The beautiful Boston Common illustrates it all too well-by day a spectacular large colorful garden of grass, flowers, trees and bushes, by night a flop place for many of the homeless of Boston. Yellow ribbons and stars and stripes are in evidence everywhere, but if you know how to find them, good peace folks are there too.
I first met Cynthia Sloan when she came to Canada with the Madre Tour in March. She and her friend Al Maze are members of the Parents Support Network, an organization of parents who have children in the military, but who are opposed to militarism and the war in the Gulf. Her son was still in northern Iraq, where U.S. troops were engaged in reconstruction and the protecting of the Kurds. She showed me a letter from him stating that when they first arrived in Zakho, the Iraqi Secret Police were conducting summary executions of people who had not been able to escape to the mountains-old people, women and children. While that has stopped for now, he says it will be a long international involvement.
Al's son, a member of the Massachusetts National Guard, who is now back in the U.S. after seven months of driving a military supply truck in the Saudi Arabia, realizes it was not a victory. Concerned about the death and destruction, he feels there are many U.S. returnees who became fed up with the parades and the celebrations after their return. Saddam Hussein's political opponents and enemies in the countries have been crushed, he is still in charge and consolidating his power.
Both Cynthia and Al reflected the ominous concern of many U.S. peace people: that the Bush administration wanted to go in and out of the war as quickly as possible to divert attention from the Savings and Loan scandals, homelessness, poverty, drugs and other grave domestic problems. Bush's advisors have their eye on the 1992 election. Now that they have shown that militarism and bullying works, they want to destroy the Castro government in Cuba, the last vestige of communism, as their pre-electoral triumph. They point to the beefing up of the U.S. coast guard and increasing atmosphere of pride in the military as an indication of this prediction.
While thoroughly disgusted by the absolute capitulation of the television media to "Yellow Ribbon Fever" during the war, Boston SANE has decided to reach mass audiences in a creative way by placing an ad in the buses for all to think about as they travel (see photo).
Veterans for Peace in the U.S. are mobilizing for action in response to their grave concerns about the media and activities in the schools. A Republican Representative has introduced a bill which would penalize schools that refuse to open their doors and student files to military recruiters. Veterans of the Gulf War are being invited to address elementary classes in uniform. "We question the wisdom of this 'open door policy' in our schools and urge parents to consider the long term consequences of exposing impressionable minds to 'heroes' whose moral values have been grossly distorted by pre-war military conditioning" said a spokesman for Veterans for Peace.
In high schools, recruiters have been allowed to bring weapons into the classrooms and have allowed students to 'play' with them. At least one Maine high school teacher has been fired for interfering. Military personnel are given time off their work schedules to tutor, in uniform, students in schools near military bases. Helicopters are being brought to school yards so the children can 'play' in and near them. Space is being made on toy shelves beside GI Joe and Rambo figures for a new product, Barbie dolls in the uniforms of all branches of the service.
In their bulletin Veterans for Peace report that military units passing through the U.S. air base in Spain on their way to the Gulf left their calling cards on the wall:
If you kill for fun, you're a sadist
If you kill for money, you're a mercenary,
If you kill for both, you're a paratrooper.
3rd Battalion, 505 Airborne Regiment
Eric Larsen, a Marine Reservist who refused to go to the Gulf, tells of the chants he sang in boot camp:
Rape the town and kill the people,
That's the thing we love to do,
Throw some napalm on the schoolhouse,
Watch the kiddies scream and shout.
(Veterans for Peace Journal, Spring 1991, Issue No. 16 P.O. Box 3881, Portland, Me. 04104)
Readers of Peace Magazine, who recall reading about research on Fuel Air Explosives (FAE) at McGill University under contract to the Department of National Defence, won't be surprised to learn that these weapons were tested in combat conditions in the Gulf War. Al urged me to make certain that I watched the excellent Bill Moyers Special "AFTER THE WAR" which aired on PBS several times that week. He called special attention to the shocking footage of the now infamous "turkey shoot" , the killing of refugees and terrified civilians on the road from Basra. He recommended that the viewer watch carefully aerial shots of the road and its surroundings to note in particular that there were no bomb holes or shell craters visible. This could indicate the use of FAE's as in all other 'normal' bombings there was massive ground evidence of it. I don't know how many Canadians would be proud of McGill's research knowing its shameful role in this tragedy.
The Moyers program was a realistic and devastating critique of the U.S. policy in the Gulf, perhaps a rare or unique opportunity for American people to see on television what they certainly never saw on NBC or CBS during the War.
A major campaign is under way among peace and justice networks to provide support for two marine reservists, conscientious objectors, who spoke out against the war and now face possible death penalties. The Tahan Jones/Eric Larsen Defense Committee urges people to publicize the fact that their basic human rights are being violated. Their 'crime' was to speak at peace rallies and go to high schools to promote negotiations and sanctions rather than killing as a solution to aggression, and to urge students not to join the military. Although they both turned themselves in they have been court marshalled and accused of desertion . Despite a Federal Judge in San Francisco's ruling that the military violated Eric Larsen's constitutional rights and must hold a new hearing on his Conscientious Objector application, they were immediately flown to a military prison at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and cut off from their lawyers, witnesses, families and support groups. They need publicity, money for their court cases and political support.
Contact the Tahan Jones/Eric Larsen Defense Committee
Hilary Diamond and Dave Raymond,
Box 225, 1678 Shattuck Ave, Berkeley, CA, (415) 655-1201
Before leaving Boston, I had conversation with the WAND (Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament, the group that Helen Caldicott helped found). The woman I spoke with was feeling very positive about a conference they had just finished in Washington on lobbying with elected women representatives on Justice, Peace and Women's issues. It was nice to depart on a positive note.