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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: San Francisco | Anti-War
Four Interviews of Iraqi War Protestors - March 17, 2007
Four in-depth interviews of war protestors: Embedded life-time veteran for peace; Why does Nancy foot-drag; Concern and love for wounded family; Protest Sign: "If anyone questions why we died, tell them our fathers lied to us."
STEVE MORSE FROM OAKLAND SPOKE FOR IRAQI VETERANS AGAINST THE WAR.
Carol Harvey: Why are you here?
Steve Morse: I am here to oppose this war. I have been opposing war since I was a kid, I went to peace demonstrations with my father.
Q: So, you've been an anti-war activist all your life.
A: Yes. I'm 60.
I was a conscientious objector. But, then I joined the Army in 1969 to be a part of the resistance movement. I was in the stockade (twice) for distributing dissident literature on base ---six months (total).
Q: Which bases?
A: The first was Fort Lewis, Washington, about forty miles south of Seattle, closer to Tacoma. The second was Fort Riley, Kansas.
After the first court martial, I had a four month sentence. They commuted it and gave me orders to Viet Nam. I was going to see what I could do against the war over there.
I wouldn't have minded being kicked out of the Army at that point. But, I thought they were setting me up to refuse and give me a five-year sentence which is what they were typically giving people who were activists refusing over-seas orders.
They sent me to Viet Nam for four months.
Q: So, did your plan work?
A: Well, I realized I had signed onto this movement for life.
Anti-war Veterans (came) back. In 1968, people were passing through all the time --- people you would never see again. A guy came to my party at my apartment in San Francisco who told me he killed an officer. He was very serious about it. "This Lieutenant killed ten of my best buddies for nothing taking a hill we shouldn't have tried to take. So, when he came back, I blew him away."
Q: Why are you against war?
A: War wastes everything ---bodies who get killed, people's minds and souls. It is so unnecessary.
It drains the resources that we could be using to rebuild this country, for education, for working together.
People that have been involved in war spend the rest of their lives trying to heal.
Q: Are you?
A: Yes, I am, too.
Q: Do you have post traumatic stress.
A: I have a little. I have a more subtle version than lots of people I know. Sometimes I get angry and lose patience. I was less patient with my children than I would have liked to have been.
Many people who I had worked with as veterans were much more directly affected and saw much more combat, much more trauma.
Q: It sounds like you were forewarned ---already aware because of your father. Was he in war?
A: I grew up Quaker. My Mom was Quaker. (My father) became a Quaker. He had already known about war, but he said, "We have to fight Hitler."
He was in Hawaii monitoring the activities of Japanese ancestry people. They were not put in camps as they were on the West Coast because the economy (there) would have fallen apart.
He didn't like doing that. He wasn't proud of it.
Even though he was involved in Quaker peace things, I never knew what he did until I was 45.
At the 50th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor, he was on a panel. One of the panel members was a Hiroshima survivor. (My father) talked about what he did. I think he felt his story would be useful in promoting peace.
I would have liked to have known earlier. But, he knew that I was already in Veteran's Speaker's Alliance by the mid-80s and speaking in classrooms about war (when) I was almost 40.
Are all the bad things about war happening right now?
A: They are worse.
They are unnecessary. Iraq has never done anything to the U.S.
The U.S. supplied Saddam Hussein with weapons. They were also dealing with Iran. A million people died in Iraq and Iran in the 1980s, and we don't even talk about that. And, now this is just devastation, devastation. We are creating a civil war over there.
Q: Do you think that we can stop Bush from going into Iran? If so, how?
A: I just think the world-wide anti-war movement is a huge force, and the potential of people --- they can't push people too far. The Bush Regime is pretty crazy, but some may know that they will lose out in Iran. They can't just cakewalk through Iran --- much less so even than they could in Iraq, which they acted like they could do, (but) which they can't do at all..
There's this arrogance of power that (they) could get away with things, but (then) forget what's going to happen.
The vote within the military (is) a really important thing that everybody needs to pay attention to. That's what I was a part of. I wouldn't have gone into the Army if that had not already been at a level where I thought I could contribute.
People in the military do all kinds of things to stop the war and to revolt.
Q: Are there other people doing that?
A: There's a huge movement. Many of them are here.
Q: Have they been in combat?
A: Some of them have.
Q: Last night TV news said the Democrats aren't doing anything, so people have given up coming to these demonstrations.
A: We had 200,000 people in February 2003. I think people are spreading out. They are doing different kinds of things. There were many more demonstrations in the Bay Area than before. Saturday, there were about five different ones.
Veterans Against the War are speaking here now. That organization didn't exist until 2004. People are just working in different ways.
Q: So, you disagree that the media's observation that people are discouraged by the Democrats not doing anything.
