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Veterans for Peace Convention
August 11-13, 2006
Veterans For Peace
Veterans For Peace Impeachment Petition and Charges
Veterans for Impeachment
By David Swanson
Remarks at Veterans for Peace convention, Seattle, Wash., Aug. 11, 2006
It's an honor to be speaking at a Veterans for Peace event. For as long as I've been working in the peace movement, VFP has been a powerful ally. To us nonveterans, veterans for war sometimes seem like a hostile and exclusive club. But veterans for peace have always treated me as a brother in the cause for peace. And I'm sorry that my brother Mike Ferner could not be here today. We'll be reading a letter from him, since he's under house arrest in the cause of justice.
By the way, if I stink it's because airport security took my deodorant. The guy who took it whispered that he loved my Impeach Bush and Cheney shirt. The pilots, flight attendants, and several of the passengers told me that as well. Sometimes I wonder whether I wear these shirts for all the compliments. But the compliments are usually accompanied by nervous laughter. People don't hear about impeachment on their televisions, and they don't think it can happen, much less that they themselves can help make it happen.
I spent several hours sitting in an airport catching up on Emails, and the loudspeakers kept playing a warning message over and over and over, a message that sounded to me like a Bush campaign ad aimed at instilling fear in people. The announcement went like this:
"Your attention please. Due to heightened security, please permit suspension of the Bill of Rights, the rule of law, and peace on earth. Your attention please…."
And on and on like that.
This message disturbed me, but the people around me did not seem to be hearing the same message I was. They mostly talked about how much they hated terrorists, and you could tell that they did not mean the world's top terrorists, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.
Britain's Home Secretary says the toothpaste and deodorant terrorists would have caused death on an unprecedented scale. The fact that we have killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis just does not exist for media outlets that report comments like that one.
I've even had my fellow activists tell me that the reason I don't believe a secret missile struck the Pentagon, the planes were fictional, the towers were blown up from inside, etc., is that I refuse to blame Bush for a crime as serious as 9-11. Bush has openly and proudly and illegally, fraudulently, brutally, and pointlessly slaughtered 300,000 Iraqis, and I'm supposed to be incapable of supposing he could kill 3,000 people?
Well, I haven't seen evidence that he did it, except through neglect, but I have seen incontrovertible evidence that he launched an illegal war on the basis of lies, detained people without charge or legal counsel, tortured people, and used illegal weapons – all actions that have endangered American service men and women. I've seen solid evidence, accompanied by public confessions, that Bush, Cheney, and gang have launched massive illegal operations to spy on Americans. I've seen Bush reverse 800 laws without signing statements.
And I heard two familiar lies escape Bush's lips yesterday, when he said our enemy was Islamic fascists, and when he said Americans are safer now than before 9-11. The origin of our danger lies not in the murderous intentions of a small number of Muslims, but in the massive crimes of the gang of thugs pushing our country in a fascist direction. And we are decidedly less safe with each passing year, our nation is more hated, terrorist incidents are more frequent.
Polls suggest that most of the U.S. troops in Iraq want to come home, but Bush says we should support the war to support the troops. Meanwhile it is the military holding the chickenhawks back from putting nuclear options on the table. Bush is using our troops for his power and profit. I've seen veterans for war make a point of pride out of being used. I recently spoke on a panel in San Diego and mentioned that Suzanne Swift had been lied to by recruiters. Paul Hackett was on the panel and said "You know, that's life."
Actually that's death for some of the young men and women who have been lied to and sent to Iraq. I'll tell you what's life. Life is doing what Ricky Cousing is doing, what Lt. Watada is doing, what everyone must summon the courage to do. And life is impeachment. This war cannot be ended except by removing Bush and Cheney from office.
So, we need to keep passing impeachment resolutions in towns and cities and pushing for passage of one in a state legislature. And we need to push impeachment if we are going to win. Beginning August this month.
We do not need to choose between impeachment and elections; we need to promote impeachment if we are going to win any elections.
