A Day in the Bar Ditch of Democracy USA

By Greg Moses

IndyMedia North Texas / Bella Ciao / TodaysAlternativeNews / truthout! / UrukNet / PortSide

“I’m back here where I met you, in the tent!” says 53-year-old Vietnam Veteran Michael Young, speaking by cell phone Saturday evening, with lots of commotion in the background to back him up. Yes, he went to Crawford like he said, and here’s what he reports:

“Well, I got up around 7:30. Was already running a little late, because I didn’t get home until midnight. I put on a pot of coffee and then got in such a hurry that I forgot it. Didn’t take any of it with me. And I got here (at the tent) just as people were organizing to go to Crawford.”

There was a little preliminary controversy before the caravan left, says Young, as Veterans for Peace negotiated some turf issues with Cindy Sheehan, the mother of Iraq war casualty Casey Sheehan and moral leader of the trip to confront the President about his war in Iraq. In the end, it was decided that the Crawford trip would be a mutual action, since VFP had already planned a trip to the Western White House as part of its annual convention being held under and near the big tent.

With preliminary issues settled, 70 people hit the southbound highway out of Dallas, some riding in the Veterans for Peace Impeachment Bus, the rest in about 15 cars following behind. Young caught a ride in a Prius driven by VietNam Veteran Ken Ashe of North Carolina.

“No, we hadn’t met before the trip, this was the first time, but we’re brothers now,” Young assures me. Ashe made two tours to the VietNam war as a medic. “He’s got my information, I’ve got his information, and we plan on meeting up again.”

When they finally pulled off the highway into Crawford, the caravan stopped at the Crawford Peace House to freshen up with water and watermelon. They did a little protesting near the street there.

“One old hillibilly with two goats in the back of his truck told us to go home,” says Young with a chuckle, “but that was the only negative thing.” So the posse remounted and took off on the five-to-six-mile journey to Crawford Ranch, where the President of the USA–in an eerie replay of 2001– is on extended summer vacation.

“The cops made us stop the vehicles about a half mile or quarter mile from the gate. It was about 100 degrees out there. But they made us walk the rest of the way. And they wouldn’t let us walk on the road.”

“You have to see that road,” says Young. “There is no traffic on that road at all, yet they made us walk in the bar ditch beside the road, which was full of weeds. Real hard ground.” After a while the cops stopped them. “They were looking for an excuse to stop us,” says Young. “They said we were walking in the road against orders.”

“We protested loud and proud,” recalls Young. “And we meant everything we said. That went on for about 30-45 minutes. We even told the police to get out their history books and read about Hitler so they could understand their role in history, standing here protecting a war criminal. We were being brutally honest from our point of view. And there was lots of press there at the time.”

“Cindy got right in their face, too,” says Young. “She said look, this is a public roadway. How can you prevent me from walking on a public roadway?”

“At that point I got right behind her,” says Young. “If she was going to jail, I was going to jail. If they wanted confrontation, I was going to back her up. I had made my mind up about that.” But there was no confrontation, no arrest.

“Far as you could see there were armed Secret Service, armed Sheriff’s deputies, armed cops up and down the road eyeing us,” says Young. “We didn’t carry any backpacks or anything so they could see we were unarmed. They made us stand there, off the pavement in that heat. All the time we were there, I think I saw one car pass.” Then the press left the scene.

“Once the press left, there was not much point standing there,” says Young, so the protesters peeled away. I tell Young about internet information that Sheehan plans to return until she sees the President, and caravans are reported to be coming from San Diego and Louisiana. “A lot of people just showed up out of nowhere,” says Young. “I yelled ’til I was hoarse.”

“I gave Cindy a big hug and told her I loved her. Even if Cindy had found the President, she wouldn’t have found what she wants,” says Young. “Cindy wants her son back. That’s just the plain truth. I feel for her. And I was there to back her up.”

“Here we were on this little road that nobody was using but we couldn’t walk on it,” says Young. It’s like you can hear him shaking his head. Send a man off to war to defend his country’s freedoms, and 35 years later this is what he sees.

“But I’ll tell you we did ourselves proud out there. We didn’t take no guff and we talked to the cops. They said they were just acting professionally, just doing their job. And we told them that’s what Hitler’s people said.”

“Once you’ve been to war and you’re a vet,” says Young, “and if you’re sworn to uphold the Constitution and protect it from enemies BOTH foreign and domestic–that never leaves. I fought in an illegal war. These young guys in Iraq are fighting in an illegal war. If I can save one life I’ll do whatever it takes.” In the bar ditch outside the President’s Crawford Ranch, Young is fighting a better war than he fought in VietNam.

“This is a war for our country,” says Young. “They are taking our country away from us and turning it into a fascist state. What has Bush done for the people? Everything he’s done has been for the corporations.” He talks about news reports of record earnings at Halliburton and jobs going overseas.

“Here’s what they need,” says Young. “They need a state of constant war. They need an ignorant population to fight it. They need people to provide the services and materials for war. And they need an ignorant population to do that work. But it will definitely be a country of rich and poor if this is not stopped.”

“I don’t know if I can stop it,” says Young. “But I’ll be doing it until the day I die. And the VietNam vets? I’ll tell you for sure, we’re not going to back down. They can’t do anymore to us.”


