Friday, May 26, 2006

Busboys and Poets event with Anthony, Elizabeth Weill-Greenberg and Garett Reppenhagen

No matter how many of these we do, I am always surprised by how different they are. I guess I shouldn't be since events in the world keep changing and there are different special guests on each stop.

Last night we were really fortunate to have two. About 80 people packed the Langston Hughes room. Elizabeth, who lived in DC when she was editing the book 10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military, has since relocated to Jersey, but came down for the event.

Elizabeth began with comments on military recruitment and her experiences as a journalist investigating the military's recruitment practices. She provided a comprehensive overview of the conditions that lead young people to join up, and what they are expected to do once they are in. She spoke pointedly about her own muckraking experience as a recent grad student approaching the military to witness their practices herself. And she raised important points about what the military recruiters don't tell people as well.
The book does a great service to the antiwar movement and to all those who work with young people who are wooed by a deceitful and bankrupt military.

Garett gave a powerful first-person account of being one of those young people. He talked about joining up while he was working multiple jobs and became a father. He was first stationed in Germany, then in the former Balkans. He trained to be a sniper and spent two of his four years as one in Iraq, in and around the city of Baquba. He mentioned being against the war, even when he didn't know of any other antiwar soldiers or groups like IVAW. And he described going through a process of self-education about the history of US intervention and the real reasons the US went into Iraq. Apparently, he decided to read as much about and learn as much about this suppressed history as he could, bringing to Iraq to read critical books by Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn. So it was a combination of his experiences as an active duty soldier and the development of an analysis of the world that brought him to the point of speaking out against the war and becoming an active organizer. Amazing. I hadn't yet heard any of the IVAWers talk so matter-of-factly about killing, but of course, this is one of the the things soldiers, especially snipers, are in Iraq to do.

Garett also read his poem, "Dirt" (very apropos since we were at Busboys and Poets!).

I'm posting it here with his permission

Iraqi dirt is everywhere

in my boots and in my hair

the dark clay that soldiers keep

where they march and where they sleep

to prevent the ache in a mothers heart

white sand becomes penned pure art

we exaggerate and bring to light

when the gravel grains are colored bright

under wheels and under track

dirty bombs reality lacks

stuck to sweat under trigger finger nails

that itches and stings when a child wails

dirt so heavy that one can't hide

inside sand bags that divide the sides

turning to grime when it begins to rain

American pride turned to pain

Scandalous chit chat in day to day gossip

"those veterans are insane they really lost it"

closed minds, mass destruction of innocence

and truth gets a purple heart amidst all the ignorance

red white and blue covered in dust

the color of money, oil, and lust

soiled uniforms brown with taint

breathe uranium air contaminate

Jesus pimps our children like whores

like Uncle Sam's hate crimes that the family ignores

under patriot makeup is the garbage and filth

body bags filled with love, swept under the rug is guilt

scum put on sale, but they put us on trial

it's in our teeth when we bite and we smile

grease fed to the masses on the daily news

if the war never ends we'll never lose

we dig and dig, but they cover the hole

when we discover the truth we pay the toll

an unknown soldier in a shallow grave

burdened and battered and buried alive

As I'm writing this, I notice a New York Times piece about "Military Expected to Report Marines Killed Iraqi Civilians." It begins:

A military investigation into the deaths of two dozen Iraqis last November is expected to find that a small number of marines in western Iraq carried out extensive, unprovoked killings of civilians, Congressional, military and Pentagon officials said Thursday.

This is not a surprise for anyone who's followed the course of the war and occupation of Iraq. It's just one glimpse of the wholescale brutality that takes place every day against Iraqis. Yet, it seems important that this story is emerging–the military seems to do everything it can to cover up "incidents" like this, because our fearless leaders know that if stories such as these were consistently uncovered and reported, they might lead a public that is already overwhemingly against the war to become active once again, in an active and sustained movement against it. Yet, we need more of these stories, more images and more activists like Garett. Remember that the image of the young naked Vietnamese girl running down a road galvanized many people to deepen their commitment to stopping that war.

Special thanks to Andy Shallal, owner of Busboys and Poets as well as Don and Pam for helping to make the event possible. Also, thanks to the DC ISO for organizing and publicizing the event.

Here's a shot of all three together at the bookstore after the event. I got a new cell phone, so the picture quality is still lo-fi, but slightly better!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Anthony and Deepa Fernandes in conversation at the Culture Project

Anthony was joined by Deepa Fernandes, the exuberant cohost of WBAI's morning culture and news show Wakeup Call. Deepa has a new book coming out in September with Seven Stories Press, Targeted: National Security and the Business of Immigration. She gave a riveting account of just one of the many profiles in the book of people caught up in the immigration quagmire.

