Monday, April 24, 2006

Eddie Vedder on Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal

Here's an excerpt from Rolling Stone's Q&A that was recently published.

Why do you think the musical community has been so quiet recently about the war, about the president? Or maybe you don't think that?

I'm not sure what's out there. People like Steve Earle are a great example. He goes on Bill O'Reilly. It's beyond commendable. It's gutsy and I think a lot of it, it doesn't get heard. Or maybe people don't like to mess up a good time. I mean, we could talk about it in this interview, and it might not be the part that gets in. We could talk about Democrats and why they aren't leading an anti-war movement, are they waiting for a shift in the polls? We could talk about our country in ways outside the war, like why they refused to sign the Kyoto Protocol, in regard to environment. Why aren't we agreeing to strengthen the conventions on biological weapons? Why haven't we signed the ban on landmines? Why haven't we banned the use of napalm? They refuse to be subject to the jurisdictions of the International Criminal Court. They can get away with anything. If you highlighted the classic aspects of this war, find out who's fighting and who's dying, and why are there billions of dollars being spent on this war and schools are crumbling and 45 million people in the US don't have health insurance? This is all stuff I've been reading in a book on Iraq called The Logic of Withdrawal by Anthony Arnove. It seems like it's a class issue, because there are things going on underneath this spectacle of war, and the Bush administration is using it as a distraction for the ills of this country that are being not only ignored but exacerbated. But, is anybody else saying that in interviews, and are they being edited? I'm not sure. Right now, we are in a situation where the "Worldwide Suicide" song is getting airplay, and three years ago that might not have happened. After 9/11, they took "Imagine" off the air! It's interesting...I'm not sure why.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Campus Antiwar Midwest Conference

The Midwest conference for CAN (one of the national cosponsors of the tour) was held yesterday and Anthony was joined by Suzanne Adely of Arab Women Arising for Justice and Juan Torres Sr. (who spoke at the event on Thursday evening) for the closing plenary.

It was an excellent way to top off our few days here in the Chicago area. Link to the Traprock Peace Center to read Chris Schwartz's report on the conference and to listen to audio from the talks.

All photos in this post are copyrighted 2006 by Charles Jenks.

Friday, April 21, 2006

250+ in Chicago come out for Studs, Juan and Anthony

A big crowd came out last night for event at UIC. Juan Torres Sr. opened with very moving comments about his son, Juan Torres Jr. who served in Afghanistan and died in 2004.

Studs came on afterward and commented on listening to Juan, who's a member of Gold Star Families for Peace (the organization takes its name from the insidious practice of the military awarding gold stars to families whose loved ones are killed in combat)...he recollects first hearing the term at the young age of seven when the gold stars were handed out in the "war to end wars." As he pointedly remarked, gold stars were always given out in poor communities. Ever wonder why?

He talked about riding in cabs with drivers from countries that have been on the receiving end of the US military interventions—Angola, Chile, El Salvador—and having them be surprised that he would know anything about their home countries or be the slightest bit curious about them. Studs noted that for most people in the US, "every military adventure has been 'elsewhere.' " But switch the point of reference to your cab driver's, and "wars have always been close to us."

Studs and his sharp sense of history and clear solidarity with the oppressed and the poor was amazing; we were so lucky to have him speak.

On Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, he argued that it should be titled, Iraq: The Sanity of Withdrawal or even more accurate, The Insanity of Staying in Iraq.

Laura and Anthony continued with a great "in conversation" format in which they talked about some aspects of the book (and whetted people's appetite to buy it!).

Laura's first comment was about how there's a national Alzheimer's syndrome in regard to our history. Anthony responded that it was a more systematic and encouraged, denied, or a false history whether the arguments and justifications for the war hinge on bringing democracy to Iraq and the Middle East, saving the country from imminent civil war, etc. Anthony pointed out how Bush even explicitly uses the invasion and occupation of the Philippines as a model for the current campaign in Iraq. But if you look at the actual history of various military adventures the United States undertook, they resulted in brutal occupations that lasted years and often resulted in ensuing years of dictatorship.

Anthony reminded us of the oft-quoted I.F. Stone statement: "Governments lie." And in this current war and occupation of Iraq the selling of endless war the paradigm certainly fits.

The Q&A brought out once again the million-dollar issues: What will happen if the US leaves? Why is the Democratic Party playing the role of loyal "opposition" rather than openly challenging the war? "I'm for withdrawal, but I'm not quite convinced of the need for that to happen immediately." Dennis Brutus was a surprise guest in the audience who made the final comment of the evening that it was high time to rebuild a movement for withdrawal now.

