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Turning the corner - GI resistance movement gains ground

Joseph Murtagh

Turning the corner: GI resistance movement gains ground


September 12, 2007 -- Nothing shows the quickly widening gap between delusional Beltway politics and American public opinion better than Gen. Petraeus’s much-touted report of the so-called “progress” being made in Iraq.  Despite the fact that a USA-Gallup poll taken in the past few days found that 60 % of the American people favor setting a timetable for the removal of US troops from Iraq, despite overwhelming evidence that the death toll is on the rise, despite the US military being pushed nearly to the breaking point, the best Petraeus can offer is the reduction of troop numbers to their pre-“surge” level of 130,000 by July 2008. 


Here’s a question: since when did Gen. Petraeus become the sole authority on the status of the Iraq war?  Has the media become so incompetent that it must now take its cue from the judgment of a single general?  You would think by now we would have at least learned to be wary of predictions as to the future stability of Iraq, but ABC, the New York Times, Bloomberg, all treated Petraeus’s testimony as if it were some kind of divine oracle.  


The report struck me as being less concerned with the truth than pleasing all sides of the political circus that is Washington DC: on the one hand, we’re told that success in Iraq is possible, but that it will “neither be quick nor easy.”  We’re told that hard-won progress is being made, but that Iraq continues to be torn by foreign and homegrown terrorists and plain thugs.  We’re told that troop reductions are possible, but not an entire withdrawal.  We’re told of “a new greatest generation” fighting in Iraq, even as the members of that generation are fast becoming some of the most vocal and impassioned critics of the war. 


Last August, Petraeus told a congressional delegation visiting the Middle East that Iraq will require a US presence “for about a decade.”  Never mind that there is no way in hell the American public will tolerate that, but we cannot keep this war up without seriously pissing off one key group of people: the soldiers.  Troops in Iraq are stressed out and underpaid, forced to work like dogs for one quarter of the pay their civilian counterparts at KBR are receiving.  Up to now, the antiwar effort has mostly consisted of groups like United for Peace and Justice and Moveon.org, but if there isn’t a major change of policy in Iraq soon, you can expect soldiers to be joining the ranks in ever increasing numbers.  And if last Thursday’s arrest of three antiwar protesters in DC for putting up posters is any indication, the powers that be are paying attention. 


The protesters arrested were Adam Kokesh, of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Tina Richards, the mother of a marine who did two tours of duty in Iraq, and lawyer Ian Thompson, an organizer for the ANSWER Coalition.  The ANSWER Coalition, which is planning a major antiwar demonstration in DC on September 15, has been in an ongoing dispute with DC police about the right to put up posters in the city.  Last Thursday, the demonstrators held a small press conference in Lafayette Park, where they announced their intention to continue to hang posters, despite sanctions by the police, who have accused them of defacing public property.  Watching the Youtube video of the arrest, the reaction of the police is absurdly excessive: a SWAT team is brought in, and a mounted police officer rides into the crowd, yelling, “Back up, back up!”


It was the SWAT team that most surprised Kokesh: “It was a total overreaction on the part of the police,” he told the Muckraker Report over the phone.  “We weren’t doing anything illegal, we were completely within the bounds of DC city ordinances, not to mention our first amendment rights.  It was just a press conference, and they send in a SWAT team.”


When asked if this is a sign that that antiwar movement is turning a corner, Kokesh replied, “Absolutely.   The military is totally overburdened: we’re reaching the breaking point.  Our motto for this march is protesting is not enough.  There needs to be a lot more direct action.  We’re telling people, come down to Washington, stay for the whole week.  We’re hoping this might change the character of the whole antiwar movement, get a lot more new people involved.” 


In addition to the march, the ANSWER Coalition has a number of direct action events planned for the week of September 15-21.  On the 15th, after the march, there’s a die-in led by Iraq veterans symbolizing the deaths of an estimated 4,000 servicemen and women.  Monday the 17th is National Truth in Recruiting Day where members of Iraq Veterans against the War will be dispatched to recruitment centers to present an alternative account of the war.  The following day there will be a congressional occupation, and Thursday is Veterans Lobbying Day.  As Kokesh explained to me, the goal of the week is to provide a united front among several antiwar groups, including Iraq Veterans Against the War, Codepink, and Grassroots America.


To learn more about the September 15 March and the Week of Action, visit the website at http://www.pephost.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8555.


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