Gary at Camp Casey
Jim Hightower, in his delightfully irreverent book "Thieves in High Places " said anyone who considered taking a vacation in Crawford, Texas, in August needed to be taken forthwith to the nearest mental institution.
He was right!! Crawford in August is HOT!! And HUMID!! I arrived in Crawford late Saturday night, August 13th. Believing, silly me, that in a town of less than 800 people it would be a cinch to find the Peace House or Camp Casey.
The sidewalks were entirely rolled up. There was no 24 hour gas station. There was no traffic anywhere. No one to ask directions from even if I had been brave enough to ask the natives (people I knew were mostly fervent Bush supporters) for directions. I had no idea where the Peace House or the camp were. After parking under a tree in a church parking lot and trying valiantly to sleep until the gallons of sweat rolling off my body nearly drowned me. I finally gave up and took myself out of town, traveling up the George W. Bush Parkway to a hotel in Waco that missed being a 4-star motel by about 5 stars.
The next morning back in Crawford, the Peace House was easy to find, even without directions.
A little background:
I am just a housewife and mother. Apolitical all my life, it was apparent to me early on that the agenda of George Bush and those who shared power with him was different than that of any other administration I had seen in my lifetime. His government was clearly of, by, and for corporations and the very rich. He had no interest whatever in the "common good. " In fact, his intent toward the people and their environment appeared to be malevolent. And, has proven to be so.
Even so I did nothing. When we bombed Afghanistan, I did nothing.
However, when Bush et.al. began clamoring for war with Iraq, and the press failed to examine their words or logic, I began writing out of my frustration over the media 's failure to do its job, which is to question those in the seats of power and hold them accountable for their words and actions. I did not understand why we should blindly believe the words of oil men who in two short years had proven themselves to be arrogant, unethical, dishonest, and staggeringly incompetent. They had already taken us from surpluses to deficits for the benefit of themselves and their class, already failed us by ignoring dozens of warnings indicating bin Laden was up to something. They were also men who stood to benefit personally either politically and/or financially from war with Iraq.
I am no longer apolitical. My vote in 2006 will be based almost entirely on how strongly the candidate supported this most incompetent and dishonest of all presidents. I would vote for people as ideologically diverse as Dennis Kucinich, liberal Democrat, a real hero who was against the war, voted against Cafta, and always votes for the people, and Ron Paul, conservative Republican, who also voted against the war, against Cafta, and is an American statesman.
I began collecting information that most people did not know but should know. I made summaries in large print and taped them to my 1994 Toyota pick-up, because, as Walter Cronkite said the media, especially the broadcast media, no longer provides the people with the information we need to make informed decisions (that is on my truck) so, as Ed Asner said, it is "up to us. " My "book on wheels" gradually came into being. At a stop light, people behind my truck or alongside it have no choice but to read what is on parts of my truck. It contains sections on the environment, the economy, what real war heroes (Eisenhower, MacArthur, Bradley, Butler, Zinni, McGovern, etc.) and other sages (Twain, Einstein, Vonnegut) have said, http://oldamericancentury.org /submit_0061.htm Iraq war veterans, the Baghdad girl blogger, "the Iraq war the Big Lie, " 9/11, Christianity and morality, the War Profiteers, etc. To make it more palatable for Republicans, most of what is on it was said by Republicans.
Months ago I wrote to Cindy Sheehan to ask if she would mind if I included her daughter's poem "A Nation Rocked to Sleep" on my truck. So, when I came home from my nephew's wedding in Iowa Friday afternoon, went to my information websites and read that Cindy was camping outside of Bush's ranch in Texas, even though I hate to travel and had just gotten back from a 2500 mile road trip, I accepted that my truck and I belonged at Crawford with Cindy.
I left on Saturday. The two days I spent there are among the most memorable days of my life. The people I met were fascinating.