Many thanks to our friend, Eric Ruder, for the great photos!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Sir! No Sir!

This movie has been mentioned in all our tour stops. It's an excellent documentary about the GI revolt during the war in Vietnam. It's opening today in Manhattan and is reviewed by the New York Times. A good complement is Soldiers in Revolt by David Cortright, which tells much of the same story, in book form.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Drew, Anthony and Howard draw 150+ in Boston

Last night more than 150 people showed up to hear Drew, Anthony, and Howard make the case for withdrawal from Iraq. The majority of the crowd was students at Northeastern University and there was a lot of energy and excitement. The event was kicked off with greetings by John Moore of the National Lawyers Guild at Northeastern University (one of the local cosponsoring groups). He welcomed folks on behalf of NU Law School and the National Lawyers Guild. He explained "The NLG speaks in many voices and works on a diverse array of causes. However, there is one issue on which we speak together in one voice ….and that is the issue of the war and occupation in Iraq. We feel the need to consistently take a clear and united stand against what the US is doing in Iraq."

It was Drew's first time speaking publicly about his experience serving in Iraq and his comments touched on a number of issues: he was not gung-ho when he went, but was further convinced through his experience that the war was wrong; the hypocrisy of the US's stated goals and aims for the occupation versus its actions in practice; the shameful way soldiers were treated there (exposure to depleted uranium); the brutal disregard for Iraqi civilians, and the simple questionnaire filled out upon completion of service; etc. Anthony gave a summation of the points raised in his book, and put forward a clear and compelling case as always. Howard finished off with comments and insights about the nature of democracy, the importance of historical perspective, and the necessity of individual and collective action for social change.

The Q&A was more wide-ranging than some of the other events. Just a few examples of note: Is it possible to just oppose the war as a human issue versus a "political" question of Democrat versus Republican or Left and Right? Anthony responded by clarifying that "politics" does not just mean Democrat or Republican and that the book calls for the antiwar movement to take a stand that is distinct from and independent of the weak "opposition" of the Democratic party. Another audience member spoke about the "El Salvador" option and whether that was indeed the route being pursued in Iraq. Others revisited the connection drawn in Anthony's comments about the positive example of the immigrant rights movement and its recent explosion onto the streets.

These comments below are from Julie Keefe, one of the organizers of the event in Boston:

As the 2006 election season approaches, it seems like most politicians are angling to run their campaigns on nearly any issue that is not Iraq. Additionally, the antiwar movement is struggling to overcome its own underconfidence and confusion—and did not organize a massive national protest on the third anniversary of the war. Even though the antiwar majority has not yet found mass organized expression in the streets, John’s opening comments were a timely reminder that despite the best efforts of Bush and Co. the war in Iraq is still the issue in US politics. This is true because of the unparalleled scale of the injustice being committed there and because of the depth of anger and antiwar sentiment amongst people in the US that is reflected in poll after poll.

No one is able to speak to the reality of the situation in Iraq better than those who have seen it. Iraq Veterans Against the War member Drew Cameron was in Iraq for eight months, starting in April 2003. Drew was in the audience at the End the War tour stop in Burlington, VT. After meeting him, some (smart!) person on the tour asked Drew if he would be willing to get in his car the very next day to drive 4 hours and speak at the Boston event…and he agreed! All of us in Boston are very grateful for that. He added so much to the event. He started by giving the audience a picture of his first impression of Iraq—which was of the huge, oppressive black cloud of thick smoke (and its smell) that hung overhead from burning waste. In conversations after the event, several people recalled that a similar image and smell was burned in the memories of those who witnessed the US devastation of Vietnam.

Drew told a moving story that illustrated the contradictions between what the US military claimed it was in Iraq to do… and what it was actually doing. There was a sign over the door at his base that said “Working Together with the Iraqi People for Peace and Prosperity”. He recalled one day when in a convoy moving into Baghdad (because the huge military vehicles move slowly) regular cars were always passing the military vehicles. At one point, a regular car had pulled in between two of the military vehicles, looking to pass them. Without warning, the first military vehicle stopped short. The car behind it tried to stop short, as did the military vehicle behind the car. However, the heavy military vehicles cannot stop quickly and the car was crushed between the huge vehicles. Drew and other soldiers got out of their vehicle to see an Iraqi father desperately pulling his bleeding son from their destroyed car. As Drew began to think of what could be done, the soldiers received their orders to get back in their vehicles and move the convoy along… leaving the injured father and his severely injured son stranded, with no transportation or possible way to get to a hospital. As they pulled away, Drew recalled his horror. “We had medics, trained medics and supplies with us…and we were ordered to leave them there”. The sign above the door at his base came into his mind. “Working Together with the Iraqi People for Peace and Prosperity.” He was able to give a real sense of how a sign like that can go from representing some sort of ideal or lofty goal to being a sick, cruel joke in the eyes of so many soldiers in Iraq.

