For actions since 2008 see our Blog Posts.
Counter Recruiting on Parent Night, October 25, 2007 – Reports from two New York City high schools:
At Washington Irving on report card night we (Caroline, Barbara W. and Eva-Lee) found ourselves on the steps of Washington Irving HS with a cluster of kids nervously waiting for their parents. The young people were easy to engage and ask about the opt-out form. We learned from some of them that the principal had sent the form to them at home, that they knew about it, had signed it and turned it in to the school office. Others didn’t seem as aware, and didn’t quite understand what we were talking about. In general, those were younger students, students newer to the school, and students whose first language was Spanish.
Because it was report card night, we figured it was best to approach parents on the way in if they would stop then. As we explained that we were not recruiters, just people wanting students and their parents to be aware of their right to decline having their information given by the school to the military, many of them were spontaneous in saying they had no interest in serving. One girl said, “hey, I’m going to college!” A parent said, “Let Bush send his daughters!” No child or parent expressed any spontaneous interest in joining up with the military. Parents were either very much on top of the opt out form, or they really needed help understanding it. Sometimes, the student translated for the parent and helped with their grasping it; we were persistent when we found someone who had not filled out or turned in the form that they take the time and do it right there and then with the help of our clipboards. Lots of the parents were Spanish-speaking. We had the Spanish language versions of the forms, Eva-Lee had enough Spanish to engage people, and the children could then translate for their parents. We found that the approach line, “Are you a parent?” was 90% effective in engaging this group.
Overall, we knew we were making a difference and were glad to be there. We talked with about 30 parent-child pairs. We didn’t hand out literature without talking to the recipient. We did give out some extras to people to give to friends. Our impression was that these were the good guys, caring parents and students. – Caroline Chinlund
At Park East High School Nancy K. and I spoke with many, many parents and some students. Several students had signed the opt-out forms previously as had some parents. Yet many parents did not know about the opt-out form or about the factors involved. Nancy had some parents sign the forms on the spot and later she turned the forms in at the school office. When Nancy spoke with security at the school re: the purpose of our presence they were very receptive and told Nancy that they didn’t want any of the students to enter the military.
I also spoke with a woman (she was “on the run”) who said that she was the president of the Parents’ Association. She knew all about the opt-out form as “we” came and spoke at a Parents’ Association meeting last year and said that “we” were coming again this year. I said that most likely was the American Friends Service Committee and she replied, “yes.” I told her that we weren’t from the AFSC but, we worked with them.
The experience was very positive – many parents thanked us for being there – and the school administration seems supportive re: not giving student info to the military. We should go into more schools to speak with parents’ associations and teachers/administrations, for that matter. That’s all for now! – Phyllis Cunningham
Watch counter recruiters in action in “Counter Recruiting on Parent Night” on the GPB video channel on YouTube.
Phone-A-Thon News – October 12th, 2007: The morning’s rain clouds sped away, Grannies and their allies appeared in Union Square along with the sunshine. We were 11 strong, bearing cell phones, Fran’s trusty folding table draped in pink and Peace banner, with sign inviting people to make a free call to their legislators to let them know it’s time to save the troops and stop funding the war. Today’s’ people were even more receptive to literature and conversation than to calling legislators, though we did assist people in making a healthy number of successful calls.
Fran, Jenny and Joan P connected when talking with people lunching on benches in the park. Today’s emphasis with legislators was No Preemptive War on Iran, insist on our side opening up to negotiations. Eva-Lee, Betty and Barbara H noticed that being near the table, near the park wall, away from the flow of pedestrian traffic was the place for attracting phoners. The flurry of excitement and conversation, Betty’s buttons and the literature all combined to get people to give up their hurried pace.
Barbara W talked with a man from Italy. He apologized for asking, but wondered how as an American she could have let Bush be elected a second time! Another person who spends much of his time in Argentina said that there he reads the news that we here don’t seem to know about due to the bias of our media. A man from Canada asked, “How can I help? This is my last day here!” A couple of us gave him more than enough encouragement to get his government to censure the lack of willingness of the U.S. to negotiate to peaceful settlement of differences with Iran.
Barbara H assisted a woman who was very angry with Hillary Clinton for signing the Kyl-Lieberman amendment. When the caller got on the phone with the Clinton staffer, her voice became very intense, and she said, “one more thing… there should be no attack on Iran, absolutely not.” She and others were frustrated with Hillary for being so political and careful in her public statements.
