yesterday, I ran into Chris Hill. I was at Union Station in DC when he approached me, got in my face, and asked me if I wanted to hit him. “Remember, ‘heaven help this guy.’ This is your chance. Take your best shot.” Of course, I had no intent to physically harm him, but he was very angry about the story that I reposted on this blog about him. I repeatedly asked him why he was so angry, and he started to calm down.

He explained to me that after the incident on September 15th of last year and the allegations that he had beat up gold star father Carlos Arredondo, he had received numerous threats, including one against his three-year-old daughter. I won’t get into the details of the event that day, but he claims that when Carlos was surrounded by members of GOE, he was trying to help him and that Carlos later thanked him. I have not been able to confirm or disprove this and there is no clear evidence to show that’s what he was doing. There are only the photos that show he was there and various conflicting accounts of what happened. However, the version of events that I posted here accused him of harming Carlos. He believes that this has contributed to some of his personal harassment. I have apologized to him personally, and would like to publicly apologize now for using unnecessarily inflammatory language.

I have also received death threats for my activism, and can relate to what he has experienced. The people that do this, for whatever reason, are usually mentally disturbed. There are certain things that those of us in the public debate say that can trigger them, and the language that I used may have done so. I hope that everyone who may read this realizes that things said in the public arena can have repercussions in private lives, and for those of us that have any kind of platform, we need to take this seriously.

It turned out that Chris and I were on the same train, and so when the call for final boarding came, we walked and talked our way through the gate and onto the platform. He was still quite agitated at this point, but when there was no one else on the platform, I suggested we board before we get left behind. We ended up talking in the aisle by the bathroom on the train for the next hour.

It turns out that Chris Hill and I have a lot in common. We both believe that Americans in general don’t have nearly enough of an idea of what goes on in Iraq to appreciate what our troops are going through. We both believe that going into Iraq was a mistake. We both believe that the war has been grossly mismanaged. We both believe this country needs to do a better job of taking care of veterans. Surprisingly, we both consider ourselves libertarian. (At least with a little “L.”) Chris also describes himself as “socially liberal,” and told me about how he actively supports pro-choice causes.

We talked a lot about Winter Soldier, and although he wants veterans to tell their stories, he kept saying, “I disagree with your tactics.” He asked if he could attend Winter Soldier along with Pete Hegseth, the ED of Veterans For Freedom and I told him that we would at least consider it. There may be a lot to be said for inviting the most scrutinizing eyes possible to hear the testimony. We are putting so much effort into our verification process, that I know we will all be proud to stand behind the veracity of the testimony.

Now, he described himself as libertarian, but only as a framework. I am a libertarian not as a framework, but rather as a matter of principle. The fundamental principle of libertarianism is the non-initiation of the use of force, or as it says on the back of my Libertarian Party lifetime membership card, “Statement of Principles - We hold that all individuals have the right to exercise sole dominion over their own lives, and have the right to live in whatever manner they choose, so long as they do not forcibly interfere with the equal right of others to live in whatever manner they choose.”

Because Chris’s political views are not grounded in principle, they are subject to circumstance. By contrast, I extend the principles of liberty into a foreign policy of free trade, and non-intervention. In regards to why we need to stay in Iraq, he repeatedly referenced 9/11. Chris is not stupid, and made it clear that he understands there is no direct link between 9/11 and Iraq, “but 9/11 changed things.” Tragically, he’s right. 9/11 gave our “leadership” a chance to change things by exploiting the fear it caused in average Americans.

Before 9/11, we knew how the world was growing smaller and how technology changed the threat of terrorism. Suicide “bombers” hijacking airplanes to use as missiles could have happened decades ago. 19 guys with box cutters do not by themselves justify an entire reorientation of our foreign policy to justify a preemptive strike doctrine. Chris believes they do. His theory of the manipulation of the intelligence process that led us to believe in the big yellow cake lie is that a few eager to please hacks at the CIA made a mistake. Knowing Cheney’s involvement in the process, that’s hard to believe.

He thinks that the war has been mismanaged, but now has faith in “the surge” and General Petraeus. I had to point out that “THE surge” is really the third or fourth surge, it’s just the first to be advertised as “the surge.” He agreed, but believes that the change in tactics is significant enough to give it a chance, and that “winning” is the important thing. I have a bad feeling that if we stay in Iraq for a hundred years as McCain suggests, there will be a new strategy every two years, and there will always be people saying, “but this time the new strategy is going to work.”