As in other tour events, the connections between the war abroad and the war at home were in abundance. The burgeoning immigrant rights notwithstanding, the heavy price immigrants pay in attempting to make a life in the United States could not be clearer. And now, with even more evidence of NSA, government-mandated spying on people, the threat to civil rights is even starker.

We were so lucky that the Culture Project offered use of this wonderful space. The theater has hosted many wonderful productions, including the Exonerated, now a TV production and Guantanamo: Honor Bound to Defend Freedom (which I saw two years ago and reviewed here). It's also where Sarah Jones's one-woman show, Bridge and Tunnel got its start before it moved to Broadway. And as you can see in the photos, the set is up for the current production, Guardians, about US torture at Abu Ghraib (it runs through May 25). Special thanks go out to Lucas, Lauren and Allan who made this stop of the tour possible. And a fist in the air to Brenda Coughlin for the photos.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Podcast available at Dahr Jamail's site

Anthony recorded an excerpt of his book and you can hear it at Dahr Jamail's Iraq Dispatches under "I". Or go directly to the recording here.

Seattle Town Hall with Cindy Sheehan

Last night was the big event at Town Hall. The Seattle PI had this story, "Sheehan blasts war, Bush at Town Hall." Here's an excerpt:
"We are not the fringe anymore," she said to a crowd of several hundred people inside the hall. "We are not the lunatics; they are. We are mainstream America."

In a 40-minute address, Sheehan lambasted Bush, defense contractors and oil companies, saying profit and hubris are driving U.S. policy in Iraq.

It is "arrogant and racist" to think that an American military presence is necessary for lasting democracy in Iraq, she said.

"We are the problem. When we leave -- problem solved. Put an Arab face on peacekeeping, without guns. Killing to solve problems is barbaric."

When recently examining the Vietnam War-era body armor of her soldier son, Casey, who was killed in Iraq in 2004, Sheehan said she thought to look for bloodstains, and the experience brought her more anguish.

She urged those in the crowd to do more than just voice their opposition to the war, saying, "Shame on me for supporting George Bush and his murder."

Sheehan, who lives in Berkeley, Calif., and another speaker, anti-war author Anthony Arnove of New York City, said Democrats are hardly better.

The Democrats "run from their own shadow," Arnove said. He elicited hisses from the crowd when he noted that such Democratic stalwarts as Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York and Sen. Joe Lieberman of Delaware advocate for more troops in Iraq.

Barnes and Noble on the Santa Monica Promenade

This was the last night of the CA leg of the tour. Anthony spoke at the B&N, right on the Third Street promenade. He was joined by Tim Goodrich of IVAW and about 40 people in the audience. (More details to come...)

I was down the street at a screening of Sir! No Sir!, which was excellent. Anthony and Tim came over afterwards for the Q&A with director David Zeiger and various special guests, including two of the performers from the FTA tour, Rita Martinson and Michael Alaimo.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Eso Won Books event

The event at Eso Won last night was fantastic (especially considering that we were up against a Lakers game!). The bookstore itself is I think the only African-American owned independent bookstore in the LA area. It has a wide and deep selection of excellent books. I couldn't help but pick up a few while there: Mark Mauer's Race to Incarcerate (another New Press title), the first Chris Abani novel, Graceland, the first Walter Mosely (who by the way has a super new essay out called Life Out of Context [Nation Books] that is an urgent call to action for independent politics), and the new documentary on DVD, the Untold Story of Emmett Till. All this and more incongruously housed in a bookstore on a strip mall on S. La Brea.

James Fugate, one of the owners, gave a short and simple intro, praising The New Press's list and emphasizing the importance of Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal. I'll give the highlights of the discussion after Anthony's talk:

What's the level of the soldier's rebellion today (as compared to what happened during the Vietnam era)?

- check out GI Special and Traveling Soldier newsletter
- outright refusals to obey orders few, but significant
- the use of the internet among soldiers and the expression of dissent on websites and email mentioned above parallels the underground newspapers (of which more than 300 existed in the late 60s and early 70s)

As we witness the decline of US empire, how do we counter the rise of an Islamic empire?

- more likely that China presents the most realistic potential to be an economic rival to the US and reemphasizes the importance and centrality of oil as a global economic force
- fears about Islamic dictatorship act more as a smokescreen to give credibility to US intervention in the Middle East

If the US is fueling civil war by being in Iraq, how does that benefit the US?