We also need to take over our nation' capital. Beginning Sept. 5, we will establish Camp Democracy on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. This will be a camp for peace, justice, and impeachment. I'm happy to say that VFP will be part of Camp Democracy. Please join us: http://www.campdemocracy.org
Sheehan offers refuge to war deserters
It was at the Veterans for Peace national convention in Dallas last year that Cindy Sheehan says she was galvanized to seek a meeting with President Bush at his Crawford, Texas, ranch.
The result was a 26-day sit-down protest near Bush's ranch that attracted common folk and luminaries from across the nation, rejuvenating the anti-war movement.
On Thursday, Sheehan, who became a peace activist after her soldier son, Casey, was killed in Iraq in 2004, was at the Veterans for Peace national convention at the University of Washington.
Now almost 40 days into her fast supporting war resisters and their families, Sheehan, though weak, announced that she is offering land she bought in Crawford near Bush's ranch as a refuge for U.S. troops who desert to resist the war in Iraq.
"What is the noble cause that my son died for in Iraq?" Sheehan asked, echoing her remarks from last year as she spoke Thursday on the steps of the HUB on the UW campus.
Joined by conscientious objectors from the Vietnam War, the 1991 Persian Gulf War and Iraq, Sheehan said she decided to offer her land because 12,000 more U.S. troops are being deployed to Iraq, calling the war "this nightmare, and it's breaking my heart."
Sheehan is among what Veterans for Peace leaders bill as an "all-star cast of war resisters" in Seattle this week. At least 425 of its 5,000 membership signed up for the convention, which opened Thursday with calls for disengagement by the United States in Iraq and Israel in Lebanon.
Gray-haired veterans from the Vietnam War joined fresh-faced veterans from the current war. Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Seattle, a Navy psychiatrist who served in the Navy in California during the Vietnam War and an early opponent of the war in Iraq, is slated to speak to the group today.
Among a contingent of younger Iraq Veterans Against the War were several current service members.
One not wearing a name badge declined to reveal his identity. He said, with confirmation from his peers, that he was from the Seattle area, in his 20s, and had been "away-without-leave from a combat unit now in Iraq" for an undisclosed period of time.
The AWOL soldier said he decided to flee the Army after the invasion of Iraq because he believes the war illegal. He said he joined the military before 9/11 "because I had been to five different high schools and went through family problems. The military was a way to get friends and family structure." He said he first began considering risking prosecution for desertion after the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.
Being AWOL, however, has been "hell," he said, not only because of rifts in his family, but also because of "the uncertainty of not knowing if I will be caught as a deserter or if I should go public and turn myself in. I am constantly back and forth; it's always on my mind."
He will have more to think about at 9 a.m. today, when a fellow soldier he knows who also is AWOL -- Ricky Clousing, a 24-year-old Army sergeant and interrogator from Seattle who served in combat in Iraq -- appears outside the HUB with lawyers, relatives and supporters to announce he is turning himself in to authorities. He left Fort Bragg in 2005 after returning from Iraq with the 82nd Airborne Division.
Several members of the military supporting efforts against the war said they were careful to attend the convention on military leaves.
Christina Taber, 26, of Madison, Wis., is an Army reservist activated for 18 months who works in behavioral health at Camp Atterbury, Ind., where she hears stories from soldiers returning from war.
"I think hearing their powerful war stories motivated me to get involved" in the veterans efforts to end the war, Taber said.
Taber said she became a veteran for peace after a fellow soldier died in April 2003 before deployment to Iraq. The death was linked to the mandatory anthrax inoculation she received.
Damon Murphy, 26, of Minneapolis, meanwhile, a U.S. Navy submariner based in San Diego, said he joined the anti-war movement seven months ago. Murphy, who has 10 weeks to go on his enlistment, said he has no orders for Iraq but acknowledged that if he did, "I'd be in jail" refusing to go.
P-I reporter Mike Barber can be reached at 206-448-8018 or firstname.lastname@example.org.