|Posted on Tue, Mar 4, 2008|
Iraq Veterans Against the War use walk along Lancaster Avenue to get their word out.
|By Jeff Cobb||MainLineLife Montgomery County, PA||http://tinyurl.com/38vpz2|
Having started in Philadelphia Saturday morning, the soldiers
marched up Lancaster Avenue, and camped in Bryn Mawr that night. Their
destination that they would reach the next day was the National
Memorial Arch at Valley Forge.
The group consisted of about 25 Iraq war veterans and active duty personnel. They wore desert camouflage and toted packs.But they were not performing a military function. They were war protesters.
Accompanied by a photographer, a videographer and others, their hope was to bring attention to their pending "Winter Soldier" event.
On March 13-16, testimony against the military will be offered at the AFL-CIO-affiliated American Labor College in Silver Springs, Md. just outside of Washington, D.C
A hundred or more Iraq and Afghanistan soldiers from Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) are expected to speak ( www.ivaw.org).Their group was inspired by the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW), which – with much help by star member and spokesman John Kerry – staged its own Winter Soldier in Detroit in 1971.
According to IVAW spokesperson Francesca Lo Basso, the group's aim is to achieve the following "points of unity":"1. Immediate withdrawal from Iraq
2. Securing benefits and proper compensation for vets3. Reparations for the Iraqis Lo Basso said the group, which is headquartered in Philadelphia and has chapters in over 40 states, intends to do nothing illegal, but "what's criminal is the war."
While U.S. Rep. Joe Sestak (D, 7th) – echoing the sentiment of the Democratically-led House – told this paper he would not call the war "illegal," the concept seemed to be commonly held among many that had come to offer support.And support there was. Outside the Ludington Library, the youthful male and female soldiers marched into a cheering crowd of about 25. These had been organized by the Bryn Mawr Peace Coalition, and representatives and members from other groups, including the VVAW and United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), a national peace organizer, were also in attendance.
But not everyone was there to offer approval.Across Lancaster Avenue, holding banners and large American flags, and decidedly outflanked was Raoul Deming, and a couple friends he'd brought to counter-protest.
Deming, 52, an engineer from Philadelphia is well respected in a growing coalition of conservative watchdogs.
He described himself as a "patriot." So for that matter did the people in the supporting crowd.
He said he represented the interests of America.
So did the protesters.
It seemed clear this was a clash of cultural extremes. All appeared well-meaning; sincere, with deeply held beliefs, but did they really understand each other?Deming described some of his concerns.
Since the days of John Kerry and Jane Fonda who were accused of offering aid and comfort to the Viet Cong, as were the VVAW, and several affiliated leftist and Communist organizations, the peace groups' methods have been the same, he said.
"There isn't anything IVAW's done that isn't a repeat almost exactly to what VVAW did in the 60s," Deming said.
Deming said their effect is to continually push leftist ideals, ideology and propaganda in an attempt to fundamentally change America. And they do it while saying they are for peace and purely humanitarian and benign causes, but with this, he disagrees.
To Deming, the leaders of several influential groups are not just pacifists, they are actually rooting against the U.S., actively encouraging its enemies to use whatever means necessary to kill U.S. occupiers, he said.
How can he say this? He offered much information, but included in his evidence was the World Tribunal on Iraq held in Istanbul, June 23-27, 2005.
This was a gathering that found the U.S. guilty of pursuing a criminal war.
Deming said Tim Goodrich from IVAW had testified there, and key people from the IVAW and other affiliated U.S.-based peace groups participated and signed off on its findings.
Issued against the U.S. and the U.K. was a "Declaration of the Jury of Conscience." It scolded the allies for failing to obey international law, and "millions" of voices around the world who protested.Of the Iraqi insurgents it said, "It is the occupation and brutality that has provoked a strong armed resistance and certain acts of desperation."It goes on to say their actions are "legitimate and justified." To Deming's ears, the endorsement of "certain acts of desperation" is clearly code to U.S. enemies that they are not accountable if they continue in their tactics. Deming said their tactics include targeting civilians, and violating the Geneva Convention by posing as civilians so they can kill more Americans.
"They haven't asked the other side to stop fighting. They've told the other side to continue; your cause is right, the UN charter is on your side, international law is on your side," Deming said, "There is no peace sign big enough to hide the shame for not morally distancing yourself from groups who are getting our troops killed."