A: The Democrats need to be pushed. They need to de-fund the war.
Q: How do we get them to do that?
A: Agitating. People have been sitting in at Congressional offices.
It hasn't happened here yet. But, it has happened in a lot of other places.
Veterans for Peace people have done it. The national president of Veterans for Peace, Michael McPherson, an African American Gulf War vet with a son in Iraq got arrested for the first time sitting in at the local Congress person's office. It's going to happen more and more. Keep your eyes open.
AL GAYDEN: COUSIN AND FATHER INJURED IN WAR
Carol Harvey: "New York 1978, Banana Republic" is printed on your shirt.
Al Gayden: Exactly. It was a T-shirt that I liked. It was on sale.
Q: Olive green is a great color on you.
I identified Al Gayden, 44, from this T-shirt on the 11:00 o'clock Sunday night news marching down Market Street..
Q: You are from Oakland?
A: I am.
Q: Why are you here today?
A: To say that Bush Administration needs to be impeached. Something needs to be done about this war in Iraq.
I'm out here because I can't just sit at home or go about my day and ignore what's going on. I don't feel right about going to a movie with a friend when I can be out here to say, "No more war." "Bring our troops home."
I'm here because I have a cousin in Mississippi that went to the War. He came back almost missing two limbs. He was in a D.C. hospital. Luckily he is partially recovered, but he will never be the same. He will never work again.
Q: What happened to him?
A: He was driving an armored vehicle. Some shrapnel hit it. Several men in his platoon died. He survived, but the bones and tissue of both legs were shattered in the accident.
Q: Was this what they call an IED --- an incendiary explosive device? A roadside bomb?
Q: Did your cousin keep his legs?
A: He did.
Q: He's not an amputee?
He's back home in Jackson, Mississippi. He got medical treatment through the V.A. Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Q: Will he walk?
A: He will evetually walk through therapy. He's in a wheelchair now.
I was in Washington, D.C. three weeks ago. I was aware of the situation at Walter Reed and the Veterans' Hospitals. I was shocked, but not surprised.
Q: Why not surprised?
A: Because I have very little faith in our system when it comes to people of color and disadvantaged people, and people that are outside the realm of spectrum.
Q: You mean marginalized people not in the mainstream, which is a helluva lot of people these days.
A: Exactly. That is why I go and give my money to Glide. Those are the programs and the people I know they are assisting. People that are homeless. People addicted for one reason or another. People marginalized by society. Glide helps those that can't get help anywhere else. I know that, at any given point, I could be in their shoes.
Q: So, for you, it isn't just a matter of the Veterans and minorities.
A: It's humanity.
Q: Why "No More War?"
A: It's evil. It's wrong, and it's unnecessary. There are other means to solve our disagreements.
Not only that! America should mind it's own business. We have problems enough at home. People don't have enough to eat. We are spending $100 millions dollars, or whatever the phenomenal cost is, on this war, and we can't even feed people in San Francisco.
Q: Which is why you're involved with Glide.
Q: Your cousin was drawn into the war because they promised him an education. Is this correct?
If we had gone to war for something meaningful, that would be one thing. But, to be over there for something that's not doing us Americans any good!
Soldiers come back, and they have no means, no help. V.A. Hospitals are so far away, no assistance programs. It's really sad.
My father is a veteran of World War II. I know he feels he came back with very little assistance to get his life back on track.
Q: They had the GI bill.
A: (His) friends did not receive those benefits. He was one of the lucky ones. He did.
My father's okay, but he says it still affects him today --- the effects of war. How can it not?
Q: How did war affect your father?
A: (He) was very quiet and distant until I was a grown man. Now, as I get older and we talk more, he tells me how war has affected his life --- how even during the time of war he was fighting within a military that was racist --- that he came home to more animosity and bigotry than he saw overseas.
I knew from the time I was younger I would never fight for this country for any reason.
(I come) from a family from Macomb, Mississippi. It was very racist where my parents grew up. For my father to go to a war and fight for this country, then come back home and be told that he could not enter into a restaurant and drink from certain fountains --- that played a lot into the way he brought us up.
Luckily, he didn't bring us up as racist at all.
Q: Somehow or other, he didn't communicate the deep kind of hatred that that would engender in a person.
A: He was like Martin Luther King. He knew it was wrong. It was done to him, but he would be even more wrong to do it back to other people --- to people that had nothing to do with what was done to him.
Q: He sounds like a phenomenal person.
A: He really is --- 83 years old and alive today.
Q: What's his name.
d to come out and say something today, even if it was to walk down Market Street and Say, "I'm against the war." I went to Glide Church. (Then) I went to Justin Herman Plaza and marched all the way to City Hall today.
