Tuesday, January 30, 2007

why i got arrested at a peace protest

This is my first ever post to a blog outside of myspace. I'm pasting the following piece that i wrote and circulated after being purposefully arrested in protest of the "troop surge" announcement. I've revised it only slightly since that initial circulation (i basically corrected the typos). Here you go:

On Thursday, Jan 11, 2007, I chose to get arrested at a peaceful protest against Bush’s announcement of his plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq, which he had made the previous evening. The protest of about 100 people was organized quickly, and due to the inspired words of my friend, and the mother of my partner, who had simply reached a breaking point of frustration. She sent an email that was widely circulated, and reverberated rapidly through our community, saying that she personally planned to be at a prominent downtown intersection the day after the “troop surge”announcement, whenever that would be, bearing witness against her outrage. Later, national organizations like Move.On and UFPJ called for local demos on Thursday, when it became public that the announcement would be made Wed night. Here in Greensboro, the plans were laid well head of them.

There were 9 of us that chose to do civil disobedience that day. We stood, sat, and danced in
an intersection during rush hour around a neon orange 3 post sign that said "NO WAR! NO TROOP SURGE!" and refused to move when the cops told us to. I imagine we all had our own reasons for choosing this form of protest at this particular time, but I know there was certainly some common ground in those reasons. I’m not gonna attempt to speak for all nine of us. But I do want to explain my own reasons for stepping out of the bounds of ‘legal’ protest on that day.

For the past couple years, I’ve been closely following the bourgeoning movement of Iraq war resisters – soldiers refusing to go – and of veterans of the war speaking out against it. I’ve been deeply moved by their courage and sacracfice, and inspired bytheir commitment to getting out the truth of their experiences in Iraq and in the US military. From the high profile cases of refusers like Ehren Watada and Camilo Mejia, to quiet stories of desertions (there have been over 8000 since the war started), from watching the young organization Iraq Veterans Againstthe War (IVAW) grow into a large and powerful force onthe scene, to simply meeting people in my community who have deserted, or been there and now want to speakout against it, I’ve been increasingly convinced that these are the folx leading the movement. I’ve come to believe that it is an organized movement of military resisters and refusers that will ultimately put an end to this madness of perpetual war: when there are no longer soldiers willing to fight.

Soldiers who put themselves in this position do so at a tremendous personal price. Learning more about their risks and sacrifices, has forced me to think hard about what I am personally willing to do to make this war end. Am I willing to donate money? Am I willing to miss classes? Am I willing to hand out flyers, make phone calls, write letters? Am I willing to go to protests? Am I willing to go to jail? Without much deliberation, I found that the answers to all of these questions were YES, I am willing. And up until the 11th, I had done all of these things except go to jail. It finally felt like the right time.

Why? Our government went to war despite unprecedented international outcry, it lied to us about why, and it has been committing torture, deception, and murder in our names, despite our increasing opposition, for 4 years. When Bush made this announcement of more troops to Iraq, close to 70% of the population was ALREADY against his administration’s policy and wanted the troops OUT. The announcement of a troop surge signaled a government completely out of control of its people and hell bent on achieving selfish goals no matter what the cost. It was clear to me that this was a time for extreme measures. The next day must not be another normal day, we must not go on like everything is ok,we must not allow the moment to pass without serious disruption and attention to the gravity of the situation. An escalation of the war demands an escalation of resistance.

Those are all very emotional reasons. While valid they are perhaps a bit shallow without some attention to strategy. What would getting arrested achieve? How would we do it, at what cost to others, when, where… These were all things to consider carefully. Attempting to block a major intersection at rush hour seems like quite a disconnect from stopping a war onthe other side of the world, I agree.

The time and location of the protest was chosen based on visibility: a high traffic downtown intersection at 4:30PM. It was well attended, colorful and energetic. As expected, the reactions from passing commuters were overwhelmingly positive. There were a few TV cameras and some print journalist present as well. So why push it? Why go out into the street?