Sunday morning I signed in at the Peace House. I immediately began retaping the information sheets that had been on my truck since March, but that I had ripped off three days earlier when my husband had driven my truck to a job interview (even I did not think driving a vehicle with nearly 90 sheets of controversial information taped on it stem to stern to a job interview would be prudent if a person seriously wanted to get the job). An obliging gentleman helped me tape, and the task was soon accomplished. People began taking pictures of my truck immediately.
Cindy came out and gave me a hug. Later, I took a picture of her standing by her daughter 's poem which is taped among the pages on the hood of my truck.
At lunch on Sunday, Cindy spoke a few words. She said she did not have thick skin. The media tearing her life apart really hurt her. She said if the media had examined what Bush/Cheney et.al. had said before the war with the same kind of thoroughness they used on her, their lies would have been exposed, we would never have gone to war, and her son and all the other people who have died would still be alive. Knowing she would be attacked like she has been would she do it again? "Absolutely, " she said.
Next, one of the contingent of Iraqi-Americans there spoke. Nebeil Al-Oboudi. He said Iraq is out of control and will remain that way. Because the people are so desperately poor, and there is so little law and order, kidnappings for ransom are rampant. He said half of the collaborators will die now, half will die after we leave. It does not matter. After a war, any war, those who collaborate with the "enemy " (in this case, us) are always killed, he said. The sooner we leave, the fewer will be killed.
To be fair, a new Iraqi immigrant disagreed with him. She said Casey and the others had not died in vain. They had gotten rid of that awful man, Saddam Hussein. But, she asked why we had rained so much destruction down on them, they had never done anything to us.
We got rid of a brutal dictator. But at what cost? Would it be worth your husband 's or child 's life?? Or just worth the life of "other people 's kids? " We went to war because the gullible among us were fear-mongered into believing Saddam was a "threat. " Our founding fathers advised us not to go abroad in search of dragons to slay, and W. himself said during the 2000 campaign he was not going to engage in "nation building. " He lied.
I spoke to Nebeil after lunch. His mother was American. He was born here but raised in Iraq. He came back to the United States and has been here for 12 years. He said the United States is the most violent civilization in the history of the world. For anyone about to blow a gasket over that, Martin Luther King, Jr., said pretty much the same thing, although he used the words "purveyor of violence. " Eisenhower, God love him, saw wars like this one - wars fought mainly to benefit the coffers of the corporations of the military-industrial-complex - coming.
I also talked a bit to one of the veterans of the current war, Tim Goodrich, who was a member of the Air Force and who helped with the bombing leading up to the war. He is a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War. There were a few of them there, along with Veterans for Peace, Vietnam Veterans Against the War, Gold Star Families, Military Families Speak Out, Code Pink, and other groups. I talked to a couple of Veterans for Peace who had served in WWII. I met so many interesting people with great stories I decided I had better start taking notes. And I did.
Jewel Johnson from Lake Travis, Texas, was drafted into WWII at the age of 18. He said his group had gone to Nagasaki after "the bomb " was dropped. But the stench of the tens of thousands of rotting bodies was too great, and the fear of disease was too strong. They could not embark. Later they did embark at Hiroshima to try to pick up American, British, and Russian POW 's. He said Eisenhower and MacArthur both toured the sites after the bomb. Both concluded after doing so that war must be abolished as an instrument of national policy.
I talked to Frank Greer, a member of "Veterans for Peace. " He is a Vietnam veteran. He had been a recruiter for a number of years. He said he was anti-war, not anti-military. He said we need a strong military. He said that you have to be able to trust this nation 's leaders. When he was recruiting people he trusted the leaders, but, he said, the people leading the nation now, are not trustworthy.
Sunday afternoon I drove out to the camp. "Chas, " a young man I later discovered was a conscientious objector who had served in Korea, saw my truck drive up and his face lit up like a light bulb. I requisitioned him to help better secure some of my pages of information to the bed of my truck. He said he had been in the military for over two years. About a year and a half ago he was pulling security duty and a general (whose name I will not use) told him Iraq would be the next Vietnam at least in part because he (the general) could not make even one decision without the express consent of a politician with no military experience.