Q: That's one of the ways you used your voice.
A: Hopefully through some programs, and through some events going on at Glide, I can even further use my voice.
A: Whether it be speaking at rallies, writing articles.
I work for a City organization (where) people are pretty conservative (and) probably put Bush in office. Whether it be telling them I was out here today doing this and why. Hopefully, further educating them on why this war is wrong.
I did not vote for George Bush the first or the second term. I was against the war from Day One.
Q: Are you a Democrat?
To be honest, I don't feel good about our entire Democratic system. It needs to be refurbished, redesigned.
A: With the electoral votes, it comes down to which states carry the most pull. Those Red states, in my opinion, had more people, so they had more electoral votes.
Q: The November 7, 2006 election lost Bush the Senate. Nancy Pelosi and the Democrat party got a lot more power.
A: That's an incredible step, but I don't think we've seen a lot from that at this point.
Q: For you, the emotional connection here is your father and your cousin. You are marching for them largely --- but, for yourself as well.
A: I'm marching for them, and myself as well because these are young men that had their lives ahead of them. They'll never have that because of something that didn't have to happen to them. Sometimes I just break down at home and cry thinking about that and thinking about how blessed I am that I didn't have to go through that. But, I don't want to just sit by and do nothing.
Q: Right. So, you have a social conscience. You feel a social responsibility.
The Bush Administration is pitting us all against each other. It's almost like people have to be on that ladder, or that rung on that ladder higher than the immigrants, the blacks, or the Jews. I don't even think there is a ladder. I don't believe in hierarchy. I believe we are all just a family, a race of people that should be able to get along.
t have come into this world a little more blessed than others. It's up to them to help the others get along and get through this world. That's my feeling. I'm very lucky. And, that's why this is just a little I can give back and do.
Anti-War Protest March - Sun March 18, 2007 - Jessica McCoy
Carol Harvey: Can you tell me your name?
JESSICA McCOY: WHY DOES NANCY PELOSI DRAG HER FEET?
A: My name is Jessica McCoy. I am 26.
Q: Why are you are here today?
A: I'm an organizer with the "Stop Funding The War Coalition." I am on the National staff of United for Peace and Justice. I live in New York City. I came out here to help organize (and) do outreach for our demonstration Monday, March 19, 2007 at noon at the Federal Building.
I am a Quaker, though.I'm not from the American Friends Service Committee, one of our endorsing organizations for this demonstration tomorrow. They've been very helpful, camping out in the office for the last week or two. We appreciate their support.
Right now what we are really looking to do is end the War in Iraq.
What we can really do right now is focus on pressuring Congress to cut off funding for the War, --- make them aware that 77% of the American people oppose the war in Iraq, and for them to not do anything about it, or to do non-binding resolutions that don't accomplish anything is really irresponsible. It's not what we elected them to do. Their power is the power of the purse, so if they are not looking for ways to cut off funding, they own the war.
Q: You are expressing something that I feel too. Pelosi and the Democrats got voted in on November 7 --- I worked in that election, by the way --- and what have they done for us since then? They seem to be foot-dragging. Non-binding resolution? What power does that have?
A: (As far as) the non-binding resolutions that were passed by the House, we keep hearing from Pelosi's office about how they need to push things along incrementally. As my friend, Ann Roessler from Military Families Speak Out said yesterday at Walnut Creek, "Boys and Girls are not dying incrementally." We need a solution to this conflict now.
What we are asking Nancy to do is to take leadership. She has the power to do a lot more than just non-binding actions. As Speaker of The House, she has the power to bring bills onto the floor for votes.
She could be bringing along a lot of the Bills, like HR 508 which is the bill sponsored by Barbara Lee and a number of others, I believe.
Q: What is the purpose of HR 508?
A: The Bill ends the War in Iraq. It provides a really clear strategy for bringing the troops home in a safe way.
It provides funding for bringing them home.
It provides care for them when they get home.
There are a lot of bills that could be brought out that actually have teeth. What we need is something with teeth that will actually bring about an end to the war now.
What we understand is.that "now" will probably mean six months from now. But six months from now is what is currently on the table.
Q: Are you worried that Bush will attack Iran before he leaves office?
A: I AM worried that we will attack Iran. There have been a number of provisions that we've been trying to get through to put restrictions that say, "No Funding The War on Iran," --- that the escalation cannot be used to attack Iran. There are a lot of people who are concerned (about) the military tankers in the Gulf and (that) the escalation (may actually be) an escalation of the positioning of troops to attack Iran. Certainly the rhetoric we are hearing about Iran is strangely similar to what we were hearing about Iraq in 2002.
The writing seems to be on the wall that Iran is on the table. Certainly, Obama and Clinton are saying that it is on the table as part of their political campaigning --- which is just ridiculous.