When they participate in protests with national organizers like International A.N.S.W.E.R. (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), and UFPJ, Deming said local peace groups effectively lend support to the goals of these groups' Communist leaders who do not just want the war to stop, they want the U.S to lose.
"If the Ku Klux Klan had a peace march tomorrow, you wouldn't go because you wouldn't even have to think about it," Deming said. "It's not about peace; and their aim isn't peace. So why does ANSWER get a pass?"
For her part, Jane Dugdale, a leader for the Bryn Mawr Coalition for Peace, and MoveOn, said she had never heard of a treaty encouraging the other side to target U.S. troops or their own civilians.
And David Gibson of UFPJ said that Communists such as the Workers World Party, though involved, are a "very small part of the peace movement."
To them, Deming was surely off base.
But was he? According to Deming, International ANSWER is a front group for the World Workers Party, with both groups sharing key leaders (See: www.discoverthenetworks.org).An active duty IVAW soldier there, Sgt. Selena Coppa, 25, offered her thoughts on Deming.
"I think that we both believe in the same flag, I wish they could understand that, you know, that I love this country, and it's what I do. I love the Army, you know I love being a non-commissioned officer in the Army, I love my soldiers,"Coppa said,"and its because I believe in that that I have to speak up against the Iraq War which is hurting my soldiers, hurting my country, and hurting everything that I love that's good and great about America."As for Deming's concerns for a Communist leaning, or ultra leftist agenda being foisted on the public, her reply did not address American subversives but dismissed Deming for fears he did not actually have.
"Communism is not a threat anymore. Its not relevant, we're not fighting Russia anymore, the Cold War is over," Coppa said. "It is silly that they're still acting on their fear of it. It's almost painful for me to see people spending so much time and effort on incorrect ideas."
Coppa then went on to explain the difference between patriotism and blind nationalism. She said she felt Deming must promote the latter.
Ultimately, however, Coppa said really she did not know what Deming's ideas were, but was sure that what ever they were, he was wrong anyway.
So were Deming and company just puppets for Bush?
"You know I don't even, I would-n't know or to care really,"Coppa said, "It's, I think they are really misguided individuals but I don't know who they politically support, and you know, it doesn't really matter to me."Coppa said her group was "non-partisan," felt sure that she was doing the right thing, and many more soldiers who have yet to come forth also agree that it's time to leave Iraq.
Bill Perry, executive director for the Delaware Valley Veterans For America ( www.vfp144.org), and a national coordinator for VVAW, citing Thomas Paine from 1776, had also praised the soldiers while marginalizing Deming.
"There's a heck of a difference between a sunshine patriot who claims this, who might spew platitudes as opposed to the guy who really goes out and fights what in those days they called the loyalists, the Tories, the King George line," Perry said, "and these guys want to do the exact same thing they want the oppose King George"
Of today? "Yeah, the son," he said of George W. Bush. "They're real true patriots," Perry said, "not like these phonies over here, most of whom have never served and if they did serve, they are a Cold War warrior they are not qualified or in a position to even speak about the horrors of combat and the deprivations, the fears "
Perry had been one of the original vets that testified to alleged mass war crimes of his era. At that time 46 testimonies were followed-up by military criminal investigators, but only one was ever corroborated. (See: www.wintersoldier.com).
Perry was asked if the U.S. should have gone to war.
"No," Perry said, "Sadaam Hussein wasn't worth one American death. He was our boy back in the '80s. Rumsfeld loved him, Reagan loved him, Bush the father loved him, till '91 when they set him up by telling [him] it was OK to go into Kuwait. They set him up, he went in but it all goes back to Ziggy Brzezinski who was Carter's State Department guy, and it was his idea, what he called 'the grand game,' how to take over the entire oil monopoly, you know, worldwide."
So is America waging an illegitimate war, and is it imperialist?
"I don't like phrases like who is legitimate or imperialist," Perry said, "I would never say 'America'because the people who make our policy and who control our policy, and sentenced our 4,000 youths to death aren't America; they are less than 1-percent who happen to control everything in America."
So (of those who Perry will not call "imperialist," but who rule the world), these leaders of America were not "America"?
"No, no," Perry said. "They are clearly international profiteers, they hang out in the South of France," he said of bankers and oil executives, and corporate powers un-named.
Does President Bush hang out in the South of France?
"Bush himself doesn't, I think he would if he could," Perry said, "He's just a flunky, someone who's a figurehead."Will the new Winter Soldiers allege war crimes?