What does that suggest about who did or did not know about what went on at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere?!
I took a shuttle out to the camp passing signs saying "Cindy, our soldiers are heroes, not victims. " "We support our commander-in-chief and our troops. " And so on.
Out at the camp along the road there was a photo montage of the first 1000 soldiers killed in Iraq. A line of white crosses, represented the additional 850 plus soldiers who have died in Iraq to this point in time. Some crosses were there waiting to be inscribed with the names of the dead whose identities had not yet been released. This service is done by "Arlington West " a group of concerned citizens out of Santa Monica, California. These are the crosses someone ran over and vandalized Monday night.
I slept in my truck along the road by the camp Sunday night. When I raised my head up from sleep in the morning, someone was taking pictures of my truck. It was Bill Mitchell. He introduced himself to me and told me he loved my truck. His son, Mike, was killed the same day as Casey Sheehan. "Bloody Sunday, " April 4, 2004, in Sadr City. Mike had been there eleven months. He had turned his stuff in on the 3rd. He was one week away from going to Kuwait, two weeks away from Germany, and three months from his wedding. He and his outfit had been there long enough to know what to look out for. But, the new group coming in was ambushed. He and also Casey, as it turned out, went to rescue those who had been ambushed. They both died. They did not know each other. But, he has a picture of them together. It is the illegal picture of the flag-draped coffins taken by the woman who lost her job for doing it. Her husband, who had nothing to do with it, also lost his job. She had done it as an act of respect. To show how reverently the coffins were treated. But, the leaders of this country do not want the people to see any evidence of death. The war is only a movie. No one really dies or is maimed. It is more palatable to the masses that way. Expletive deleted!!
Bill said his son 's buddies met with him when they came back from Iraq. They told him they wanted to go back to Iraq to kill the Iraqis who had killed Mike. He told them that was not the way. He said his son had felt sorry for the people of Iraq.
If Mike 's friends want to kill the Iraqis responsible for Mike 's death, Imagine how much more the families and friends of Iraqi civilians who are killed want to kill the Americans who killed their family members or friends!
Bill said Sherwood Baker was a soldier looking for "Weapons of Mass Destruction. " He was killed a month after our fearless leader made a joke out of looking for weapons of mass destruction and not being able to find them at the National Press Club Dinner in 2004. A comedy routine that was as insensitive as the "bring em on " comment that Iraq war veteran and Ohio Special Election Congressional candidate Paul Hackett, who narrowly lost election in a highly Republican district, said was the stupidest thing he had ever heard a president say. That election was held the week 19 Ohio soldiers died in two days in Iraq. One can only speculate that if the election had been held a week later, the Major would likely have won. Hackett said the war was making Democrats of more soldiers in Iraq every day.
I would think that if the soldiers are paying attention, they know that it is Bush and the Republicans who try to cut their pay and benefits at every juncture. That fact is likely making Democrats out of soldiers there and soldiers and veterans everywhere else as well.
Bill said since 1968, 2.3 people a day die in terrorist attacks. 24,000 people a day die from hunger. So what is the problem we should concentrate on?
Former President Jimmy Carter said the greatest cause of war is the ever increasing gap between the have 's and have not 's. Even our own Pentagon postulates that the increasing gap between the have 's and have not 's brought about by globalization will cause rebellions in the future. Rebellions they plan to put down by targeting the rebels with weapons they place in space. In other words, our military 's goal is to kill poor people. Former Special Forces soldier Stan Goff said his eyes were finally opened when we invaded Haiti in '94. He said that is when he realized that we only attack poor people who are virtually defenseless. He has become an activist for social causes ever since. But we do not seek peaceful solutions to problems because there is so much money to be made in war.