- the US is not following the initial script. In fact, displaying a great degree of imperial arrogance...the US troops are not greeted "as liberators with sweets and flowers" but a massive insurgency.
- it wanted a stable client regime but because of the above mentioned arrogance of the planners—pushing to install unpopular and disconnected exiles, disbanding the Iraqi Army—has instead created a number of disenfranchised, angry and armed groups, which have lead to increased instability and chaos.

What would be the outcome of a US defeat in the Middle East?

- profound. it would mean an Iraq syndrome that would hinder the ability of the US to intervene around the world, but especially in the Middle East.

Mansoor Sabbagh of Global Voices for Justice recorded this reading and discussion and hopes to air it on KPFK soon.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Anthony at Borders in Santa Barbara

Here's Anthony signing away at the Borders in Santa Barbara after his talk...

Thanks to Bill Makler for the photo.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Audio of Amy Goodman, Anthony Arnove, and Howard Zinn

The audio recording from the Quaker Arts Meeting House event from March 25 is now available at the Alternative Radio website. The clips are available for download for a small fee. Anthony is also working on a podcast that we hope will be available soon.

Arnove and Rockwell at Capitola Book Cafe

We arrived in Capitola near Santa Cruz late yesterday afternoon. Anthony and I felt a little like internet addicts as we sat in the parking lot of Coffeetopia after closing time to check our email and basically try to keep up with the rest of our work and the world. We pulled up to Capitola Book Cafe and were surprised to see the book event advertised on a lit marquee outside.

Then inside, there was a full house. The Santa Cruz Metro ran a bunch of excellent stories, one by Paul Rockwell based on his chapter in 10 Excellent Reasons that I mentioned earlier and a really nice ad for the book event itself and a great article about the opening of Sir! No Sir! By some strange coincidence, the two tours are overlap in New York and LA...

Janet Leimeister, the Event Manager at Cpitola Book Cafe gave the intro, which I've excerpted below:
For tonight’s discussion we welcome two authors whose work dismantles the myths surrounding the current pro-military climate and provides needed clarity for the argument against the Iraq war and the likely wars of our future.

Paul Rockwell is a former assistant professor of Philosophy at Midwestern State University and journalist for In Motion magazine and Common Dreams website.

His contribution to 10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military falls in chapter 2: "You May Kill Others Who Do Not Deserve to Die." Directly stated and powerful, his article forces readers—including, he hopes, future enlistees—to grasp and own the truth that soldiers can be asked to do wrong and will.

10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military is a collection of such quick-hitting, insistent and essential arguments that every soldier and civilian should digest and consider. What they decide to do with the knowledge is up to them.

Joining Paul Rockwell tonight is Anthony Arnove: a tireless and talented author, historian and activist. His clarity of analysis breaks down a convoluted, politically charged crisis into the essential elements; thus he not only educates his readers but also arms them with knowledge and purpose as well....

Now, in his latest work, Iraq: The Logic of Withdrawal, he disassembles the inaccuracies and bold manipulations surrounding the current war in Iraq. With a clear vision and well-stated support, he details how the occupation is a reckless strategy and why the American forces should—and can—come home immediately.

Paul started his talk by mentioning Sir! No Sir! and that he was himself associated with the GI movement. The film does much to dispel the myths surrounding the war in Vietnam ranging from antiwar movement's maltreatment of soldiers (the spat-on soldier being an enduring myth) to how much Jane Fonda was hated by troops. The clips in the film of the FTA (that stood not for the army's slogan of "Fun Travel and Adventure" but for "Fuck The Army") tour that Fonda did showed how popular dissent was and how the armed forces really responded to antiwar voices.

Paul also talked about his chapter in the book, that he spent two years interviewing vets from the war in Iraq, all of whom either committed or witnessed war crimes and atrocities and then became war resistors. As Stan Goff noted in an open letter to soldiers: "to preserve your own humanity, you must recognize the humanity of the people whose nation you now occupy and know that both you and they are victims of the filthy rich bastards who are calling the shots."

Paul also made a series of powerful arguments that the stories he relates are not only the stories of isolated individuals, but of war crimes that flow directly from policy and from top command: attacks on civilians, the use of depleted uranium, torture, bombings of civilian areas (markets, hospitals), all are systematic and commonplace.