Young people stopped by and thanked us for being there and said more of them should be involved and that our location near NYU and The New School was good for getting students’ attention. A grandfather stopped to talk. He said young people don’t realize what all of this means to them, losing the constitution, jeopardizing their future. The number of students who thanked us and picked up literature suggested that some young people do recognize our crisis.
At 1:30 six of us debriefed over lunch and collected these stories. Later we got the following story from Jenny. – Caroline Chinlund
Jenny’s Phone-A-Thon Story: I approached a young woman – actually, I approached the young woman’s adorable dog to pat it, and as I looked up to be polite to the owner I figured I’d ask her if she wanted to make a call to Congress to tell them what she thinks of the war and funding and impeachment . After a full lick from her dog I stood up and offered her my phone. She was anxious and said she’d never done anything like this and really didn’t say things well and wasn’t articulate. I said that the issue was what did she believe about what was happening and that she might trust that however it came out, she’d be expressing her point of view and strengthening a withering democracy. So, I dialed Hillary, it went to tape. I dialed Shumer and it connected – She turned away from me to speak, but when she got off she turned to me radiant and exclaimed ” that was fun and easy!! that felt good .” I said “great! Want to make another call? ” In all, she made three calls and I think that Eva-Lee and I may have attracted another CodePinker to the ranks!! It was real fun experience for me as well to see her enthusiasm about taking action. – Jenny Heinz
Barbara Walker receives the Athena Award on Staten Island – Sunday, August 12, 2007.
Her acceptance speech:
A major concern for me these past 4 years has been the war in Iraq. Some of us have seen the questioning bumper sticker “No, seriously, why did we invade Iraq?” and there is the answering question “How did our oil get under their sand?”
We invaded and now occupy a country that had done nothing to us. At UN headquarters in New York, I worked for a while in the department headed by Denis Halliday. In September 1997, Mr. Halliday went to Iraq as head of the UN humanitarian program – UN Oil For Food Program in Iraq. He resigned the post 13 months later, citing as one reason the hardship the program wrought upon the Iraqi people, especially the children. Iraq was a country that had been brought to its knees by post-Gulf War sanctions. We told the working weapons inspectors to leave Iraq and we invaded and occupied the country. In November 2004, we destroyed Fallujah, which was described as a beautiful city of mosques. We had told the residents to leave. Horrific pictures of the Fallujah carnage and destruction are on the Internet. Insurgents??? If a foreign power invaded and occupied this country, I would definitely be an insurgent and would certainly welcome outside help. Our young people are being recruited and sent out to kill and to be killed; they have bull’s-eyes front and back. Furthermore, and this is truly unconscionable, why were they not given the best armor possible — why, for example, were they required to patch up Humvees when the much greater effectiveness against roadside bombs (improvised explosive devises) provided by the South African “Casspir” (‘v’ configured) armored personnel carrier had to be known by the managers of this operation.
I feel I must do whatever I can to support the troops by stressing the necessity of our getting them out of Iraq. Yes, our government must bear financial responsibility/make reparations. But, as I see it, if we are realistic, we must know that Iraq itself, with the aid of agencies of its choice, should be allowed to begin its recovery.
This is why Peace Action Staten Island, the Granny Peace Brigade, and other organizations work to draw the attention of our representatives and the public to the inadvisability and immorality of our current position and action in Iraq. This work is so necessary. This award, for which I am grateful, acknowledges the importance of the endeavors of our local organizations. – Barbara Walker
Wednesday, July 4th, 2007 in the Park with Norman Siegel. Forget about fireworks, picnics, and barbecues. What have they got to do with the true meaning of Independence Day, anyway? No, we New York peace grannies and friends celebrated this important occasion last Wednesday in the true spirit of the day. Read the article by Joan Wile in the Common Dreams Newsletter.
Notes From The Street: June 28th 2007 Phone-A-Thon, Brooklyn @ Court and Montague
First of all, it was HOT. For some people, the idea of engaging in political discourse was too much to consider…but for others, it just fueled their resolve to connect with their representatives. As always, there were memorable moments for everyone there — here are a few of the highlights.
