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!


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