Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Maxine Hong Kingston spoke first....

…at the 8 December 2006 gathering and march in support of G.I. Rights and G.I. Resistance to the War in Iraq. She was not comfortable with being characterized as an "activist," feeling that..

...a good citizen is not only in what you do, but in what you know about what governs our world and whether those hard-won accords and rights are being obeyed or betrayed.

I am supposing that San Francisco would be a place that ignores prosecution of those resisting an illegal war (I suppose their board of supervisors have already made that the policy of San Francisco) so that they were free to appear at this meeting and the demonstration to follow.

One of those scheduled to speak was Specialist Suzanne Swift, “facing a redeployment to Iraq while serving under the command of the same individuals that allowed her to be raped and sexually harassed when absent without leave rather than subject herself to the horrors she experienced during her first tour of duty.” A friend spoke in her place: Suzanne, facing court martial in early January, had finally given into pressure and had just given herself up to the military. (So many of those who have gone AWOL have been turned in by their own families.)
The many resisters present, from the war in Vietnam and from the current war, made it clear with their shouts and applause that they continue to support Ms. Swift.

I guess I will not be silly or resentful about the GI movement against the war in Iraq receiving more attention with the first officer’s resistance instead of when marine Stephen Funk became the first to step forward as a resister. But...“On June 22, 2006, Lt. Ehren Watada became the first U.S. commissioned officer to publicly refuse to deploy to the unlawful Iraq war and occupation. He now faces court martial on February 5, and, if convicted, could face six years in jail.”
Lt. Watada’s father, Bob Watada, and his stepmother, Rose, had flown in from Hawaii for this gathering. Mr. Watada reported that the number of military personnel absent without leave has risen to 8,000. The highest percentage of Americans killed from a particular state or territory has been Puerto Ricans – but they are not counted in the statistics presented to the public, or are soldiers serving from other places outside mainland U.S.A.

It is a fact that Ehren Watada, if you see or hear him speak, is simply a wonderful human being, of a shining integrity, and, incidentally, very handsome, and his stepmother Rose, speaking of her pride in his action and of his other virtues, teared up and could not speak for a moment.
After resisting orders that would have resulted in his shooting a small boy in Iraq, and refusing to commit other illegal acts (“I never pulled my trigger after that”), Darrell Anderson was overwhelmed psychologically. He found refuge with some others who are AWOL in a little colony of resisters in Toronto, Canada. He has found the strength for this sojourn into the U.S.A. His mother joined him, and she also spoke.

Darrell’s mother is a fighter who supports her son and all other resisters. At some point she recounted some of the harassment they have endured.

A petition was circulated in their state, urging that authorities go to Canada, capture Darrell, and bring him back so that he could be executed as example of “a coward.”

Because he had barely escaped being caught the night before, resister Kyle Snyder spoke to the group by phone that was amplified for the crowd. Holding the phone to the mike, was a mainstay, always, in local events of the Veterans Against the War, Michael Wong, a resister during the Vietnam War. Mr. Wong told an amusing story about returning from Canada to the U.S. to turn himself in, but having to wait a couple hours as the F.B.I. could find no evidence of his existence.

Even after the U.S. withdraws from Iraq, the effect of the war will continue for years, and one of the resisters – I think it was Darrell Anderson – said that he did not want to see the same results for the Iraq veterans as those from the American War in Vietnam – at least a third of the current homeless on the streets being veterans of that war.

We gathered by the bus of the Iraq Veterans Against the War (I gather the group’s central office is in Atlanta, and the bus comes and goes from Atlanta), for more speeches and rap indictments of Bush and the war by veterans and young men from Oakland.

U.S. Marine Stephen Funk, the first to publicly resist service in the war in Iraq, was delightfully and frankly a gay man. He has served a six-month sentence and was given a dishonorable discharge—but they won’t give him the actual document so he is out of the service, yet kept in a strange state of limbo.

He thanked all supporters of G.I. resistance: “Without all of you, it would not have been six months, it would have been Guantanamo.”

Kyle Snyder, whom we had heard by phone, decided that he could not stay away, and he showed up by the bus.

As with the American War in Vietnam, the extent of G.I. resistance, and the struggles and troubles they endure, is not known to the general public. I thought I knew about those activities when I was opposing the war in Vietnam, but my knowledge fell far short of the truth, and I hope everyone will get a chance to learn, as I did, from “Sir No Sir,” available on NetFlix (“Filmmaker and activist David Zeiger's documentary chronicles the largely forgotten anti-war activities of American GIs and other members of the military during the Vietnam era. Powerful and surprising, this look back at a little-investigated chapter of history weaves together the stories of veterans who participated in the opposition movement, an effort that, by the early 1970s, found widespread support from civilians and troops alike.”)

The next general demonstrations against the war across the U.S. are scheduled for January 27 – See you there. After all, when Episcopalian bishops are getting arrested for lying down in front of the Federal Building (aren’t they usually on vacations in Europe?), isn’t it time for an all-out mass objection to this horribly stupid mistake?

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