Fort Bragg and Aero Contractors
See what Democracy Looks Like
By Charles Jenks, for ConsumersforPeace.org
It was a tough decision on where I should go on March 17th - Washington, DC or Fayetteville, North Carolina - to cover marches and rallies against the war.
DC had A.N.S.W.E.R.’s national march, and I felt an urge to support it after the attempts of United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) to diminish A.N.S.W.E.R.'s call. (UFPJ tried to get people to stay home and protest locally. In other words, UFPJ was saying: “Don't go to DC” almost immediately after saying in January how important it was to go to its DC for its march to lobby Congress.) With the vote on the war supplemental coming up, going to DC to protest seemed important. At the same time, I knew that tons of people would be there videotaping, recording, photographing and otherwise documenting it. Was another person needed to do that if there was another important venue?
Fayetteville was that other important venue for me. Unlike the January march, when UFPJ gave Iraq War veterans minor roles, in favor of celebrities and Congressional liberals, the Fayetteville march and rally would put these veterans front and center. Fayetteville - the home of the famed Quaker House - would also be the starting point for Veteran for Peace's caravan from Fort Bragg (82nd Airborne) to other military bases in South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Alabama. The caravan would end with volunteer reconstruction work along the Gulf Coast.
See the itinerary at http://www.veteransforpeace.org/Caravan_itinerary.vp.html
The Fayetteville march was spirited, with members of Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) at the head. I filmed the entire march and made a rough count of about 600 participants, including 50 or so waiting at the rally site. Not big by DC standards, but it brought the protest against war to the military - both the brass and the foot soldiers. And this was important. I believe that the military will play a vital role in stopping this war, as with the Vietnam War. See Soldiers in Revolt by David Cortright (Haymarket Books - www.haymarketbooks.org)
The rally was worthy of a national rally, with the veterans of the Iraq War (www.ivaw.org); military families (www.mfso.org); clergy/activists, such as Rev. Dr. William J. Barber (president of the North Carolina NAACP); Ann Wright, Colonel US Army (ret.); labor activists, such as Angaza Sababu Laughinghouse; comedy with "Agent Schrub" (David Lippman); and wonderful music from the Fruit of Labor Singing Ensemble (Black Workers for Justice) and the great Holly Near.
What a relief from UFPJ’S celebrity- and politician-centric rally of January.
After the rally, we gave a ride to an active-duty soldier who had served in Afghanistan. This soldier said the same thing about Afghanistan that Paul Abernathy of IVAW said earlier that day about Iraq: the media are misleading the American people about what is really going on in the war zones. Reaching out to active-duty soldiers like this - to establish lines of communication and to hear their stories - is a critical need. He was grateful that we were doing what we were doing, and we were grateful to hear his truth - as opposed to the media spin - about the war.
The march and rally were big news in Fayetteville and were extensively covered by the local media. Of course, the media gave disproportionate coverage to the handful of vocal counter-protesters who tried to drown out the rally with insults, nutty pronouncements ("Bush was right!" and "You can't support the troops and not the war!") and recordings blaring out over loud speakers. Still, the soldiers, and their families, knew that a sizeable protest took place in Fayetteville - small as a city but huge as a home base to military power.
To protest is much more than merely expressing disapproval. It is also to "state or affirm something in strong terms." This protest in Fayetteville made a strong statement that reached out with open hands to people who have been deemed least apt to hear it. The movement needs to do this incessantly, and, in my opinion, to accept the leadership of groups like Veterans for Peace, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Appeal for Redress, Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families for Peace in reaching out to the military and their families. Again, this war will end when military people - including their families - see through the lies behind this war and realize that they have been duped into doing the bidding of those seeking to profit from war.
The action did not stop on Saturday. On Sunday, a small band - comprised of Ann Wright, activists from North Carolina Stop Torture Now, Veterans for Peace and Traprock Peace Center - went out to little Smithfield, North Carolina, and the Johnson County Airport. What's there? None other than Aero Contractors LTD, the supplier of "torture taxis" to the CIA. Aero provides pilots and aircraft so the CIA can make "extraordinary renditions" of foreign nationals. This is nothing short of kidnapping, in violation of international law and the law of nations where these individuals are kidnapped to be brought to prisons for interrogation and torture. For more on the CIA's "torture taxis," see http://www.counterpunch.org/ferner11222005.html
Ann Wright and Sunny Miller donned orange jumpsuits and hoods and stood outside the gates of Aero, in full view of its video cameras nearby. The rest of the band of activists - most from North Carolina - joined them, and they spoke out for the camera and for the employees of Aero, who are selling their consciences for money.
For the exclusive video of this action, as well as video coverage of the march and rally, and an interview with Iraq war veterans Paul Abernathy and Matt Southworth, see www.youtube.com/TraprockPeaceTV