1) To get more media attention. The protest may have gotten a 10 second TV blurb and an honorable mentionin the paper on its own, maybe, but with the arrests we made the top story on 2 TV stations, and the frontpage of the local section of the paper. Those of us who have been going to local peace protests for years know that this is totally unprecedented coverage.
2) To create controversy. Linked to the press attention, we knew that people would be talking about it – the war, the arrests, what to do, what to think…people would argue, debate, take sides, do research, write blogs, comment on other people’s blogs…. Thet roop surge and the war would be a hot topic, and linked to a local issue, which it should be all thetime, but mostly its not. Now it is.
3) To inject some passion back into a beaten down, tired, and frustrated peace movement. This war has dragged on a long time, and a lot of us have gotten burned out trying to stop it, especially since it feels like we’re being ignored by the war makers. This also worked. With very rare exception, all the peace advocates I know feel a sense of excited possibility again, due to the arrests and the coverage they received.

Before closing, I want to comment on two other aspectsof the event, both of which have recived some media attention. First, the fact that one of us was brought to the ground with a tazer. This was completely unnecessary. That young man was doing exactly what we all were
doing – not moving when the cops asked us to move. This was blatant excessive force on the part of the police. Second, the fire truck that suddenly appeared during our brief time in the intersection was not impeded by our presence there. In fact the truck had been parked in
front of the courthouse for the entire hour of the demo prior to our step off the curb. Our intention was to get arrested, not hold the intersection at all costs. Had there been a
real emergency, we would have moved to let it pass and then reoccupied the intersection.

Finally, I want to ask you: if you support the continued occupation of Iraq by US forces, what are you willing to do to see it succeed? Are you willing to pay more taxes? Are you willing to miss work or school? Are you willing to make phone calls, write letters, distribute flyers? Are you willing to go? Are you willing to send your kids, spouse, or parents? And if you are against the continued occupation of Iraq by US troops, what are you willing to do stop it? Are you willing to sit an extra ten minutes in traffic? Are you willing to honk your horn in supportof people holding up signs? Are you willing to hold a sign yourself? Are you willing to get out of your car and join?

* You can come to our day in court on Wednesday,February 14th, 8:30 AM, at the Greensboro Courthouse.
* You can find out more: www.ivaw.net, www.couragetoresist.org, www.notyoursoldier.org,www.worldcantwait.org, www.unitedforpeace.org, www.warresisters.org, www.objector.org
* You can plan to take part in a local demo being planned
for March 17th, the 4th anniversary of the invasion of Iraq.
Stay tuned for more details.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Up in DC

Friday was a good day to schedule a business trip to Washington, and hang around for the protest march today.
I am hoping that 45 million people will march, but if 100- to 150,000 show up why that's just fine.
Staying at the Braxton Hotel, which is very nice... in an RCrumb kinda way.
But the whole idea of peace marching fits an RCrumb cartoon world. Sorry Jack Kerouac: at the end of the "Road" it aint pooh bear as gawd... but rather Mr. Natural and I actually saw him standing in line at the Whole Foods on P Street, Friday evening.

I came here with a friend in late September 2001 -- a psychotherapist who has been one of my best friends for about a decade, and i'm never quite sure when he's got the meter running -- to the first post-911 peace march.

P and I went because we wanted to express our strong belief that the imbeciles in the White House need not go all "War is the Answer" over the rage and the grief and the shock... That figuring out and telling the people what justice would look like, as in bringing-those-responsible-for-these-crimes-to, would be a smart idea and a good thing to do. P and I were fairly cognizant of what the Taliban had been doing in Afghanistan, and how they came upon power after the USSR left... and who the "freedom fighters" were who had morphed into al-Queda over the years... runnin' off the "Rooskies" and turning on the "Murikins."

Anyway, I think that first rally for a saner and wiser America had about 50K folks. And everybody went back home to organize. P was more than me instrumental in getting a bunch of people and groups to come together as the Greensboro Peace Coalition.

Now, six and a half years later, the feeling is different for me. The leaders in Washington aren't so much imbeciles as certifiable war criminals and their enablers. The sadness and hopelessness that always tinged these things has an edge to it. I dunno. Are the Dems gonna come thorugh with anything to stop this war? They need to stretch those haunches they been sittin back on.

We'll see what happens today. Time to walk on down to the Mall, in front of the Capitol Reflecting Pool, which is in front of the Capitol building. Which has that statue of Liberty at the very tippy top... put there by slave labor way back when...