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News from Crawford

Texas Iconoclast Live Blog

In a message through The Iconoclast to the President she said, “George Bush, if you really care about me why aren’t you meeting with me?”

Sheehan noted that additional support is on its way from throughout the country as she continues her efforts, which will include a candlelight vigil. Caravans from Louisiana and San Diego are on the way, she said.

Reuters: Sheehan and other mothers meet White House officials at Crawford

Appreciative of their attention, yet undaunted, Sheehan said she planned to continue her roadside vigil, except for a few breaks, until she gets to talk to Bush.

Associated Press: Angry Mother of fallen soldier….

Dining with the Posse (of Peace)

By Greg Moses

IndyMedia North Texas / GlobalResistanceNetwork
/ BellaCiao / DissidentVoice / UrukNet

“That’s Cindy Sheehan,” points the Vietnam War veteran from his seat at the table. “She lost her son Casey in Iraq. And I’m going to follow her to Crawford. You coming?”

Looking up from my plate, I take the vet’s direction and turn to see Sheehan standing on the grass, stage left, mixing with three generations of veterans who have gathered this evening for peace and Bar-B-Que.

Twenty-four-year-old Casey Sheehan was killed at Sadr City on April 4, 2004 during the historic uprising (16 months ago to the day). Cindy blames the President for “creating that insurgency by his failed policies,” and on Saturday morning she is going to attempt to visit Bush at his vacation ranch in Crawford, a couple hours’ drive to the South.

The vet I’m sitting with was born and raised in California. His tan slim face looks perfectly fit for Hollywood, the place where he was born. After High School he joined the Army to see Japan and Hong Kong.

“If you’ve ever been in a war situation,” says the vet, “imagine what it must be like to find out while it’s still going on. That they lied. While you were into it.” He looks at me directly, shakes his head slowly, and digs at some food on his plate. He’s talking about the Downing Street memo, and he references AfterDowningStreet.Org.

“And as for Karl Rove,” says the vet, “in boot camp they used the word traitor. Loose lips sink ships. He’s just spitting in everyone’s face.” Rove, the so-called brain of the Bush regime, has been widely identified as the most likely source for the public ‘outing’ of CIA agent Valerie Plame.

“Saturday I’m going,” says the vet again, talking about Sheehan’s plan to confront the President at Crawford. “I’m going to follow her down there.” And you can tell by the slight grin on his face that he’s proud to have the opportunity. This is the 20th Annual convention of Veterans for Peace, and tonight this big, wide tent is a swirl of activists in motion.

A few minutes later we are joined at the table by Susan Van Haitsma, a peace activist and writer from Austin. And the vet tells her, too. He’s going to Crawford Saturday with Cindy Sheehan.

“Have you read Sheehan’s article about visiting the President?” asks Van Haitsma. “Bush comes walking into the room saying, ‘Well, who are we here to honor today?’ Sheehan says it was like looking at someone who was vacant inside.”

Meanwhile our ample round table has been joined by three more vets, John Perth of South Jersey, Bob Heberle of Minneapolis, and Robert Moses Hunt of (where else?) Hunstville, Alabama. Sam Foster from the Twin Cities sits with us briefly as he makes the rounds.

As it turns out, Hunt’s great grandfather was part of the Confederate Army, but since he refused to carry a gun, he was ordered to drive supplies instead. And, as the story goes, one day by a river near Decatur, the Yankees fired a cannonball at his wagon and missed. So he got down off the wagon, picked up the cannon ball, waved, and drove off. Hunt remembers seeing that cannonball as a kid, prior to great-grandfather’s death in 1928.

And while we’re on the subject of Dixie pacifists, at the archives of Alabama online you can find a record of “The Incident at Looney’s Tavern, ” a musical tale of romance and heartbreak involving a schoolteacher named Christopher Sheats who in 1861 was elected by the folks of Winston County to go to Montgomery and vote against the damn war. According to the archives he ended up in prison. But Hunt is not forgetting to tell the story here tonight.

What’s important about the story, says Hunt, is that the people of Alabama were not all that eager to start a war in the first place. History is a push and a pull. The closer you get to it, says Hunt, the more you can see how, “it all hangs by a thread!” Here under a big tent overlooking Dallas, three generations of veterans have gathered to blow the embers of a Dixie pacifist revival. Could it be a thing that catches fire?

The Vietnam vet is happy to see how young veterans from Iraq today have a place to meet and talk to people. “When we came back from Vietnam, nobody could talk to you,” he says. “Your best friend couldn’t talk to you. My parents wouldn’t talk to me. Then ten years later, my parents decided they wanted to talk to me about Vietnam, but I’m not talking about it. I’m sick of it.”

The Vietnam vet was there in ’70-’71, late in terms of the number of years that the war lasted, but right where the fat part of the wall starts if you’re reading names of people you know at the Washington DC memorial. “Right about the middle of the wall, that’s where my friends are.” He lifts a finger to touch the names in the air.

“I can see it on the young guys’ faces,” says the Vietnam vet, looking at their war from inside out. As he heads back home for the night, he asks again, “You coming to Crawford?”

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