Barbara Harris was serenaded by an impromptu peace song – reggae style – and two young mothers made their phone calls to their congressional representatives — while one called, the other explained to their children what was happening. They carefully laid out how people are elected to congress to represent and work for the people and how folks have to make sure these representatives do their jobs. Obviously, the art of teaching civics is still alive and well!
For Eva Lee, one caller was particularly evocative – connecting to Senator Clinton’s office, the caller was clearly getting a standard script from an aide when she simply but firmly stated, “My son in is Iraq. I want him home.” Eva Lee said she could feel the whole conversation change.
A woman who introduced herself as Pat made a call on Caroline’s cell phone to Senator Schumer’s office – she spoke at length and passionately to one of the an aide about her own situation. She had recently lost her housing and was involved in a court case – she argued passionately that to continue to fund an illegal war when people in the United States are homeless was immoral. She exchanged email information with Caroline and promised to be in touch when her case came before the court.
Two young men – fresh from a prerelease screening of SICKO – made calls to both Senator Clinton’s and Senator Schumer’s office if Fran promised to see the movie as soon as it opens. They both felt radicalized by the film and want as many people to see it as possible. In addition, Fran spent time with a group of women who all came from Port au Prince. All naturalized US citizens, the women were eager to make calls to their representatives and express their distaste for what one called “the war machine.” The aunt of a young woman who has served 15 months as an RN in Bagdad was particularly forceful with Senator Clinton’s office. Her niece had recently been informed that her tour was being extended and the woman gave an eloquent plea to bring this young woman home and “all our wonderful children.”
For all involved, the site of Owen – our faithful supporter and friend – walking through the heat-waves of the plaza in a pink tee-shirt and his anti-war signs, was indeed welcome.
Anne Wangh – a recent and dedicated addition to our ranks of phone-a-thoner – has offered to make-up stickers to give to participants.
We’ll be back on the streets on July 19th. Our location is scheduled for Brooklyn again — the combination of an active farmer’s market and the action at the Brooklyn courts guarantee good participants.
As always, we want to hear from all of you — what are you doing and what kind of reaction are you getting. We welcomed and posted news from peace activists in Danbury, Connecticut on our website – http://www.grannypeacebrigade.org – on the “Let’s Hear From You” page. If any of you are spending part of the summer in those environs, drop by. The more we connect, the stronger we become. We’d love to list your events and, if we can, we’d love to participate with you in future actions.
Peace, stay cool and keep hydrated!
– The Legislative Committee & Phone-A-Thoners
The June 28th, 2007 one-year anniversary event in Philadelphia brought back a lot of memories. The crowd of supporters which included a Delaware Valley chapter of Veterans for Peace was a good size – at least 75, with a German TV crew and some other media, the weather was the same (hot), and our peace procession went first to the recruiting center (closed) where we read the names of the 168 dead from Philadelphia. The mood was friendly but somber. Mike Berg spoke and read names, looking thinner and more drawn than last year. I hoped to speak to him later but when I looked for him he was gone.
Then the names were read of the 1000 US who died in the year from June 28,’06 to ’07 as well as an equal number of Iraqi who’ve lost their lives.
There aren’t many pedestrians in Philly but cars honked and drivers reached out for flyers, and everyone was pleased that the NY GPB was represented and supporting this action. We walked around the City Hall and back to the center and on to the Friends House. And then a large group of us had dinner.
I bring back greetings from Marlena, Nina, Ruth and Paula who organized the event which involved printing a song and chant sheet, boots and small paper cranes for each of the dead, dropped into a container as the names were read. They are starting their own phone-a-thons, and I told them about Laurie’s “drop”postcards – and they would like to help with that as well.
It occurred to me that if any of us has the time (!!), it would be wonderful to contact our host groups from the trek last year and update them. A lot has happened in the intervening 12 months. – Nydia Leaf
June 26, 2007 ACLU Day of Action: The buses came from all over the United States. The American Civil Liberties Union had a goal of 2500 attendees and 4000 came for a day of lobbing for the restoration of Habeas Corpus, end of torture and extraordinary rendition, closing Guantanamo and restoring the rule of law.