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Not New, Just Blatant

That wonderful Chris Clarke sez it so well:

One of the messages I keep returning to on this blog: The outrageous, secretive, imperial Bush administration, while scandalously bereft of loyalty to the concept of democracy, is no anomaly in the last 60 years of US history. Presidents from Truman to Clinton have presided over what is, in effect, a shadow government that has interfered in the internal politics of other nations, spied on US citizens and legal residents, violated the separation of powers clauses in the Constitution, and generally arrogated to the office of the President many of the prerogatives of absolute monarchs. George W. Bush does all this more blatantly than any president in recent memory, to be sure. But he stands on the shoulders of giants. Nixon taught his successors always to destroy the evidence. We learned from Reagan that PR will cloak even worse deceptions that those for which Nixon was hounded out of the White House. Bush’s disregard for public opinion, and his consequent ineptitude at dressing up his policies in acceptable rhetoric, are the main differences between him and his predecessors.

[Read it all;
read all of Chris Clarke, too;
oh, and there's an hour and a half of Bill Moyers...]


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The SOTU -- if you can stomach it

The only thing I'd be listening for in the SOTU address by the sociopathetic Bush tonight is anything and everything he has to say about Iran.

All the domestic crap is just for applause. He's not driving that anymore. He's not driving nuttin' but Iraq, and his only cover would be to just make the chaos bigger... i.e., Iran.

Already today, Nicholas Burns (the Bush administration's answer to a demonic Mr. Rogers from hell) has said that the two aircraft carrier convoys that the United States has crammed into the Persian Gulf is BushCo's way of 'negotiatin' with Iran... sendin' them a message. 'course that's the only thing the Bush administration has got... they aren't smart enough to talk to people, negotiate. Diplomacy is not for bullies. Or sociopaths of a certain ideological bent.

My own se'f, I can't listen to the SOTU. Oh, I can handle, probably, the headache and the stomachache. But I can't deal with the anxiety attack he provokes when I must listen to him and look at him for more than about 90 seconds. I mean shortness of breath, dry mouth, blurring of vision and accelerated pulse. Yoga and meditation has helped a little... but not enough...

Boys and girls, when they drag me down to hdqrs and order me to talk... well, all i can say is if they pop one of those video tapes in and force me to listen and look... Well, none a'you revolutionaries'll be safe...

In the meantime, if you're tuning in, listen and look real careful when his little babble mentions Iran...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Blaming Iraq?

There is something wrong with how the debate of pulling out of Iraq is being framed? A good example of what I am referring to is this statement from Mel Watt's website.
At some point we’ve got to make Iraq assume responsibility for itself and its
own people.

This example comes from an old press release (June 2006) but as far as I know Mr. Watt has not made any public statement revising his previous position. Besides we have all heard similar statements being made by other people who are advocating withdrawing from Iraq. My point is not to slam Mr. Watt but to talk about the sentiment behind that kind of statement.

The statement implies that Iraqis alone are responsible for the current unrest in Iraq. That if only Iraqis would accept our well intentioned help and assistance then all would be well. No one in the US or Britain has the right to blame Iraqis for the breakdown of society in Iraq. The US and Britain invaded Iraq, disassembled the existing political order, and implemented policies there that were designed to benefit foreign (US & Britain) interest, not Iraqi interest. We have continued to this day to interfere in domestic affairs in Iraq and the current unrest there is the direct result of our actions.

To blame the people of Iraq is simply a cop out. It removes all blame from the US, and as such is unjust.

The US must pull out of Iraq so that the Iraqis with the aid of some honest broker can heal the divisions currently tearing the country apart. The US is not an honest broker in this case. We are the belligerent force which invaded their country and have a vested interest in how the new political order is established. We simply can not broker the best deal for Iraqis while we constantly are working to broker the best deal for US interest. Many Iraqis understand this, and they are fighting to oppose the US occupation.

Peace will only come when the US gives up it's ambitions in Iraq and pulls out of Iraq. How long before enough Congressmen are willing to publicly accept responsibility for our actions and demand that we completely (militarily and commercially) pull out of Iraq?

Only time will answer that question, but the sooner we begin to start to honestly discuss how we are responsible, the sooner the war will end.

Surging into the Massacre Masquerade


.... New details also emerged about clashes on Saturday in the Shiite holy city of Karbala, which left five Americans dead. Lt. Col. Scott R. Bleichwehl, an American military spokesman, said the gunmen who stormed the provincial governor’s office during a meeting between American and local officials were wearing what appeared to be American military uniforms in an effort to impersonate United States soldiers.