At lunch on Monday, Dave Cline of "Veterans for Peace " made up a little ditty I wish I had the words for to entertain us as we ate. I sat by Juan Torres who immigrated here from Argentina 25 years ago. He said he came here to find the American dream. His son became a CPA, his daughter an architect. His son died in Afghanistan, a victim of "friendly fire " like Pat Tillman. And now, he said, his dream is in the ground. His wife is in the cemetery every day crying. He spends his time, now, forcing recruiters out of the schools.
He was reading the Dallas paper and was incensed. The Dallas paper, he thought, made it sound like there was a small group supporting Cindy and a large group supporting Bush the exact opposite of the truth.
I have since learned Juan believes his son was murdered for trying to stop American officers from engaging in drug trafficking in Afghanistan. http://lewrockwell.com/rogers/rogers166.html
I talked to Dick, another member of "Veterans for Peace. " He served in the Navy after Korea but before Vietnam. During the Vietnam War he worked for the military industrial complex. He said he didn 't know anything then. We are, he said, programmed for war. He said "History is hidden from us. "
On Monday there was a press conference at Camp Casey. The last or nearly the last question was asked by a Japanese American journalist. It was a rhetorical question. Michael Wayne Rogers asked how he could explain to the Japanese people why George Bush is still our president. The Japanese people, he said, thought Americans were "nuts " (he actually used the word "nuts ") because they had not yet impeached Bush. A bystander interjected, of course, that the Japanese are obviously smarter than we are.
I was so delighted by the question, I missed any questions that followed. That was the most refreshing comment I had heard by anyone since George Galloway 's take down of Norm Coleman.
After the interview I grabbed Mr. Rogers. I found out he was born at Camp Pendleton, the son of an American soldier and a Japanese mother. He said he could not believe how "politically correct " the questions the reporters ask this administration are. He was disgusted by it. He lived in America the first 26 years of his life, and in Japan Tokyo and Okinawa the next 22 years. He had the top rated talk radio show on INTER FM in Tokyo for 6 years. But, he was critical of the war, and so was fired. Because, he said, Japanese corporations had ties with some British corporations. It was about money, the same as it is in America. He writes for Lew Rockwell here.
He said he believes America 's political system is totally ruined and cannot be fixed by Democrats or Republicans. The only thing that will fix it is a revolution.
I asked him which country he liked better. He said Japan, no contest. I asked him why. He said because it is a "much freer " society. He said he would not have dreamed of saying that 20 years ago. He came here expressly for the Cindy Sheehan happening. He said he was going back to Japan and he doubts he will ever come here again. For one thing, even though he is an American, because he has been critical of the war, he is hassled at the airport. He said he is on a "no fly " list, and, he said, if I write articles critical of the war I can bet I am on someone 's list, too.
He said the Japanese troops in Iraq were a joke. Basically they are just there so the Administration can point to Japan as another member of the "coalition of the willing. " By law, Japan is not allowed to have a military. So what it has is "self-defense " In Iraq, the Japanese soldiers do not leave their base. And the Japanese people wonder what their troops are doing in Iraq.
He said the administration says that the insurgency in Iraq was like the insurrection in Japan after WWII. That, he said, is an absolute lie. There was no post-war insurrection in Japan. Not a single American was attacked in Japan after WWII.
He took pictures of my truck then, and recorded what I had to say as I led him around it. He requested that I send him the entire file of what is on my truck.
A person I spent a lot of time talking to was Dave Jenson of Tyler, Texas, another Vietnam vet, a Marine who spent time around Da Nang in the early seventies. He said he was a navigator, part of the crew on a C-130. He said when Nixon pulled the Marines out of Vietnam to great publicity and public fanfare, it was all a lie. He said what happened was they just went to Thailand and flew the exact same missions from a base they nicknamed "The Rose Garden " in Thailand that they had been flying out of Vietnam. He said PBS did a 13 part special on Vietnam that was very good, and had kind of clarified it all for him.
He said 90% of the people in Tyler don 't care about this war or the lies of this administration. They don 't want to know. They like their comfort. He said even the people he grew up with in the 60 's don 't care. Which, I gather bothered him because, perhaps, they did care about things in the 60 's. But he, obviously, cares very much.