Drew also told us about the construction of permanent military bases with huge generators, dining halls, even stores where you could purchase “Operation Iraq Freedom” key chains and other memorabilia! He saw a mini-city constructed at the Anaconda military base in a few short months. This raised serious questions in his mind about how long the US was planning to stay in Iraq. He left us with another haunting question. “Why couldn’t the same thing be done in New Orleans?”

Drew’s final point was about the slogan of “Support the Troops.” The people in the Bush administration and Congress who tell people in the US to support the troops are complete hypocrites, he said. The Veterans Administration budget was recently cut so that medical facilities will not just be unable to expand to meet the growing medical needs of returning soldiers BUT they will not even be able to continue operating at their current capacity and level of services… they will have to scale back services just as the need becomes greater than ever! Drew's message was “If you want to support the troops, bring them home immediately.”
Anthony Arnove started by reminding us that a Zogby poll showed that 72% of the troops in Iraq think the US should pull out ASAP, with 23% of them saying the pull out should be right now. Anthony had so many useful polls, articles, statistics, quotes and articles. It can be so hard to find real information about Iraq amidst all the lies and garbage and Anthony’s information and analysis was just what many audience members were looking for. One thing that particularly stuck with me was that the Red Cross's own estimate is that 70%-90% of the prisoners in Abu Ghraib are being held for no reason at all!

Anthony went through a useful history of the lies that have been used to justify the war and occupation. First, there was the series of different lies that were used to justify the invasion (WMDs etc., etc.). Now the format of the Administration’s lies sounds like “Once we do [FILL IN THE BLANK], then things will be stabilized and we can start to pull out.” Whether the blank was filled in with “capture Saddam” or “have elections for an Iraqi government,” the excuses turned out to be lies. Now it is especially ridiculous that Bush is saying “We will leave when the insurgency is put down…” or “We will leave when the threat of civil war is removed…” It is the US occupation that is the reason for an insurgency and the source of sectarian conflict! This logic only serves to put the time for US withdrawal at some undetermined point in the future that can always be pushed back and is NEVER NOW. It’s like giving someone a long brutal beating, with the perpetrators all the while telling the victim that they won’t stop until the victim stops struggling and stops bleeding.

In addition to revealing the flawed logic of the “withdraw later, continue the occupation now” perspective, Anthony quoted from Bush administration National Security Strategy documents to highlight the REAL aims of the war and occupation—which have everything to do with controlling the oil resources of the Middle East. Whoever is positioned to control those resources will be the top dog in the world economy in the coming years. National Security documents lay out the US government’s central concern—which is “preventing the emergence of peer competitors.” Halliburton, Bechtel and their reps in government can’t afford NOT to be in control of Middle East oil if they want the US to remain the sole superpower dominating the world. Meanwhile, regular people in the US and around the world pay the price in blood and living standards. Anthony made a clear and powerful case that the longer the US is there, the worse it gets. Every day that the US is there is a day closer to civil war and a day further from democracy, rebuilding and decent lives for Iraqis. A student I spoke to was very excited by Anthony’s presentation. She said “I have never heard all that stuff said all together and with so much information. I wish I could have brought all my friends.”

It was awesome to have Howard Zinn speak at the Boston tour stop! He was able to put the discussion of withdrawal from Iraq in broader political and historical perspective. He reminded us that what the US is doing in the world is not the result of the people in the US, but the “group of aliens” who have taken over and run our country. He was a very funny speaker. But he was serious in making the point that the problem is bigger than the Bush administration.

The Democrats are not an opposition party. There is no opposition party in this country. And when there is no opposition party, the people must the opposition party, the people must organize themselves to be the opposition. This was heartily applauded. He said that, although it might not seem like it sometimes, history shows us that governments are not all-powerful. They need regular people to do all the work, to make everything and to be the soldiers in their wars. Without that, they are helpless. The recent victory in France is a powerful example of that. He reminded us that governments always tell their soldiers and citizens that their wars for empire and conquest are in the name of “spreading democracy.” This is necessary because we would never support the true intentions of their wars. But people begin to see through the lies. He pointed to the Soldiers' Rebellion during the Vietnam War as one of the most decisive, yet least known-about aspects of the movement that ended that war, leaving many of us interested in learning more about that history. A book Soldiers in Revolt and a movie Sir, No Sir were mentioned by the speakers. He spoke powerfully about the movements of the 1960s and 70s and raised important questions about the fundamental nature of a system that NEEDS war. He was a great speaker—so funny, humble, engaging and knowledgeable.