The sophisticated attack hinted at what could be a new threat for American troops as they start a fresh security plan centered on small bases in Baghdad’s bloodiest neighborhoods, where troops will live and work with Iraqi forces. One of the American military’s greatest concerns, military officials have said, is that troops will be vulnerable to attack from killers who appear to be colleagues.

It is not uncommon for gunmen to impersonate Iraqi security forces, but this appears to be the first time that attackers have portrayed themselves as Americans. ...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

I always get melancholy Sunday afternoon... so, "Hi, Y'all"

So, a blog to blog on. I'm for now happy to be here -- happy in that loyal WAAGNFN way (referring of course to the "We are all giant nuclear fireball now" political party sprung from the head or perhaps the thigh of the late great Michael Bérubé dot com).

So... To blog on things political, philosophical and of course the everyday mundane crap of which North Carolina is fully loaded. We got it all: home of Jessie Helms, Liddy Dole, Duke lacrosse, Reynolds Tobacco, Smithfield Pork.

'Course closer to left field is the newly-packaged John Edwards... of whom I will say not much right now, except that the machinery is still clanking a little too loud, and his new car smell is a little soiled by the stench of ALL THE DEAD IN IRAQ. I'm not sure how John's gonna git that smell out... (I wrote you 3 times before the war, John, 3 goddam times... an' the big shiny new crocodile tears for the po' folks just don't make up for the robotic nature of your senatorial career.)

Which is also why I'm not un-funked yet by the Democrats' big victory and the January takeover of Congress. I guess if Cheney and Bush and their gang of borderline sociopaths are under indictment before Spring, and scads of troops are mercifully being redeployed... I could start feeling a little chipper. Cautiously.

So that's me... that's how far out of the main stream I am... I think most of what is going on in this country is batshit insane. The idiots have taken over religion. The insatiably greedy have taken over the economy. And the elected leaders who are spoze to watch out for, continually renew a vision of, and empower the common good, have "other priorities."

"We are all giant nuclear fireball now -- please." (with apologies to Henny Youngman)

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Hello, Hello, is there any body out there?

This is my first post on this blog. So, I thought I would just start with a brief explanation of why I created The View From Left Field. I have been reading blogs for a couple of years now and I find them to be a very interesting and potentially powerful media. They give people, any people, an opportunity to shout out into the void. And by doing this allow people to be as creative and experimental in their expression as they chose to be.

I am hoping that this blog becomes a place where the authors, including myself, can fully examine their ideas and refine them in such a way that they become fruitful ideas leading to a better future.

The conventional media has become a self congratulating, some might say masturbating, group of conservative gasbags which are not only uninformative but are boring to boot. Blogs have begun to break up this logjam on constructive dialog. I say more power to them. There simply cannot be enough voices discussing the problem we collectively face.

But, I have also seen many fine blogger burn out and give up writing. This is understandable, because the burden of always producing new content must strain even the most prolific writers, and moderating the comments section of blogs looks like a time consuming task with little reward. But, single author blogs without comments become isolated sounding boards with little way to tell if the ideas expressed are striking a cord, or if they even deserve to.

This blog will have a moderated comment section. Readers who would like to comment will have to register with the Blog, and I, or the other authors, reserve the right to boot anybody who we feel only wishes to disrupt the conversation, not engage in thoughtful dialog.

This blog will also have multiple authors. All of the authors are from North Carolina and reside in the Triad. I have invited them to write here because I think that they are all good writers, have interesting perspectives on the problems we face and on life in general. I hope that you as readers will also enjoy what we have to say. We write about local, national and international issues and any other idea which strikes our fancy.

I have unilaterally selected the name. I picked it because we often hear some left wing idea which is beyond the imagination of the profits of conventional wisdom being condemned as "coming from left field." That is where I would like to reside, someplace beyond the wildest dreams of the profit's imagination. Someplace where people are respected for who they are, not for how much they can consume. Besides, I do not believe that the profits of conventional wisdom have any solutions for our lives. We must look for some way beyond our current consumption driven economy. To find it we need to look in left field. So that is where I will be. Sending back post to you, dear reader, expounding on the view from left field.

Perhaps, someday you can join me.