I talked to Gary, a 70 years old Korean War veteran from Crestview, Florida. He had served first in the Infantry, and then in SAC and then in air force supply for another 23 years. He said, "War is a symptom of what is wrong and what is really wrong is uncontrolled corporate power and uncontrolled corporate wealth. The hidden agenda is to drive up debt to use as an excuse to get rid of Social Security. " He said he had a friend who was an illegal immigrant. His friend said what the United States is trying to do is to forcibly combine the U.S. and Mexico, but the result will be a country that resembles Mexico, not the U. S. He thought his friend was pretty smart.
He said he was at Camp Casey because he wanted to support Cindy. He was anti-war. Especially anti this war, which, he said, was clearly illegal as well as being immoral. But, he said what hurt worse was that it was also "unnecessary. "
I met and listened to many other interesting people from all over. Several from Minnesota, some from Washington and Oregon, California, Kansas City, Illinois. I met a woman who worked for "Black Box Voting. " She said she knew both elections were stolen. I did not meet her until she was on the point of leaving, so did not get to discuss that issue with her. I met social workers and nurses. Ministers and environmental activists. The overwhelming majority of the people I talked to were combat veterans. It was wonderful! I wish I could have stayed!
I was sorry I had missed Maxine Waters. However, on Monday afternoon I met 27 year CIA veteran Ray McGovern, the agent who gave the first President Bush his intelligence briefings, and who was so appalled by this Administration 's dishonest agenda he helped form the group called "Veteran Intelligence Agents for Sanity. " I got a picture of him in front of my truck as well. As I was leaving, a producer from Air America, Phoenix, was taking pictures of my truck.
I wrote at the beginning of this essay that Jim Hightower said anyone who decides to take a vacation in Crawford, Texas, in August needs to be taken immediately to a mental institution. But Cindy Sheehan did not go to Crawford to relax and unwind. Unlike our president, who, after all, has spent more than 330 days of his presidency on vacation, this broken-hearted mother of a beloved dead soldier, this gentle, soft-spoken, yet articulate lady went to Crawford, Texas, not for rest and relaxation, but to try to make our grounded-from-flying president, the man who was AWOL for at least several months from his National Guard duty. The man who believed in the Vietnam War, but not enough to fight in it, tell her what the "noble " reason was her son had had to die.
She also wanted to ask him why, if the military is such an admirable career and the cause Casey died for was so worthwhile and noble, neither his daughters nor any of his nieces and nephews had joined up. Why neither he nor anyone else in his administration, people who also used every means at their disposal to avoid serving in the wars of their time, did not have any "skin in the game. " Especially in view of the fact that while recruitment for Al Qaeda has ballooned, recruitment for our military is a problem. In spite of hefty increases in enlistment and retainment bonuses. Even raising the enlistment age to 42 has not garnered enough new recruits.
For those who say she is "disrupting " the president 's vacation, she replies she will never again take a vacation that does not involve a piece of heartache.
Cindy loses a lot of sleep nights, but not because the president may have been temporarily inconvenienced by her presence. Her suffering goes a little deeper than that.
Cindy Sheehan has not experienced even one day since her son died when her heart and mind could take a vacation from her grief and her loss. And, since it has become glaringly apparent to all but the painfully stupid, the willfully ignorant or the hopelessly deluded that the reasons given that took us to war were based on manufactured, rather than accurate, information, she has not had one waking minutes respite from her rage at those responsible for her loss which came about because of lies. Would she be camped outside of Crawford if her son had died in a legitimate war? I doubt it.
