Tag Archives: Iraq War

Iraq Veterans Arraigned on Disorderly Conduct Charges: Vow to Defend Right to Free Speech and Assembly

Originally posted at OpEdNews.com

On Monday, the day before Veterans day, 14 members of the ‘Hempstead 15′ were arraigned on charges of disorderly conduct. The charges stem from a protest outside of the final presidential debate at Hofstra University on October 15. The protest was organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) who wanted the issue of veterans’ healthcare and support of war resisters to be addressed by the candidates. What began as an orderly and peaceful gathering escalated into an aggressive use of force by the Nassau County Police Department leaving one Iraq war veteran, Nick Morgan, with a fractured eye orbit and cheekbone.

Nick Morgan following reconstructive surgery (photo by Bill Perry)


Nick Morgan wounded outside presidential debate (photo by Bill Perry)

Video coverage of the protest shows Morgan standing solemnly, hands clasped behind his back while mounted police backed their horses onto the sidewalk and into the crowd. Despite serious injuries and semiconscious state, the police proceeded to handcuff Morgan dragging him across the street to an awaiting bus.

Yesterday Nick, along with 13 others, faced disorderly conduct charges in Nassau County Court. Ten of the 15 charged are members of IVAW. Iraq war veteran, Adam Kokesh, is scheduled to appear in court today, Veterans day.

A throng of supporters gathered outside the Nassau County Court House early yesterday and filled the court room. IVAW member and defendant, Mathis Chiroux spoke to reporters before the arraignment, “We the Hempstead 15 are out here today to be arraigned for disorderly conduct. We are moving to dismiss. We were assembling October 15 to force the issue that service members and veterans are not being heard or cared for by the leaders of our country. We were responded to by the candidates by being ignored. In fact, we were brutalized and arrested by the Nassau County Police Department before also being charged.”


Outside Nassau County Court House (photo by Bill Perry)

Each of the defendants pled not-guilty to the charges. In what they and their lawyer, Jonathan Moore, describe as a “divide and conquer” tactic, the judge ordered separate court dates be held thus preventing them from being co-defendants.

After the arraignment, Moore declared “What happened in court today was basically nothing except an attempt by the district attorney to separate people into smaller groups so that there wouldn’t be the same appearance of a large crowd at the next court date. I don’t know why cities and states and counties are so afraid of people engaging in lawful political protest. To the extent that there was a hazardous condition created, it was created by the police not by the individuals who were simply engaging in protected first amendment speech. Some people were seriously injured by the use of these horses in a reckless and dangerous way.”

Nick Morgan thanking the crowd for their support added “You know I hope a lot of you especially from around this area are as appalled as I am about the actions of the Nassau County Police Department and the gross violations of the constitution that all of us veterans swore to protect and uphold against all enemies foreign and domestic.”

Mathis Chiroux vowed to fight until their names are cleared and justice is served. “Today, make no mistake about it. Nassau County has added insult to injury. But, I am grateful and thankful and I am overwhelmingly happy to report that every single member of the Hempstead 15 pled not guilty today. And, we are going to fight this thing out. This is unacceptable,” he said.


Mathis Chiroux speaks to reporters (photo by Bill Perry)

Chiroux continued “We cannot be brutalized and silenced and told that we don’t have the right to oppose those who would take away our rights and literally trampling everything that it is to be American. Condemn, condemn the Nassau County Police Department for their trampling of Nick and others and as well their sneaky backdoor maneuvering to try and have us all tried on separate days to keep you from coming out and having your voices heard in our support. We are going to continue forcing this issue and we are not going to stop until the names of every single one of the Hempstead 15 are cleared and Nick Morgan sees justice.”


Co-Defendants Jose Vasquez & Kris Goldsmith (photo by Bill Perry)

According to Newsday.com, police spokesman, Det. Sgt. Anthony Repalone, claimed that officers showed restraint in handling the protest, but they are reviewing the incident.

IVAW is raising funds to assist in Nick Morgan’s medical expenses. Readers can donate at IVAW.org. For video of yesterday’s events visit Adam Kokesh Revolutionary Patriot.

Vietnam veteran and Veterans for Peace member, Bill Perry, contributed to this report

 

 

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Meet the Protester who ‘May Have Received a Minor Injury’ at the Hofstra Debate

Originally posted at OpEdNews.com
Wednesday night Americans waited for presidential candidates, Senators Barack Obama and John McCain, to take the stage at Hofstra University for the final debate before the elections. Outside the debate “15 protesters” were arrested. Oh, and “one person may have received a minor injury.” That according to the Associated Press.