The audience of people had many questions and comments—more than there was even time for… many interesting questions and debates came up. Several questions were about what would happen in Iraq when the US pulls out and another asked how exactly Iraq would get rebuilt. Other important debates that came up were on the questions of “does protest matter?” and “what should the role of politics be in the antiwar movement?” One woman asked a question on the minds of many, which was why the immigrants' rights movement was seeing such an explosion in the streets while the antiwar movement was not. The speakers addressed these questions excellently (read Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal for more specifics). One point that I wanted to highlight was about the development of movements, addressed by both Anthony and Howard. Howard said that the experience of building movements was, mostly “discouragement and defeat, discouragement and defeat…until you win.” He went on to say that it can feel daunting and impossible if you feel like everything depends on the efforts of the antiwar movement. There are other critical factors he said—developments in Iraq, in the military, in US politics. It was not the organizers of the antiwar movement who brought hundreds of thousands to the streets on Feb 15, 2003, nor the millions who have protested for immigrants' rights in recent weeks. It was an outpouring of anger at developments in the world.
It matters though, Zinn said, that we talk, organize, protest and involve others in our schools, workplaces and neighborhoods. In our day-to-day organizing efforts, he said, “We need to have a kind of faith, not based on the scriptures, but based on history…” that as we do our work, events outside of us will unfold and, at certain points, come together in such a way as to make our efforts worth it, magnifying and multiplying the importance of the hard work done. Keep doing what you are doing, he said—it matters.

At a time when the question of whether we can be for troops out now is so central to the movement, the event gave a much clearer sense of why and how to do that.

Right after the event I talked to a high school student visiting from Seattle for Northeastern’s prospective student Weekend. She had seen a chalking in one of the quads for the event, and decided to check it out. “That was…the best thing ever. I’m so glad I came. I’ve never seen anything like that. I’m definitely psyched to come here in the fall and be involved in stuff like this.” I talked to a different woman who had been involved in the antiwar movement a couple years ago but not recently. She loved the event, saying “I really feel like I want to get back into things. We need a lot more things like this.” I heard about several similar conversations— people feeling re-energized and re-interested in figuring out how end the war. I know one meeting doesn’t change everything, but it certainly can help. After the meeting, a whole bunch of people were still in the entryway area, talking to each other, exchanging information, and getting copies of Anthony’s book as well as other antiwar literature. I haven’t seen that sort of thing at Northeastern for a while. It was great! The event was both clarifying and inspiring. Thanks so much to all the speakers!

Friday, April 14, 2006

Review of IRAQ: THE LOGIC OF WITHDRAWAL in Publisher's Weekly

Publisher's Weekly has just run an excellent review of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal. Thought you all might like to read it...

Arnove, Anthony. Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal. April 2006. 184p. New Press, $19.95 (1-59558-079-4)

Three years into the U.S. occupation of Iraq, the dire predictions of the prewar opposition have proved remarkably prescient, notes activist, writer and editor Arnove (Voices of a People's History of the United States ) in this impassioned, categorical argument for immediate withdrawal. But today's broad sentiment against the war-including the opinions of Americans who explicitly align themselves with an antiwar movement-remains deeply divided on the question of pulling U.S. forces out right away. Arnove, whose book title pays homage to historian and colleague Howard Zinn's classic foray into the Vietnam War debate, accordingly offers a point-by-point challenge to the assumptions underlying arguments accepted by war skeptics for supporting (however reluctantly) an increasingly bloody occupation. His clearly written, well-sourced anti-imperialist critique identifies fear, racism, religiosity, hunger for oil and a "civilizing" pretense behind the Bush administration's rhetoric on the Iraq war and places the conflict in a historical, economic, political and ideological context. Arnove's persuasive reasoning and summaries of relevant events (with two eloquent bracketing essays by Zinn) will prove an invaluable resource to antiwar voices, if unlikely to change adamantly prowar minds. (June)

Into the Labyrinth in New Haven

We shot up here on Thurdsday on the train after a whirlwind of flights. Dorothea from Labyrinth Books gave a powerful intro (here's an excerpt):

there are few things that are more urgent to discuss than the disastrous situation in Iraq and we are lucky to have with us for this discussion Anthony Arnove – one of the most consistent, most clear and bold voices in the mobilization against the occupation. The war, as all of you know, ushered in a new doctrine of preemptive warfare by the US that is readily available on the White House website and should be required reading. Though there has not been a more secretive government in this country, it never ceases to amaze what the current Administration is unashamed to say out loud. The opposition to this war was, for a short time, strong. The opposition to the occupation is now quickly growing stronger. And Anthony Arnove has written a quasi-manifesto, which will be an important tool in the hands of those working to further strengthen that opposition. As one reviewer put it: "Buy it and share it. Ask your librarian to purchase it." (This reviewer forgot to add: from an independent bookstore)....