This is how people in abusive relationships view their partners. “I know he hurts me, but he really loves me.” “I know he’s lied in the past, but this time it feels like he’s telling the truth.” “We’ve been through so much, I have to give him one more chance.” The American people seem to be behaving a lot like the kind of person who goes from one abusive relationship to another, always desperate to believe what we are being told, always hoping for something better, and even now, after realizing how bad Bush has been for us, we look to the next leader, hoping things will be better. But until we change, the leadership won’t. Despite repeatedly being lied to, most of us so desperately want to believe our government.

While Chris is generally a good guy, an assertive one no doubt, and a proud veteran who has served honorably, he seems to represent a tragic part of today’s American psyche. We were attacked, and we are afraid. We have been lied to, but we want to believe. We know how we are being screwed, but we let it continue. We know that people are dying every day in Iraq, and we can’t stop talking about Heath Leger. We know that torture is being done in our name and we go back to watching TV.

Towards the end of the conversation, I asked Chris, “So with all of our common beliefs and shared objectives, where does this conversation leave us? What can we do to work together to achieve our shared objectives?” That was when he challenged me to a boxing match. I thought he was joking, but we tossed the idea around a bit and decided that we could do it as a fundraiser for a charity we both support like the Disabled American Veterans or Homes For Our Troops. Someone I mentioned the idea to said, “Why don’t you just have a debate?” “Because no one would come.” At least not nearly as many as would come to see “the anti-war movement” versus “the pro-war movement” duke it out in a boxing ring. And this way we could sell tickets and actually raise some serious money for a good cause. Of course for fairness’s sake, we would have to find a charity that would host it, so that neither of our organizations have anything to do with putting the event together. Given that, Chris, I officially accept your challenge. Let’s do it for our shared American values.


Army Sergeant said...

Adam, though I'm sure the timing is entirely coincidental, I really appreciate you being a positive example of the kind of dialogue to have. We don't hate anyone-we disagree with them. We hope that they will come to see things the way that we do, but we respect their right to do otherwise.

I think I can get long with this, so I'm going to put it up as a separate post on my blog.

LT Nixon said...

I think there's plenty of room in the veteran community for public debate and discourse. But flinging insults around and calling names just plays into the hands of the pundits and furthers the rifts in this country. I'm also a libertarian with a big L from time to time. But I have a different idea about what should be done in Iraq than you do. I don't see it as a problem, but rather an important part in finding a new paradigm for this country through public discourse.

Anonymous said...

Hi, after reading this post I just wanted to add an apology as well. I remember the comment I wrote for the 'heaven help this guy...' post, it included an off-color joke about Chris Hill and an assumption of his guilt.
Of course I was just being sarcastic, but after I wrote it, though I thought it was funny, I did feel a little bad about it because I never met the man and didn't know much about him. It may not be a big deal, I have no false impression that my words in these comments would carry much influence, but I am responsible for anything I put out here in public.
I apologize if my sarcasm added in any way to the negative backlash Mr. Hill and his family endured following the Sept. 15th incident.

I based my reaction on what I read about the Sept. 15th incident, the video footage which angered me, and also on some taped speeches that I viewed of Mr. Hill. I didn't much care for his attitude or the actions of those he was with.
But, while I don't agree with some of the tactics or beliefs presented by the GOE, I definetly would never endorse violence and stated so in my previous post. The idea that Mr. Hill and his family, especially his little daughter, would recieve death threats is very distressing. And Adam, I've heard you refer previously to recieving threats as well, and I've read some comments on other websites here and there discussing violence against you- I'm sure it's just alot of false bravado, but no one should be threatened simply for stating their beliefs.

One thought, when I viewed some of Hill's speeches, it did occur to me that both groups(GOE and IVAW) share a similar passion for caring about this country, our soldiers, and all veterans, as do many Americans who oppose each other politically. It would be refreshing if this similar desire for the betterment of our country could be fused together somehow to accomplish our goals.

Anyway, I just wanted to add my thoughts because of my reaction to that previous post. Thanks.


...of course, if there is a boxing match, my bet is on you, doesn't he know what he's up against with those arms of yours?!!! ;)

lightbringer said...

All Right: LET'S GET READY TO RUMBLE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Adakar said...

Nice post Adam. It's indeed refreshing to see an apology. I think that many of us, on both sides of the issue, have similar concerns and we could certainly find middle ground. The situation in Iraq must be won, we must continue until the country is stable enough to withstand the terrorists.

I'll put my money on Chris. :)

Anonymous said...

Adam, I love your refreshingly open minded Blog. Obviously, Republicans won't feel welcome, but it's not your fault! ;) You are my gr8 think tank, baby! Preach it A.K.!!