E.L. Doctorow, in his eloquent article "Our Unfeeling President " described our president 's incapacity for empathy. http://www.easthamptonstar.com /20040909/col5.htm Part of what he wrote is my personal favorite quotation that I have on my truck. "Millions of people ...around the world ...marched against the war ... the cry of protest was the appalled understanding that America was ceding its role as the last best hope of mankind. It was their perception that the classic archetype of democracy was morphing into a rogue nation. The greatest democratic republic in history was turning its back on the future " E.L. Doctorow
General Omar Bradley said "War can be prevented as surely as it can be provoked, and we who fail to prevent it must share the guilt for the dead. " (it 's on my truck) But, no one in this administration, with the possible exception of Colin Powell had any interest in "preventing war. " And also, with the possible exception of Colin Powell, they appear to feel, now, very little guilt over the lives that have been lost. Their "vanity war, " (General McPeak 's words) embarked on initially for political and personal gain is, to them, worth other people 's sacrifice. Never mind that they refuse to share in the sacrifice, even in what should be, for anyone with their substantial incomes, the painless sacrifice of paying higher taxes to cover the expense of the war. Instead, their taxes have been dramatically reduced under this president whose "Christian " concern appears to be only for the rich his priorities and policies are nearly the exact opposite of those Christ espoused. That is on my truck too. In greater detail.
Helen Thomas, who has been a fixture in Washington since President Kennedy 's time, said this is the only president she has ever known who actually wanted to go to war. Why now?? Why not when he could have participated in it physically rather than vicariously?
There is a lovely bishop here in Roswell, a Democrat named Bishop Meeks. He says we must pray for our president. Sometimes I do. And mostly I do not wish him ill, I simply want him and his administration to be out of power, so their ineptitude and greed cannot hurt any more people. I want him to live the rest of his life in the obscurity his mediocrity and incompetence indicate he so richly deserves.
Hal Crowther described Bush and his war folly in his article "With Trembling Fingers, " http://www.populist.com/04.10 .crowther.html an article that should have been required reading for every citizen before he/she entered a voting both last fall. He said, "One problem with this referendum is that the case against George Bush is much too strong. Just to spell it out is to sound like a bitter partisan. I sit here on the 67th birthday of Saddam Hussein facing a haystack of incriminating evidence that comes almost to my armpit. What matters most, what signifies? Journalists used to look for the smoking gun, but this time we have the cannons of Waterloo, we have Gettysburg and Sevastopol, we have enough gun smoke to cause asthma in heaven. I'm overwhelmed. Maybe I should light a match to this mountain of paper and immolate myself. On the near side of my haystack, among hundreds of quotes circled and statistics underlined, just one thing leaped out at me. A quote I had underlined was from the testimony of Hermann Goering at the Nuremberg trials, not long before Hitler's vice-fuhrer poisoned himself in his jail cell:
"It is always a simple matter to drag people along whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. This is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in every country." (It 's on my truck,)
I certainly do not want anything to happen to W. I can think of noone who deserves the status of martyr less than he does. But what future president can be held accountable for anything ever again, if this worst of all administrations is not impeached??
What was it we impeached a much more competent president for??
But I am not as good a person as Bishop Meeks. Sometimes the uglier side of me cannot help but hope, for a fleeting minute or longer, that the God Bush says he believes in is a God of "justice " and not of mercy, and that George Bush, Dick Cheney, and all the architects of this war of arrogance -- made more devastating because it was so ineptly planned a war fought by "other people 's kids " for the personal political and/or financial gain of those in power -- are judged without mercy.
Because of Cindy 's suffering. And Bill 's, and Juan 's, and the suffering of all the other families both here and in Iraq who lost family members in this war.
Support our troops!! Impeach the administration that lied them to their deaths and maimings!
It 's on my truck.
Bio: Lonna Gooden VanHorn is the mother of 6, a grandmother, and the wife of a Vietnam veteran. She has articles on many sites. Archives of some of her articles can be accessed here: http://www.opednews.com /archivesgoodenVanHornLonna.htm and here http://oldamericancentury.org /vanhorn_bio.htm
Pictures of her "book on wheels " may be accessed here: http://oldamericancentury.org /lonna_002.htm
Click on the thumbnails, and the pictures will enlarge so must of what is on the signs can be read.
If you would like transcripts of the entire content of her information truck e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and she will send you her truck file as an attachment.