Iraq War Vet Nick Morgan (photo by Bill Perry)

This is Nick’s fractured face after being trampled by mounted police at Wednesday’s peaceful protest.

After receiving this picture from friend, Bill Perry, a Vietnam vet and service officer who gives his time helping veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, I did a quick news search to find out more.

Democracy Now! was on it as were several Indy and alternative news sites including OpEdNews. Associated Press put out a brief release with the “one person may have received a minor injury” line, but then again their job is to make other news orgs aware of a story and in turn they can do the follow-up. Apparently, it was of little interest to most mainstream media that 10 of the 15 arrested were veterans most of whom served at least one tour in Iraq. Everyone of them repeated the “may have received a minor injury” statement making no effort to report the facts.

There were some media outlets that reported the arrests of protesters  at the debate, but few were inclined to mention that they were veterans. At most, they said the protesters “identified themselves as Iraq war veterans.” A rather dismissive remark and certainly not a hard thing for a veteran journalist to confirm.

How might the public have responded if the headlines read “10 Iraq Veterans Arrested Outside Obama – McCain Debate.” With great interest, I am sure. What if those “journalists” explained why these veterans were protesting? If they asked they might have received a response like this:

“Neither of the candidates has shown real support for service members and veterans. We came here to try and have serious questions answered, questions that we as veterans of the Iraq war have a right to ask, but instead we were arrested. We will continue to ask these questions no matter who is elected. We believe that the time has come to end this war and bring our troops home, and we will be pushing for that no matter what happens in this election.” said Jason Lemieux, a former Sergeant in the US Marine Corps who served three tours in Iraq, and member of IVAW.

What if the American people learned from the mainstream media that there is a growing movement of Iraq veterans who are angry about the poor services they are receiving after risking life and limb in an illegal war?

What if this morning Americans pulled up to that kitchen table that the candidates love to talk about and unfolded their paper to find this image on the front page?


Hempstead or Baghdad? (photo by Bill Perry)

This is Nick being comforted by a buddy after literally having his face broken because he wants the world and the candidates to know the Iraq war needs to end now. Because he wants them to know that veterans are not receiving the necessary care that they deserve and were promised. Because he wants to know what the candidates are going to do about it.

I have faith in the American people. I believe that a lot of those people sitting at their kitchen table would have reached for the phone to ask their members of Congress why they were looking at an image of a wounded soldier bleeding on a sidewalk in Hempstead, New York in a picture that looks like it came from the streets of Baghdad, Iraq.

The politicians and pundits love to praise our veterans for protecting our way of life and ensuring our liberties. This week Nick and his fellow Iraq veterans sought to exercise those rights. They paid the price. As usual, the mainstream media looked the other way.

Ten veterans were arrested during the action, including Matthis Chiroux (Army Sergeant), Kristofer Goldsmith (Army Sergeant), Adam Kokesh (Marine Sergeant), Mike Spinato, Geoff Millard (Army Sergeant), Marlisa Grogan (Marine Captain), Nathan Peld (Navy, 1998-2004), Nick Morgan (Army Sergeant), James Gilligan (Marine Corps, 6 years) and Jose Vasquez (Army & Army Reserves, 1992-2007).

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was founded in July of 2004 to allow servicemen and women from all branches of the military a chance to come together and speak out against an illegal, unjust and unwinnable occupation. IVAW currently has over 1,300 members in 49 states, Canada and on military bases in the United States and overseas. To learn more about IVAW you can visit their website at http://ivaw.org/.

 

 

A ‘Sea of Tombstones’ in Philadelphia Brings Memorial Day Remembrances to a New Level

In the early hours on the Friday before Memorial Day, members of the Delaware Valley Veterans for America, other veterans groups and volunteers, began the painstaking process of marking out the grid that hours later would hold markers representing the 4081 U.S. service members who lost their lives in the Iraq war (as of May 24).  

Adding to this stunning visual were the buildings that flanked the memorial that was first displayed on Veteran’s Day 2005. But, it wasn’t historic Independence Hall, the Liberty Bell or the National Constitution Center that pulled at the heartstrings of those who walked along the somber exhibit. It was the tone that was set by the organizers, mostly veterans, who moved quietly among the perfect rows listening, sharing stories, and answering sometimes difficult questions.  