"The policy allows war crimes," he said of an allegedly criminal military leadership, "The troops are basically doing what they're told."
Kelly Dougherty, executive director of the IVAW said, however, that terms like "war crimes" and "atrocities" were not fitting to what the soldiers intend to disclose this month.
Deming said he and others would be watching closely for what is ultimately alleged and worried that as during Vietnam, vets might feel an undeserved stigma.
In his interview, Deming who was pooh-poohed by critics from a distance, had anticipated and described what he believes are their fallacious arguments.
Even so, it is not as though he and opponents agree to disagree, he said. There is virtually a complete disconnect between Americans of such divergent ideological stripes, who all say they love their country, and dearly hope to help steer it toward what they think will be a brighter future.
|Posted on Thu, Mar 13, 2008||Zoom + | Zoom -|
|Readers respond to War of Words story|
To the Editor:
Jeff Cobb’s article “War of words reaches Main Line” was an excellent piece that truly lives up to that much-derided phrase "fair and balanced." I think there's a bit of confusion about whether the Iraq War is illegal. I believe the war is legal from the standpoint of domestic American law, it's just from the standpoint of international law that it should be officially defined as a "war of aggression." Of course, even that definition depends on whether you disbelieved the "Weapons of Mass Destruction" story, as I and many millions of others did prior to the beginning of the war.
It's entirely possible then, for U.S. Rep. Sestak to state unequivocally that the war was legal, to contradict people in the peace movement and for both sides to believe that they are speaking the truth.
As to the assertions of Raoul Deming, I believe he's reading too much into what he sees as what we "really" mean and not enough into what we say, i.e., into what we actually mean. I agree that ANSWER is a communist organization, but I marched in the ANSWER protests in the six months before the war started, and until United For Peace & Justice was up and running. Why? Because I was convinced that the war was a crime against humanity (See above, my assertion that it violates international law) without having to talk to any organized groups. ANSWER is to be congratulated for standing up and doing what was right at a time when the press and the political opposition both failed miserably to do so. I marched in ANSWER demonstrations despite the fact that they were a communist organization, not because they were. Now, I march with United For Peace & Justice because now that they exist, I can march with a more-ideologically-compatible group.
Richmond L Gardner, PN3(Ret), USN
To the Editor:
I was very disappointed with your paper's coverage of the Iraq Veterans Against the War march to Valley Forge from Philadelphia. (“Iraq Veterans Against the War use Walk along Lancaster Avenue to get their word out,” posted March 4 by Jeff Cobb).
Half the article was focused on the opinions of Raoul Deming, a so-called leader respected by “conservative watchdogs.” Why his opinions played such prominence in an article about anti-war Iraq Veterans marching against the Iraq war to publicize a Winter Soldier event later in the month was very strange.
We've all heard these ridiculous arguments before about “Communists infiltrating the peace movement during the Vietnam War.” For Jeff Cobb to focus on such immaturate thinking was very unprofessional and biased.
As we now know the Vietnam War, like the present Iraq war, was based on fabrications and lies. In 1964 it was the Gulf of Tonkin incident, in 2003 it was the non-existent WMD's. Given that these lies have been verified, the real “patriots” are the Iraq Veterans who marched to Valley Forge, not Mr. Deming.
To the Editor:
Thank you for your front page coverage of the Iraq Veterans Against the War (March 5-11). I salute those true patriots who, with veterans of Afghanistan will testify at hearings from March 13-16, letting the world know what the Bush administration does not want the world to know. If for some, carrying the American flag means being a patriot, for me there is no more patriotism in standing up against your government's lies and speaking out. Our new generation of Winter Soldiers are fighting for our freedoms, they are to be honored. Their stories will be told. Are you ready to listen?
The time has come. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MERdsMdApQU
To the Editor:
Thank you for the pictures by Pete Bannan and the story by Jeff Cobb about the Winter Soldier March last weekend through the Main Line ("War of words reaches Main Line," March 5-11, 2008). As your story indicates, the march was a preview of the much more important Winter Soldier hearings that will take place March 13-16 in Washington, D.C. and which anyone can listen to online at the Web site of the Iraq Veterans Against the War, www.ivaw.org. As Kelly Dougherty, executive director of the IVAW states, "Americans have heard from the generals, the pundits, and the politicians, but through Winter Soldier they will be able to hear the eyewitness accounts of those who experienced these occupations firsthand." I urge all those who want a complete picture of this war to listen in.