Wrapping up his comments, Paul mentioned the story of one of the moms of a soldier who was involved in the My Lai massacre in Vietnam. She stated "I sent them a good boy and they made him a monster." He ended with a rousing call to support soldiers who are trapped in a position between being forced to commit atrocities and sedition. He left a us with a wonderful statement that "we can enlist, not in the military, but in the antiwar movement, for a better world."
I only have these little lo-lo-res pix from my cell phone, but better than nothing, right?

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

May Day

Wow. I went on the march in SF yesterday–amazing to be on the west coast for this! The papers estimate that 30,000 marched up Market Street, but it seemed like a lot more on the streets. Activist accounts ran much closer to 50,000 upward. But the headline in the SF Chronicle was pretty subdued: "A Million Say: Let Us All Stay." I don't think I've ever been on a march that felt as joyous and buoyant as yesterday's. And for good reason, everyone who came out–individuals, organizations, families from every immigrant group (I saw a banner in Vietnamese!)—did so at some risk but gained so much confidence from the show of strength and solidarity. People chanted and danced and sang. Among the chants were my favorites: a variation of the popular Chavez chant that became: "Oo! Ah! El pueblo no se va!" and one (that admittedly left me confused initially) that had people jumping up and down energetically since if you weren't jumping, you were "la migra." It was May Day as an expression of popular democracy and linked to its legacy as part of a movement of immigrant labor. After all, as Todd Chretien said later in his speech at First Unitarian, it may go down as one of the largest general strikes in the history of the US. (Thanks to Phil Gasper for these photos from the march.)

Later in the evening about 150 came out (after a long and sweaty day!) to rally against the war with Cindy Sheehan, Anthony, Aimee Alison, Todd and others. Here are some highlights:

Yvonne Latty opened with some vignettes from her book, In Conflict, a collection of interviews with returning vets that deals with their coming to conscience, their interactions with family and friends after coming home, how they were treated, and of course exposes the hypocrisy of the US government in claiming to "support the troops" while mistreating and denying them basic rights the whole time.

Aimee (pictured at right with Cindy Sheehan) spoke movingly about her own experience as a Persian Gulf veteran and how she became a conscientious objector. She had some very important things to say about the racism inherent in the military and what she faced as a black woman in the armed forces. She also had excellent insights about the necessity of having a long-term perspective for a serious antiwar movement.

Todd gave a rousing speech about the intimate connections between the labor movement and the antiwar struggle—one that spans the history of the US and deserves to be acknowledged and reinvigorated.

Guillermo Gomez-Pena treated us to some of his biting performance art about the politics of the border, immigration, power, and racism. The piece had plenty of humorous moments that had the crowd laughing at and joining in his condemnation and "evaporation" of the powers that be.

Anthony gave a powerful speech as per usual. The added solemnity of the church and the pulpit lent a punch to his comments that drew on MLK and his historic speech at Riverside Church in New York City when he came out publicly to oppose the war in Vietnam...

(more later...we're motoring to Santa Cruz)

Finally, Cindy Sheehan gave a typically dry-witted address in which she revisited the other May Day (2003) and the infamous publicity stunt with Bush on a naval carrier to announce "Mission Accomplished." She urged people to come out to a number of upcoming actions. Details are at She also fiercely proclaimed that she would "never again vote for a prowar candidate, one who doesn't share my values, as a lesser evil." And she gave a ringing endorsement to Todd's run for senate! Cindy was resolute, fearless, and bold in her calls to build a stronger antiwar movement.

Big thanks to Louise Lamphere and Sid Patel for helping with the photos on this leg of the tour.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Santa Cruz on May 2

Just a quick note that we'll be in Santa Cruz at Capitola Books Cafe on May 2. Somehow, that little detail got knocked off the calendar...

Anthony will be joined there by Paul Rockwell, contributor to 10 Excellent Reasons Not to Join the Military. Read the excerpt from his chapter "You May Be Ordered to Kill Civilians."

A Day Without Immigrants

It's May Day and we are here in beautiful San Francisco. The demonstrations today are promising to be among the largest in US history. We were just in LA for the Festival of Books and so many of the people we talked to are planning to participate and it looks likely that the "No School - No Work - No Shopping - No Selling," theme is going to have a huge impact. Check out this article in the Village Voice.

The event tonight at First Unitarian hopes to draw the connections among the proud tradition of labor struggles of May Day (to commemorate the struggles of workers internationally), the antiwar movement, and the new civil rights struggle for immigrant rights. Hopefully after today's actions, people will stop by to hear Cindy Sheehan, Anthony, and other special guests make the case for those connections and for an end to the occupation of Iraq.