 

For many Americans, Memorial Day weekend is synonymous with the start of summer festivities; the first trip to the “shore,” breaking out the grill and the convertible and spending time outdoors with family and friends. Thoughts of Memorial Day often elicit sounds of marching bands and images of motorcades making their way down Main Street, America with crowds waving flags from the sidelines.  

These activities were not part of the spirit of Memorial Day on Independence Mall last weekend – except, perhaps, for the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest qualifier that was held on Saturday just steps away from the “Sea of Tombstones,” also known as Arlington-North.  

The spectacle of the crowd cheering on participants who forced the famed hot dogs to their stomach’s capacity and beyond made for a bizarre, if not morose, contrast against the backdrop of what resembled a scaled down version of the revered Arlington National Cemetery. 

A visit to lay wreaths at Arlington Cemetery in October 2005 by Vietnam veteran, Bill Perry, and his subsequent arrest later that night outside the White House in a “die-in” prompted Perry’s vision of creating this growing memorial.  Perry, who joined Vietnam Veterans Against the War in 1969 and testified at the original Winter Soldier two years later was a combat paratrooper who was wounded in action. Some 40 years later, he still struggles with combat PTSD.  

On his decision to create this memorial, Bill recalls, “In October 2005, Col. Ann Wright, Cindy Sheehan, Gold Star Dad Juan Torres and others went to Arlington to place some funeral wreaths because it was the day after 2,000 deaths. That evening, we all got locked up in front of the White House and they caged us in a holding area where we were separated by a chain link fence, and that’s when I decided to do Arlington-North on Veterans Day weekend. We made the first 2,000 markers. We began putting photos and bios on the faux tombstones on Memorial weekend, 2006.” [video news coverage] 

In a time when the caskets of fallen servicemen and women are hidden from the public eye and so few U.S. families have members serving in the military, the “Sea of Tombstones” offers a visual that ”brings it home” for the public. “I want people to have a grasp on the enormity of 4083,” explained Bill.  

Accomplishing this is no easy task and can only be explained as a labor of love. “The setup alone, depending on the turnout of volunteers, takes 6 to 8 hours. There are four heavy duty weekends,” he describes, “of cutting, drilling, sawing, painting and printing out 4,000 photos and bios and laminating them which have to be replaced at least once per year because they fade.  

Despite the long stretch of lawn, only around 2000 markers were able to fit this year as the Department of Interior no longer allowed the veterans group to utilize a section of lawn at the Market Street quadrant. “What burns me up,” protested Bill, “Is that’s the one that catches all the foot traffic from Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.”  

That prime piece of real estate this year was relegated by the Park Service for Saturday’s hot dog eating contest.  

To the casual observer, though, the perfect rows of white-painted markers appeared to go on endlessly – not unlike the war that is now in its sixth year.  

 

Above, visitors read a statement by the Delaware Valley Veterans for America:  “This Display represents those Americans, who had their lives taken from them and us. It is not intended to argue the politics of the Iraq War, only to symbolically show the real cost to the public and especially to those Unaffected Americans with no direct or indirect personal involvement. Please reflect and pray for these Americans and Our Military Personnel Presently Operational in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Thank you, Delaware Valley Veterans for America.” 

Asked about the reception the project receives from passersby, Bill who spent around 50 hours on-site over the four days the exhibit ran recounts “Almost everybody’s receptive to it. Criticism is very rare – I’d say over the whole weekend, there were only two people who came through who were just looking for an argument. Two out of maybe a thousand I spoke to. About 15,000 people come through and I speak to about a thousand. I play taps about every half hour to an hour depending on how I feel you know and after that there are always 5 or 10 people who tell me how wonderful it was. They like it.”  

“People just come to us and ask us questions. You get to reach out to the international tourists, people from Missoula, Montana, Peoria and Minnesota Falls.” 

“Even the active duty people come out. We had about 7 guys who were in training over at Fort Dix. They came in and they all saluted the inverted rifle and helmet and boots and there were a lot of other active duty people and they all liked it. Six guys from Pennsylvania National Guard from right around this area were all killed around the same time and they draw a lot of people. They want to see Nate Detample and “Gerry” Pellegrini and all these guys [story].  