Gathering together for the rally in the Upper Senate Park on a typical hot humid DC day, we listened to the impassioned speakers, among them Senators Cardin, Harkin and Patrick Leahy. Representatives Conyers, Kucinich and Nadler addressed the cheering crowd. We flooded the streets and Congressional Office buildings wearing our white ACLU T-shirts identifying our issues. On the back of the shirt there are forty-eight organization names listed as sponsors for this event.
We were given folders with appointment times set up with various representatives and Senators Clinton and Schumer. The handouts included lobbying speaking points, listed how the government officials voted on the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and whether they are cosponsoring the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act and the Restoring the Constitution Act of 2007.
We stormed the Hill!
Buddy and I visited Carolyn Maloney’s office and attended the Clinton staff meeting. We spent our time between meetings with the crowd at the most interesting Jerry Nadler hearings on how the Military Commissions Act has been implemented.
The Granny Peace Brigade will explore how to take an opportunity to sponsor and support these types of actions. We must stay in the loop ladies! – Bev Rice
Mother’s Day, 2007: Members of Code Pink, Mouths Wide Open, Women in Black, Granny Peace Brigade, Grandmothers Against the War, WILPF and a snappy rhythm section arose early and assembled on a corner in Columbus Circle for a Mother‘s Day action. All gathered, we were more than 50 men and women ready to “step off” to recreate Julia Ward Howe‘s 1870 Mothers Day for Peace Proclamation.
Clear as the day, the Raging Grannies were in full throat. Molly Klopot sang along with the squinting, fancy hatted choir. Always in the spirit, Molly decided to make this day “a great and earnest day of counsel.” So, when she saw me towing two giant black balloons proclaiming “Troops Home Now” she waved me over.
“We should be doing this kind of thing on a regular basis.” she began.
I doubted we could get this kind of crowd on an ordinary day, for sure, there need to be some holiday or a reason.
“This is what our work is about: going into communities and telling them about War‘s impact on their everyday lives. That‘s reason enough.”
“Well maybe we could do this kind of thing again for Father’s Day.” someone suggested.
“You mean a ‘Bring our Daddies home’ kind of thing?” piped someone else joining the strolling congress.
“Yes. That’s it. We can bring our song sheets and talk about the reality. Just spread the idea of promoting peace through song and across cultures.” Molly encouraged.
“Maybe we could do it once a month.“ I agreed.
“What about the Mermaid parade (June 23, 2007) in Coney Island? What a great place for us to go!” said a third person catching Molly’s limitless vision.
“Yes! Yes! We want people to do this kind of thing — just like that.”
People nodded, mumbled “Good job” or “Thanks for doing this” and some joined in. Kyla Malone was walking Tasha, who displayed, on her collar, a colored tag commemorating Nick Sowinski (died in Iraq). Kyla showed us a photo of her other friend Chis Lunpin. A grandmother from San Francisco invited her family, who gladly trooped along pushing stroller while their older child danced along to the drums. And, then, along came our favorite advocate, Norman Siegel, the one who saved the Grannies from going to Gitmo. Norman marched along with us for several blocks and we asked him what is holding up Impeachment. He said that “Law makers are too chicken to do that.” We clipped along, as by now Molly was in the lead with the Granny Peace Brigade banner. Before he fell to the back to greet the others, the counselor reminded us that people can be tried after they leave office. For example, he went on “An (unnamed Hollywood Heavy) had retained Mr. Siegel giving him $10,000 as an impeachment fund for use after Nixon. (But, Ford pardoned him.)
Our growing parade performed on the steps of Lincoln Center, meandered through flea markets chanting “Mother’s day – no more war – Mother’s say, Troops Home Now!’” to two thumbs up, waved banners agreeable to honkers as we crossed streets, passed out literature and tiny soldiers (with “Take Me Home” stickers on their feet) to the festive brunchers at cafes on Amsterdam Ave., then, graced two corners at the Natural History with songs and ritual silence, continued snaking through the Park (wheelchairs and all) and, finally, arrayed ourselves as if a chorus line in front of the Metropolitan Museum steps.
We must have gotten the act together during the prior two hours because the crowded steps were moved to applause.
Folding the Granny Peace Brigade Banner into her bag Molly said, again, “We need to continue to reach out and often.” – Diane Dreyfus
Julia Ward Howe says:
Arise then…women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
“We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.”From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: “Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice.”
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace…
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God –
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.
Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” Harlem Visit
On April 24, 2007 approximately 14 members and supporters of the Granny Peace Brigade (GPB) met in Harlem to protest George Bush’s “visit” to Harlem Village Academy, a Charter School, to promote the the controversial No Child Left Behind Act. We had the GPB banner, the
“We Will Not Be Silent” banner, Peace Action posters with Bush’s head…”war-head” and a sign reading “No Child Left Behind? 3332 U.S. Lives Left Behind in Iraq!” as well as pots, pans and noise-makers.
The block on which the school is located, was cordoned-off. We were penned-in on the northeast corner of 144th Street and Frederick Douglass Boulevard and monitored by a hefty number of uniformed police and some in civilian clothes. Many joined us including people from MoveOn, Fight Back, ANSWER, and what was heart-warming, were the students who came from City College. We sang and chanted. All together, there were about 50 or 60 people protesting where we were. The audience, was vehicular traffic, neighborhood people, and of course…the police.
We never saw Bush…but heard, at a later point in time, that he was quite late, didn’t spend much time at the Harlem Village Academy, and attended a fundraiser in the city. – Phyllis Cunningham
“Endless” War: A Memorial at the Times Square Recruitment Center, Broadway and 44th Street. At dawn on Sunday, March 11th, 2007, as we approached the fifth year of the invasion of Iraq, people of conscience began reading all the documented names of the war dead, both civilian and military. We continued reading from sunrise to sunset for six days, through Friday, March 16th, 2007. We invite you to be part of a growing resistance movement demanding an end to the illegal occupation of Iraq and saying “NO” to an attack on Iran. Sponsored by Granny Peace Brigade NYC, The Critical Voice, Artists Against the War, Not In Our Name, World Can’t Wait, Peace Action New York State, Raging Grannies, Grandmothers Against the War, Gray Panthers, Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, Campus Anti-War Network, Code Pink, Chelsea for Peace, Brooklyn Parents for Peace.
March 12, 2007 “Endless” War: A Memorial
i see myself awake on that day
the day we agreed to name the names of the dead
again and at dawn.
I wake myself to recollect and reflect with others
this time of endless war
is it 4 years we endured
aground in their Baghdad
Waterloo- Gallipoli- Dunkirk-
emptying too many boots; filling so many coffins
War’s bloated and sour hour glass
counts the finite and the endless
I wake myself against the comforts of home
leaving my old granny bed
because we agreed
to recollect and reflect
and read the names of the dead
who filled the coffins
and left their empty boots
and raw souls keening behind
the day of wrath has come and gone
and, now, we stand, mourners together
behind our white roses
amid the traffic
naming grief and it’s outrage
so sorry to say your name,
but, we are here, friend and
we say your name in Times Square
We call out names in the loud bright
to remember how dull war is
– Diane Dreyfus
On January 29th over 1,000 people, including Granny Peace Brigadiers were brought together by United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ) and Peace Action to lobby members of Congress and engage in direct action including banner drops and vigils. Our message: End the war on Iraq and bring the troops home. Most of us had morning appointments with our Representatives or their staff. Constituent lobbyists formed groups by Congressional District. My group met Emile Milne, Charles Rangel’s charming Legislative Director and Press Secretary. Early in our meeting Mr. Milne said, “He [Rangel] would not do anything that would jeopardize the troops. As in Vietnam we will probably see a gradual decrease. As for an immediate cut off of funding, I don’t see it….He cannot support bringing the troops home now, publicly. He cannot take a position so far ahead of the [Democratic] Caucus, that he has no impact on the group.” After we had spoken back and forth for a while, Mr. Milne added, “This 508 sounds like something Mr. Rangel could support.” Mr. Milne was referring to HR 508 “Bring the Troops Home and Iraq Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2007.” We left the meeting agreeing it went well and that we should keep pushing hard.
UFPJ-Peace Action had gotten us a 1:00 PM appointment with members of Senator Clinton’s staff. That meeting was cancelled and replaced by a joint meeting with Clinton’s and Schumer staffers at 5:00 PM. Many of us could not stay until 5:00 PM, so we decided to go to Clinton’s office at our original appointment time and sign the guest book. After 15-20 of us milled about for a while, Clinton staffers, Dan Schwerin (Systems Administrator and Assistant to the Chief of Staff) and Kyla Pollack (Assistant to the Legislative Director) agreed to meet with us on the stairs outside Clinton’s office. Mr. Schwerin told us that Clinton via telephone from Texas had instructed them, “to meet with every single group that comes by.” We asked them to ask Sen. Clinton to introduce/support legislation equivalent to HR 508. We continued to present our points and raise questions, some of which concerned Iran. Most of our questions were not answerable on the spot.