Anonymous said...

Hey brother,

I'll take some of that action, too. I've got a 5-3-0 record and have my own equipment; still fight all the time. If GoE wants some of me too, I'll give it to them. I mean, it's for charity, right?

- Jon de Wald

JimPreston said...

Nice post, Adam. You allow comments, so I'll post a couple:

"I disagree with your tactics" is a classic technique for changing the subject of the debate. Don't fall for it.

So Hill was trying to help Carlos? Maybe he should have tried to help by NOT inviting a crowd of nativist violent goons to his rally?

Libertarianism is an intellectually empty concept. It works just fine for strong, intelligent, disciplined folks who are capable of taking care of all of their problems without any help. What about the rest of us?

Kenyon said...

Excellent post, much better than the one on GOE's blog about your chance encounter. I especially liked abusive relationship metaphor.

Anonymous said...

This is a great blog Adam. I am trying to reach out to my Canadian counterpart Michael O'Rourke right now. At the end of the day we're all human, regardless of nationality, or political opinion.

While I personally believe many people in the GOE are ill informed either intentionally or out of denial, or still hold on to the tenuous belief that we can win the war without simply killing everybody, or that it is preventing American lives from being lost(thats irony), I still hold out the hope that they are fundamentally good people who have been mislead. Either that, or they are a reflection of our president and aren't the brightest crayons in the box.

For being a Libertarian he does quite easily defend draconian policies that do not conform with libertarianism (Criticizing people who "use unauthorized photographs of American KIAs" for example? So he supports this politically expedient censorship?). Your counterpoints blog is not so flattering, but hey take it to the ring like gentlemen. That takes more guts then yelling at a 70 year old woman in Code Pink (an unconfirmed rumor from a code pink lady about GOE to me). He went so far as to assume someone who was in Fallujah has no idea of what is going on with Iraq. He believes we trust in the good graces of terrorists, and he is still delusional enough to think occupying Iraq and supporting a corrupt Iraqi government will bring human rights and freedom of expression in, even when polls show quite clearly that the vast majority of Iraqis want us out, and many support attacks on coalition forces. I'm not saying chaos won't break out when we leave initially or that Iraq will immediately turn into paradise long afterwards, but we're not building a democratic government (this puppet government will fall when we leave), and staying there longer is not really going to change things. In the end this is up to the Iraqi people to change things, and I would love to see them do so. Unfortunately this is very hard under occupation.

-Chris Capps-Schubert

hannah said...

I was with Carlos when Alex's photo was violently snatched from the casket near the end of the march Sept. 15. He had been rudely taunted both along the long 2 block stretch of Gathering of Eagles mid-route, and where I met up with him, where the GoE had regrouped, near the Capitol. If Mr. Hill had tried to keep his followers from spewing the vile things they said, perhaps the sad individual who ripped off the photo wouldn't have done it. They were all together, yelling and bringing up the hate, while Carlos kept his eyes straight ahead, which helped me also to walk by them for a second time (I had already reached the end of the march and seen Carlos' situation as I was leaving.) After the police let Carlos come back to the casket, there were a few people who came over from the GoE. George Samek, whose name I learned later from the GoE site, sort of commiserated with Carlos, said that we were using him though, but hugged him. Carlos had already met him before. There was no Chris Hill there apologizing to Carlos. I would be the first to remember him! Carlos has no recollection of that either.

As for the boxing match, I hope that doesn't happen, I see no benefit to that at all. I would contribute something to a favorite charity of yours, Adam, you don't have to resort to theatrics of a combative nature for that. It may seem like a symbolic gesture, but it is not. All we need is more stupid fighting.


Scott said...

Comparing this blog post to theirs didn't leave me surprised. On their post, he pretty much admitted to be itching for a fight regardless of the circumstances that got us into it. How is that a good thing? There are names for that type of attitude, from wanting to kill people that did nothing to us and are expectedly defending themselves, to wanting to beat you up legally in a ring.

They resort to saying we are "anti-freedom" and "traitors" among other things on their blog. Heck, they even have "moonbat" as a tag for their blogs. They posted a video calling an old women a commie when the guy interviewing was obviously more quick witted and aggressive, looking for an unprepared or easy target. After coming home from the sept 15 march last year, I watched it on CSPAN, to include their GOE event. I was disturbed then and am still disturbed now.

If wanting our troops home safe and alive so that they can recoup, fulfill their oath, and defend our own country is a treasonous, commie, moonbat mode of thought, then so be it. I'll inform Merriam-Webster immediately.