 

A young veteran kneels on the ground, his right hand touching the marker of a friend. He shakes his head, “Always joking man, he was funny as hell. We’d sit around the firehouse just laughing and we ended up in the same unit together and we would sit around together cracking jokes all the time and having a good time.” He pauses and shakes his head again, “The last one I would have expected – you know?” A loved one leans in to embrace him. 

For some, last weekend’s visit was not their first to this unique memorial. The Moon family of Levittown, PA returned again this weekend to visit. Their son, Army staff Sgt. Jae Sik Moon was 21 when he was injured in an IED blast while riding on patrol. He died two weeks later in Baghdad on Christmas Day 2006. 

 

Many families, like the Moons, leave flowers and personal messages for their loved ones. Arlington-North offers them an opportunity to reflect and to share their stories with others. There is a sense of peacefulness and an abundance of support from organizers, veterans, other families and even tourists passing by. 

2nd LT. Emily J Perez was a graduate of West Point who deployed to Iraq as a Medical Service Corps officer. At 23, she was the first female African-American officer to die in Iraq. She was killed when a makeshift bomb exploded nearby during combat operations near Najaf.   

Emily’s uncle, M/Sgt Ellis Dean USA (Ret), a Korean and Vietnam Paratrooper also came to pay his respects and remember his niece. A small group gathered around as he proudly shared her many accomplishments.

He then recalled the day he heard the news. “Her grandmother called me and she said, ‘Dean, I got some sad news. My granddaughter, your niece, was killed yesterday in Iraq.’ I just couldn’t believe it.”  

He was then handed the marker with her name and picture. On it, he wrote “We all will never forget you. Rest in Peace. Your Uncle Ellis. As the mock tombstone was held in front of him, he saluted while Bill Perry played taps. For a full minute all foot traffic on the mall came to a standstill in solemn respect.  

 

Many visitors, particularly the children, are surprised by the number of women represented in the memorial. Of the almost 100 U.S. female deaths in Iraq, 60 are confirmed “hostile” fatalities.  

Also recognized by the organizers are PTSD related suicides. The Army reported Thursday that 115 soldiers committed suicide last year, the highest level on record.  But, this was already being discussed at the 2006 Arlington-North Veterans Day. Below, a young girl asks Bill why PTSD suicide happened in Iraq. As Bill comments, “Kid gloves are required for these poignant moments.”  

 

Asked about his own battle with post-traumatic stress and how he manages it, Bill offers, “What’s therapeutic for me is being a Service Officer for Disabled American veterans and helping the Iraq veterans get what they deserve in terms of a good evaluation and good treatment and good compensation from the VA. That’s what I thrive on.” 

What motivates him to continue to sponsor this event in which he and others give so much of themselves? “The tearful thank you’s and heartfelt embraces.”  

  

Long after the Moon family left for the day, a young boy happened upon their son’s marker. He stood motionless contemplating the image before him. His eyes eventually reading the words left behind by the soldier’s mother,  

 

“I love you so much. I miss you so much. Mom.”  

If, indeed, Memorial Day is a day of remembrance, the members of Delaware Valley Veterans for America and all the volunteers involved, have gone above and beyond the call of duty.    

To learn more about this exhibit that is displayed on both Memorial and Veterans Day along with a few smaller displays throughout the year and to donate much needed and appreciated funds, please visit: http://www.arlington-libertybell.net/   

photo credits: Jack Kline, Peter Brunner, Cheryl Biren-Wright

additional video by Monique Frugier

Winter Soldier: Can the Mainstream Media Handle the Truth?

Media Misteps

The track record of the mainstream media’s efforts to unearth and report the truth about the war in Iraq is shoddy at best. When one considers that this war has been a big money maker for the corporate owned media and its sponsors, the integrity of the reporting – or lack thereof – becomes suspect. Whether the failure to engage in authentic investigative journalism is a result of incompetence or of manipulation, there is little doubt that it contributed to the nightmare that is the Iraq war.

Recently, the Center for Public Integrity exposed 935 false statements made by the Bush administration between October 2001 and August 2003, regarding the national security threat posed by Saddam Hussein. Had any major news outlet in the United States pressed for the truth and exposed just a fraction of those lies, we may very well not be in Iraq today.

Instead of asking leaders the hard questions, the talking heads and pundits engaged in nightly cheerleading to the rhythm of a steady drumbeat with slick graphics, Pentagon-approved experts and mind numbing flag waving.