Ms. Pollack has answered, via email, one of our questions on Clinton’s Iran policy. It is not the answer we want, but an answer. “We have to keep all options on the table, including being ready to talk directly to Iranians should the right opportunity present itself. Direct talks, if they do nothing else, lets you assess who’s making the decisions — what their stated and unstated goals might be. And willingness to talk sends two very important messages. First, to the Iranian people, that our quarrel is with their leaders, not with them; and second, to the international community, that we are pursuing every available peaceful avenue to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.” We left this meeting feeling it had been of some use and that we should keep up the pressure. Clinton says, “Let the dialog begin.” We are ready.
The 5:00 PM session with Schumer and Clinton staffers was pro forma and not a dialog. Aside from stage-managing by staff, there were over 30 lobbyists in the room. A group that size tends to change the dynamic from dialog to speech making. And our speeches were clear, knowledgeable and forceful, especially the presentation by student lobbyists from the Hudson Valley Sudbury School who finished by presenting both sets of staffers with shoes labeled with the name of a child killed in the Iraq war.
We came away from our varied lobbying experiences feeling that we have made an important first step and that we have a big job ahead of us. – Eva-Lee Baird
On January 29th, grannies and other activists did return on Lobby Day: Nine anti-war protesters were arrested Monday when they gathered in the courtyard of the The Rayburn building to read the names of American and Iraqi war dead. The protesters strewed 1,500 white roses and numerous postcards in the reflecting pool. Three held a 20 foot black banner with one word: WAR. They each wore shirts that read “WE WILL NOT BE SILENT” in Arabic and English. There was a large crowd of supporters who sang and cheered as the protesters were escorted out.
The text on the card read: “WE WILL NOT BE SILENT was a statement of The White Rose resistance movement in Nazi Germany. Today we have built a national campaign based on that message. We have delivered white roses to Congress as a symbolic gesture to demand that they end the occupation of Iraq, and bring to justice those responsible for a U.S. policy of torture and illegal detentions. We are determined to restore common decency and the rule of law and we will hold Congress accountable to that task.”
The gathering was a coalition of many groups, Granny Peace Brigade, The Critical Voice, Not in Our Name, The World Can’t Wait, Artists Against the War and others. The group spent nine hours in jail, and were released without access to their personal belongings. – Ann Shirazi
I came to the March on Washington on January 27 with my friend from the Granny Peace Brigade. I am proud of her and the Brigade because they have used humor, ingenuity and the power, wit, and collective experience of one of our invisible or patronized populations to make a lot of noise about this war. Like many people I saw at the march, I am a sixties type, someone who was a draft counselor during Vietnam, and who never liked marches, then or now. This march I liked. Here is a list of a few of the things I liked:
The pink cloth draped around my friend’s husband’s shoulders like a cape. Him saying: I’m a man who isn’t afraid to wear pink. The cape saying: “Stop supporting the war.” Only sometimes it would slip down and the “Stop” wouldn’t be visible and we would have to readjust it.
The good natured crowd. Twenty somethings, sixty somethings, eighty somethings, kids, babies, all the ages of man. The preponderance of signs were about the war, and stayed away from hassling Bush or Cheney, a mercy I thought. The singing: All we are saying is give peace a chance. A man playing Taps. The pinkness of the Code Pink people clustered in a group and then again, spread out in the crowd. The way silly things like the reputation of pink can be changed. The drums helping us march.
The cluster of Vietnam Vets and a Gold Star family at the Japanese restaurant, the tee shirt with the face and the name of someone’s son looking out, dead, at all of us. The place, where along with the sushi and miso soup, things turned personal and tragic: somebody’s son, somebody’s nephew, and all those people in Iraq, like us, members of families and tribes, caught in the daily violent meat grinder.