Retired General and former Director of the National Security Agency William Odom – an early and consistent critic of the war and the occupation who will be one of our speakers at Labyrinth this coming Monday – has explained very succinctly the ways in which today’s mistakes in Iraq mirror the mistakes of the Vietnam War, writing that in the late 60s

“The obsession with tactical issues [how the war was being fought or in today’s terms how the occupation is being conducted] made it easier to ignore the strategic error [the reason for going to war then and now]. As time passed, costs went up, casualties increased, and public support fell. We could not afford to 'cut and run,' it was argued. Supporters of the war expected no honest answers when they asked 'How can we get out?' Eventually, Senator Aike of Vermont gave them one: 'In boats.' ”

And the discussion amongst the 25+ people who attended that followed was very lively. People raised some excellent points about the need for the antiwar movement to take up the issue of justice for Palestinians, the historical memory of Algeria and the resistance to French colonialism, Islamophobia. A debate also broke out about whether the pro-Israel lobby versus control over oil explains the US motivation for invading Iraq. And like in other tour stops, the question of a possible attack on Iran hung over the discussion.

It was clear that the majority of the audience found the discussion useful for clarifying our understanding of the state of the occupation and prompted an urgency about the need for withdrawal of US troops.

Drew Cameron (IVAW) added to speakers for Boston!

Just a quick note that Drew is coming to be part of the event tonight in Boston with Anthony and Howard Zinn. We just met him in Burlington two nights ago and he's dropping everything to get in a car and drive to meet us in Boston. Whenever a veteran speaks out against the war, it's adds a compelling note and we're super psyched that is going to happen in Boston. In Ithaca, one of the speakers, Michael Blake (also from Iraq Veterans Against the War), talked about how his CO told him to be prepared for Iraqi kids to come around unit begging for food and that they all (the soldiers) should make "beating sticks" to keep them away! Obviously, a very different "mission" from what they'd been told initially...

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Burlington UVM Wednesday evening

We arrived in Burlington late Wednesday afternoon. Drove past a tent city protesting poverty on campus.
The room for the event was a ridiculously ornate one in the Waterman Building, apparently where the UVM board meets. But the event was a little to left of your typical board meeting.

We had solidarity greetings from the local chapter of CAN given by Mary, a student at UVM and Ben from Burlington Says No to War also spoke. At its height, the crowd reached about 60.

We met Drew Cameron from IVAW (we didn't know he was here, otherwise, we would have had him up as part of the panel) who asked a great question about the use of depleted uranium in Iraq—similar to the use of Agent Orange by the US during the war in Vietnam. I think we'll try and get him to come be part of the event in boston on Friday.

I hope people involved in these events will comment on what they thought and add to what I've left out. (I'm a first-time blogger and being on the road makes internet access spotty at best).

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Ithaca event Tuesday night

Our first non-bookstore, non-huge-rock-concert event outside of New York City!
Last night, Anthony spoke on a panel with Michael Blake (Iraq Veterans Against the War) and Suzy Konecky
(Campus Antiwar Network) about the case for immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. The event drew about 55 people and was a great mix of students and seasoned activists and concerned community members. The event had a good mix of local sponsors including the Social Justice Committee of the First Unitarian Church, which hosted the event, Cornell for Peace and Justice, a number of bookstores, the Ithaca branch of the International Socialist Organization, Global Call to Action Ithaca chapter, and Concious Alternatives to Militarism among others.

The Q&A was very lively, with lots of comments and discussions about yes, withdrawal now, but how? And how best to reach working-class youth not only with an anti-military recruitment message, but also with alternatives, i.e., a well-paying job, possibilities for some kind of service not tied to the military, etc., what would be the impact of the recent upswell in struggle around immigrant rights, how can the antiwar movement revive itself?

and so the tour madness begins. more soon...

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Underway and on its way.

The tour blogging will begin soon. Please continue to check the site for updates or syndicate with our RSS feed.