Five Years Later

Today, we turn on the tube to find those same faces salivating over discussions about whether a presidential candidate’s voice is too shrill, whether one has enough substance or if another is conservative enough for his own good. They do occasionally talk about each candidate’s campaign-issued platform on Iraq, but what continues to be overlooked are the facts on the ground. What is not evidenced is a sincere level of obligation to the men and women whom they cheered on as they marched off to war, or to the country that has been obliterated by five years of a bloody occupation.

Next week, the media will have an opportunity to chart a course of redemption. From March 13-16, veterans will gather in the Washington, D.C. area for the chance to speak out and share their experiences about what is happening on a daily basis on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan. Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan organized by Iraq Veterans Against the War  will provide an outlet for veterans to speak out and for the American people to gain a better understanding of the human cost of this war.

The title, Winter Soldier, arises from the writings of Thomas Paine who in 1776, declared “These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of his country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

Stepping Up

In 1971, a group of veterans exposed the criminal nature of the Vietnam War in an event called Winter Soldier. Following in their footsteps, today’s Winter Soldiers will bare their souls for the sake of their country. A FAQ sheet provided by IVAW states, “We are fighting for the soul of our country. We will demonstrate our patriotism by speaking out with honor and integrity instead of blindly following failed policy.” Kelly Dougherty, executive director of IVAW and a former sergeant who served as a military police officer in Iraq explains, “We’ve heard from the politicians, we’ve heard from the generals, we’ve heard from the media – now it’s our turn.” “It’s not going to be easy to hear what we have to say. It’s not going to be easy for us to tell it. But we believe that the only way this war is going to end is if the American people truly understand what we have done in their name.”


IVAWs Kelly Dougherty (Photo: Cheryl Biren-Wright)

Liam Madden, an Iraq war veteran and cofounder of Appeal for Redress  serves on the Board of Directors of IVAW. In an article published by AlterNet, Madden writes, “Thanks to our nation’s leadership, history will come to know this as an era of unabashed torture and war, led by the United States and its amorphous War on Terror.”

Regarding Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, he explains “We understand that truth, honesty and integrity are essential components to a functioning democracy. That is why American citizens must have informed opinions and take action in keeping with their principles – millions of lives depend on it.”

Madden makes clear that this is not about pointing fingers at his brothers and sisters in uniform. “Soldiers and Marines are not to blame for the suffering of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan; these veterans’ stories will indicate that responsibility belongs to those in the seat of power. Winter Soldier will prove that the problem goes much deeper than the atrocities of Abu Ghraib or the massacre in Haditha.”

The IVAW website backs that sentiment stating “Contrary to the rhetoric of political and military leaders, wrongdoings in Iraq and Afghanistan are not isolated incidents perpetrated by ‘bad apples.’ Throughout the military, from the highest levels of power, servicemen and women are being ordered to do things that violate their consciences and the rules of war. We repeatedly see lower enlisted soldiers getting punished for bad policy. Winter Soldier will place the blame of atrocious U.S. war policy where it belongs: on our political leaders.”

Four Days in March

Hundreds of veterans plan to travel to Washington, D.C. for this historic event which will feature live testimony including supporting video and photographic documentation. In order to ensure legitimacy of the testimony, a verification team made up of 20-members is gathering and vetting all testimony in advance. Background checks, interviews, questionnaires and incident reports are required. Every veteran participating must have his or her DD-214 which is issued to military members upon separation from active service. The process doesn’t end there. After collecting testimony, each story is thoroughly researched including interviews with members of the participant’s unit. Anyone fabricating their story or posing as a veteran will be handed over to the authorities.

In addition to individual testimonies, panel discussions designed to focus on the human impact of the war as well as the breakdown of the military have also been planned. Among these panels are The Crisis in Veterans’ Healthcare; Corporate Pillaging and Military Contractors; Rules of Engagement; Divide to Conquer: Gender and Sexuality in the Military; Racism and War: The Dehumanization of the Enemy; Civilian Testimony: The Cost of War in Iraq and Afghanistan; and the Cost of the War at Home.

Coverage to Date

A look at the press coverage to date on IVAWs media page, finds reports primarily from local media as well as alternative news sources such as Common DreamsAlterNet and truthout. An insightful and comprehensive article from a well-known news source was published this week. The article entitled, Patriot Missiles: Iraq Veterans Against the War came not from the New York Times or the Washington Post, but from the U K’s Sunday Times. While the U.S. mainstream media has remained largely silent about next week’s event, the 1971 Winter Soldier did receive attention during the 2004 presidential elections. Media types like Chris Matthews and Joe Scarborough delved into presidential candidate John Kerry’s participation in the Winter Soldier investigations and the controversy surrounding it.