My teenage daughter’s judgment on her boyfriend’s belief in the war: “He’s young.“ And mine: When my daughter, the same age as her boyfriend, says young, she means he doesn’t know about death yet. – Myra Goldberg
Speech given in front of Senator Schumer’s office on January 24, 2007
Sisters and brothers
My name is Vinie Burrows
I am a member of the Granny Peace Brigade
We are beating the drum for peace
It is way past high noon
The clock is ticking
And it is five minutes to midnight
The grandmothers say
Bring the troops home now
We listened to the selected president bush
The words ring hollow
We remember the words of our Native Americans
White man speaks with forked tongue
The trail is strewn with broken treaties
Lies deception betrayal
Talk is cheap
We will not be silent
The time for action is now
I am beating the drum
In the name of the Granny Peace Brigade
Bring the troops home now
We are beating the drums
Bring the troops home now.
Last Thursday, January 18th
Six days ago
The Granny Peace Brigade
Descended on the 110th congress
We saw 100 senators
Our message was
Out of Iraq now
Bring the troops home now
We were beating the drum for peace
While in the DC offices of Senator Schumer
One of the grannies sai
The grannies are ready to accompany you on a peace mission to Iraq
Send us to Iraq
Bring the troops home
We are beating the drum for peace
Last night we heard our selected president
Deliver a State of the Union message
We are beating the drum
For the health of the nation
Brothers and sisters
I am tempted to say beloved children
Because I am older than most of you here
The engines of war once set in motion
Have an energy of their own
In September 1917.exactly 90 years ago
Randolph Bourne wrote, in a war diary
And I quote a passage:
“War doesn’t need enthusiasm, doesn’t need conviction, doesn’t need hope, to sustain it. Once maneuvered, it takes care of itself, provided only that our industrial rulers see that the end of the war will leave American capital in a strategic position of world enterprise.”
Those words were true at the end of world war one
Those words were true at the end of world war two
Those words were true at the end of the first gulf war
And I shudder with the truth of his words today
As neo-liberal globalization
And the imperial designs of hegemonic USA capital
Rule the known world
But the Granny Peace Brigade beats the drum for peace
And the moral force of our conviction
Of women who have nourished life
In our wombs
Today as grandmothers
We continue to nourish the lives
Of all the children of the world
Martin Luther King Jr. our modern day prophet said
Moral force of love can turn the arc of war towards life
We are asking
We are telling
We are demanding that
Bring the troops home now
No smooth talking
When Johnny comes marching home again hurroo hurroo
When Johnny comes marching home again hurroo hurroo
The men will cheer, the boys will shout.
The ladies they will all turn out And we’ll all feel gay
When Johnny comes marching home
I now conclude with an article from The NY Times October 25th which reported that during the first Gulf War, actual ground combat only lasted 100 hours but 40 percent of the veterans ended up receiving disability payments which now cost us 2 billion dollars each year.
With our Iraq veterans now already into the fourth year of combat, there will be disability payments that may continue for half a century. To date, more than 3000 veterans of the Iraq war and occupation have suffered severe head and spinal injuries, and many of them will need round the clock care for many for decades. That cost may range from half a million to five million dollars per person..
There is another cost to pay which cannot be measured in dollars and cents. There is a cost that our armed service personnel returning home must pay and their families will pay also. It is a heavy psychological cost.
The wounds of war.
The hounds of hell.
with drums and guns and guns and drums huroo hurroo
with drums and guns and guns and drums huroo hurroo
you have no eyes,, you have no arms
where are your legs that used to run
Johnny I hardly knew yer
– Vinie Burrows – © 2007
On January 17th and 18th grandmothers and supporters from all over the country came to Washington.
Reports alphabetical by state followed by general descriptions.
From Kentucky: It was a blast in DC. I had 15 or 20 letters, a book for each Senator on getting out of Iraq written by George McGovern and a middle-east scholar, and for each a 2-white-rose bouquet tied with a black ribbon which also held a card that said “We Will Not Be Silent.” Symbolic. There was a student group in Nazi Germany that sent out letters randomly – picked names from phone book – criticizing Hitler. Then they began leaving piles of their statements in public places. Brave kids…I don’t know more about it but they called themselves White Rose and their motto was “We Will Not be Silent.” Most of us also wore black t-shirts that read “We Will Not Be Silent” in white block capital letters. It was neat seeing someone wearing her t-shirt and carrying her books and roses at the other end of a marble hallway or passing you on a curving marble stairway. We were visible.