Q: . The only person who appears to have come out against attacking Iran is Al Gore.
A: I believe that is true. It's stunning.
So, yes. This demonstration Monday is really geared towards focusing on Speaker Pelosi and saying, "You're not representing the California 8th District now. You represent the leadership party in the House of Representatives.
"You are the most powerful elected Democrat right now, and whatever you think political party-wise, certainly there are lots of people in the 'Stop Funding The War Coalition,' the organization that I represent, that are not Democrats, that are not Republicans. They are Greens. They are Libertarians. They are Independents."
But, Nancy represents all Democrats in the House, and she has to use her position to be as anti-war as she says she is.
Q: We put her in power in that election.
A: Right. San Francisco is one of the most progressive districts in the Country. (It is wrong) for her to turn her back on her constituents and vote for things that few of her constituents support...
The Democratic Council Committee, Democracy Action, which is the progressive Democrats of San Francisco, voted to endorse this demonstration, including a member of her own staff.
Within her staff there are people saying, "You know what, Nancy?You can take a stronger stand than what you are doing because we are willing to support this (anti-War "Get Out of Iraq" / "Stop Funding The War") demonstration (on March 18 and 19, 2007).
Q: These demonstrations are about getting out of Iraq now, and she's not saying that.
A: No. Even one of her staffers is saying, "Look Nancy. I love you. I support you, but look at our constituents. They are asking us to do more.
Q: After the last protest on January 27, 200, Dennis Kucinich, along with Barbara Lee and Ehren Watada's mother, spoke at the Unitarian Church People yelled from the audience, "Get out of Iraq now." He was saying, "Well, this is going to take time. We'll have to take measured steps. You'll have to be patient." I'm thinking, why are these extremely progressive people doing this foot-dragging?
A: Well, there is the cynical answer and then the answer that they give.
The answer they give is that the votes are not there in the Senate and the House, so they are (creating) momentum by putting forth a series of votes that slowly builds towards an exit.
The non-binding resolution the House passed a few weeks ago was geared toward getting things moving in a direction that says," We don't support the war. We don't support what the President is doing." It didn't have any teeth, but at least they went on the record.
The next step, they say, is adding conditions to the Appropriations Bill that request benchmarks to be met. If they are not met, it immediately kicks into an exit strategy. (and) we are cutting off the funds effective March 2008. And, so on and so forth.
My cynical reaction is there are interests making money from the War in Iraq. They are very much willing to make large donations to political campaigns and support the opponents of people who don't vote their way. I believe that is a very large influence in why we are not getting out of Iraq right now.
Q: Can you boil it down to corporatocracy?
A: I believe that corporate interests, the military-industrial complex --- it all comes together in the same picture. That's why we're there in the first place.
Q: Final thought: Do you think Pelosi is conditioned by corporate interests.
A: I think that it would be difficult to believe that anyone who holds elected office including Speaker Pelosi is not influenced by her desire to get re-elected. Until there is a real Campaign Finance Reform movement, I think we will continue to see more of the same.
I do think she is against the war. But she also is finding ways to continue the war.
She needs to to reconcile her personal beliefs with her political ambitions, (or) find another career. At the end of the day, "Who Are You," Really?" Is it important to you to be holding a political office or doing things that you believe in?
I personally hope that, even though she does do a lot of good things as speaker and she has a history of finding ways to support her constituents in (many) areas, she works to support constituents in what I think is one of the critical areas ---ending this completely immoral war. It which is not only killing thousands of American service people and tens of thousands of Iraqis but is also going to be costing her taxpaying constituents for generations.
DYANI BACHELDER FROM SONOMA COUNTY CARRIED A PROTEST SIGN
One side read:
"If anyone questions why we died, tell them our fathers lied to us.
32,000 + United States troops killed - Iraqi people???"
"Treason - Betrayal of Trust
Prosecute Bush / Cheney"
That's a great sign. What organization are you from?
Q: Did you make this sign?
A: I did.
Q: Can you give me a short statement why?
A: (The words) "Treason" and "Espionage" came to me a year or two ago.
I thought about "Treason." I looked it up in the dictionary. It said: "Betrayal of Trust."
"Espionage." I was thinking about it. I looked that up. it's spying on American citizens.
"Treason," meaning absolute betrayal --- to the CIA agent, Valerie Plame, who is a government agent, and to the American people.
Q: So, you've been concerned about this a long time,
A: It hurts.
Q: Why does it hurt?.
A: That it's so deep. They are slaughtering people. Mass slaughtering.
Q: On the march, the only media that came to me was KPFA. ABC and (the rest) of them will not go near (a sign saying) "Prosecute." (Bush and Cheney).
Peace be with you.