Their apparent disinterest now suggests that there never was any real concern by the media about the effects of the Winter Soldier investigation on fellow soldiers, but that instead the discussion was driven by the intoxicating effects of campaign vitriol.

Lest anyone think that they’re not talking about it now simply because it’s not yet taken place, just look back at the media build up and anticipation of the testimony by General Petraeus last September.

Hilton v. Lugar

In the world of 24-hour news coverage, there certainly is time to highlight, even discuss in depth, many of the oft-ignored issues that will be presented next week. Rather, the public is regularly inundated with sugar coated stories and nauseating celebrity gossip by purported news programs. Sometimes, though not often, the frustration over these nonsense stories that steal air time from hard news spills over unexpectedly. And that, my friends, is a real treat.

Enter Mika Brzezinski, cohost of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” with Joe Scarborough. Last June at the top of the hour, she was handed a story about socialiate Paris Hilton’s release from jail. Brzezinski did the unthinkable. She refused to read it. Later, her producer again pushed the story elevating it above the story of Republican Senator Richard Lugar’s break from President Bush on Iraq war policy.

Brzezinski, offended by her producer’s insistence that the story of a capricious Hollywood socialite take precedence over a Republican Senator challenging the President during a time of war, attempted to set the Hilton script on fire. [video link] Not satisfied, she then retrieved another copy from Dan Abram’s office and put it through a paper shredder much to the delight of viewers.

Upsetting the Cart

A more sobering example of on-air dissent, took place last month on the set of Fox and Friends. Guest, Montel Williams, tv host and former Naval officer was pressed by the hosts to discuss the “major tragedy” of actor Heath Ledger’s death. [video link] Williams objected to the relentless coverage stating, “Honestly, my heart goes out to the family, but I have been repulsed by all the coverage. Here’s a question I have. Watch this. How many people have died in Iraq since January 1? Can you give me a number?”

Host Brian Kilmeade jumped in and remarked “It’s about…it’s about 20.”

Williams replied, “No, it’s not about . It’s 28. I say it that way because we’re going to spend 15 minutes talking about this, I’ve not seen one death, one name of a soldier, one name of a person that allows us to do this.”

Host, Gretchen Carlson asked quizzically “Why do we do that as a society.” Williams answered “Because it’s our voracious appetite to bring on ratings. That’s what it is. We know it as a fact. Let’s be honest about it.” Carlson agreed “Of course, it’s the ratings.” She then moved to place the blame on the public, “It’s the appetite, we’re feeding the beast. The audience…”

“Well, cart before the horse, horse before the cart. I don’t know who drives it,” Williams responded. “I think right now if we woke up this morning and instead of talking about Heath Ledger, we talked about the troop who died last night by the IED…”

Kilmeade defended the media by stating, “We talk about the war plenty. I was actually embedded. I was there for the invasion.” “I got ya,” offered Williams. Kilmeade continued, “I think everybody in this country knows we’re at war.”

Williams countered, “Nobody in this country knows who died yesterday and if I know about Heath, I want to know about the troops.”

Kilmeade then asked whether there was any realistic way to talk about each of these deaths individually. Williams resolved that “We can talk about all of the troops from yesterday and I’m sorry if we’re going to sit here and have this discussion about Heath Ledger, I want to tell America [looking into the camera] 28 troops died since January 1st. That’s what I want to talk about.”

The hosts relented and offered Williams the chance to tell them about one of the troops who died since January. Thirty seconds later, they went to commercial. Montel never returned. Just days later, it was announced that Fox declined to renew it’s contract with the Montel Williams show.

Truth and Consequences

Last year, Joe Scarborough an early and ardent supporter of the invasion of Iraq concluded that the U.S. could not win the war. He stated, “And you’re hearing that from a guy who’s been a hawk from his earliest days. But I’m also a realist…When the facts change, so does my mind. You know, what do you do? Well, bottom line is, if you keep your feet in cement and you don’t change with the realities on the ground, then you’re responsible for the killing of a lot more U.S. troops.”

Well, Joe, next week a group of brave men and women will gather to share with the world the realities on the ground. Will you be there to listen?

A Challenge

I offer then, a challenge to the media. A self-imposed stop loss – no weekend get away, no excursions to the world of eye candy reporting. For four days next week, censor the celebrity and political hijinks. You cheered the troops on while turning your back on the truth, the least you can do now is hear their stories and report them to the public. Hey, Scarborough, Matthews, Blitzer et al – can you handle the truth?

______________________

Note: IVAW has coordinated live video and audio feeds of the entire Winter Soldier weekend. For more information visit, How to Watch

To learn more about Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) and the Winter Soldier: Iraq and Afghanistan, visit www.IVAW.org.

______

writer’s note: when writing this article, i was conflicted regarding montel williams’ question “how many people have died in iraq since january 1?” understanding that williams’ was referring to u.s. military, i did not address the fact that, of course, a far greater number than 28 died as a result of the war in iraq since january 1 if one considers the iraqi people. still, this is an issue that needs to be recognized and it should be noted again that it will be addressed during the winter soldier investigations as servicemembers and civilians will be discussing the impact of the occupation on the civilian population. end.

Nancy’s Choice: Affleck or Nirenberg

Citizen John Nirenberg, awakened from his political slumber by the Bush administration’s assaults on the Constitution and frustrated by the inaction of Congress, made a choice. John decided to pay a visit to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. His mode of transportation? A pair of 60-year-old feet. His path? Route 1 from Faneuil Hall in Boston to Capitol Hill in Washington DC.
Actor Ben Affleck was on a mission too. Ben traveled to Capitol Hill to do some research for his new role in the upcoming movie, “State of Play.” Ben will play a congressman whose mistress is murdered. Naturally, he decided to visit House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Ben’s mode of transportation?  I’ll leave that up to the reader’s imagination.

John, during the course of his 500 mile walk, wanted to be sure that Nancy knew to expect him. He sent a letter on December 15 explaining the reasons for his journey and kindly requesting a meeting upon his arrival. He also phoned, emailed and sent a certified letter. He did so rather frequently. Frequently enough that he soon came to know the staffers by name.

One can only imagine how Ben expressed his intent to meet with Nancy. Perhaps a call from his publicist?

John, while on his trek, was met with cheers and encouragement by locals in the cities and towns he passed through including this writer in the birthplace of the Constitution, Philadelphia, PA as described in the article,  Keeping the Republic . He also met with bad weather, blisters, an injured ankle and aching knees.

Ben was met with adoring fans and those pesky autograph seekers as described in the Indo-Asian News Service.

Sadly, John never received confirmation from the Speaker’s office regarding a meeting. But, he soldiered on with the help of David Swanson of AfterDowningStreet.org who is no stranger to Pelosi’s office. On Wednesday, they arrived at the Cannon House Office Building where Nancy’s district office is housed. Alas, Nancy wasn’t there. Instead, she was very, very busy at her Speaker’s office at the U.S. Capitol with no chance for John to gain access. They would have to settle for a staffer who would never arrive. You can read David’s delightful depiction of their zany adventures in the district office here . This meeting was important to John because our government now condones torture and wars of aggression, has restricted the right to habeas corpus, is threatening preemptive military action against yet another country and has a President and Vice President who have declared themselves to be above the law.

Thank goodness for Ben that Nancy chose him. Yes, Ben was able to meet with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Wednesday. His adventures are reported here  by Washington Post writer, Mary Ann Akers. According to Mary Ann, “Among the lucky ladies who got to chat with Affleck was none other than House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.”  Mary Ann goes on to describe how even though Nancy and Ben have met before, she never hosted him in her office! How exciting for both of them. Apparently, this meeting was important to Ben because the makers of the “State of Play” want to recreate the Speaker’s Lobby for the film. Who knew Ben was not only an actor, but a set designer as well?

John, as described in his blog sat in a “small, spare, cramped, ugly green space with virtually no decorations, no photos, and few senior staff.”

Ben, according to Mary Ann “commented that of all the offices he visited, none were as nice as the Speaker’s, which has a palatial balcony and grand view of the National Mall.” John holds out hope that one day House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will stop obstructing impeachment hearings and that the Constitution will be restored and protected.

Ben holds out hope that he won’t have another box office flop and maybe, just maybe, he’ll receive the coveted gold statue. Who knows? He might just  thank Nancy Pelosi in his acceptance speech!

Update: John reports “OMG, Speaker Pelosi’s Office Called!


John Nirenberg at the National Constitution Center (Photo: Cheryl Biren-Wright)