In visiting the KY Senators I had a partner! A woman with the NYC group, who had been born and partly raised in KY, chose to come with me instead of being one of a dozen or so visiting Clinton’s office, and it turned out that we worked well together. She would start off by announcing what county she was born in and asking the aide where s/he came from in KY. Instant rapport. For what it was worth. We didn’t have appointments, but I had with me copies of the letters I had faxed in requesting same and we were able to meet with aides.
Folded into the McGovern book was a 3-page info thing for the Senators and their aides, and on the first page was a list of 12 points we Grannies were demanding. To help the conversation get going I handed these to the aides and asked if they could comment on any or all of the issues in terms of the Senator’s positions. This gave the meetings a useful structure.
We went to McConnell’s office first. On the intimidating side. I made the mistake of referring to him as the Minority Whip, and the aide, who must have been out of college at least 8 months, corrected me. McConnel is the Leader. The Whip is in second place. Anyway, the most fun I had in that office was asking the receptionist/secretary/aide if she would make duplicates of all the KY letters that were addressed to both Senators, so I would have the same ones to give to Bunning later. And she smiled as if nothing would be more satisfying than to make me those copies. And made the copies. It’s hard to tell if we made any impression on the aide we actually met with; he was polite too. We encouraged the aides to read the book.
At the end of the afternoon we went to Bunning’s office, which was in a different building…the one where all the grannies were to meet up. There we met with two aides, both young females, who were also polite but you could see they thought they were wasting their time. Well, it was 3:30 or so and maybe they were tired and/or busy. They were not surprised to get the letters, and one remarked that they get hundreds of letters every day, from all kinds of people with all kinds of opinions. It was clear she was going to ignore the constituents who wrote them. The walls in Bunning’s office were covered with photos, many-many-many of them with W. And his wife with W’s wife. Etc.
The MA Senators, Kennedy and Kerry, are in the forefront of the push against Bush, so there wasn’t much lobbying to do there. I also went to the offices of two more Republicans, one from GA and one from OK. They are blurred in my mind.
So there’s no way of telling whether we had any effect, but it was good to be there. The mood in DC is electric with change. We know it won’t go far enough but it was exhilarating anyway. – Mary Gilbert, Kentucky
The Maine Raging Grannies visited our two senators’ offices in Portland, Maine on January 18th. We took a 20-point document outlining how we can get out of Iraq. This document was written using information from a document prepared by George McGovern. (Let no one say that the peace movement doesn’t have a plan for withdrawal from Iraq.) I carefully dressed with my Texas cowboy hat and my Green Sanctuary apron (picture our invasion of a recruiting station in 2005), and sandals with socks. At both offices, the staff were delighted as we presented our information, then sang a song that one of our grannies had written for previous events. We encouraged Senator Collins to “get on board” with the options for getting out of Iraq, and we thanked Senator Snowe for her decision to agree with the options now being presented. However, we made clear that we are demanding they go even further—we want our troops out of Iraq NOW. – Sally Breen, Maine
The Maryland contingent was a loose coalition of 15 peace groups from around the state, who are not very familiar with working together. We came together under the umbrella of Maryland UFPJ and were seeking January meetings with our new senator, Ben Cardin, and our long time incumbent senator, Barbara Mikulski. Because of my connection to the NYC, GPB we decided to get our visits on 1/18. (I make that seem easy, but it wasn’t) …. First of all, members of the Maryland contingent are not all grandmothers, or at that stage of life; second of all, they felt some concern about weakening 1/27 events; thirdly – sometimes doing things collaboratively is just harder – why take it on. As it turned out, with some serendipity and some planning, the decision was made to go ahead with our MD visits on 1/18. We did expect that we might have more clout if these visits were made in conjunction with 98 others. And that turned out to be quite true…. all the staffs were alerted to the visits of the day; there was a buzz all around the senate buildings that this was an anti-war day.
Our coalition exchanged e-mails, and then had early AM planning meeting on 1/18 in which we divided roles, focused on 5 key points (no more troops, no more $$, end the war; stop the war-mongering on Iran, and repeal the Military Commissions Act). I ended up missing those meetings, and 1/3 of the AM senate meeting, because of the press conference. At the first visit, to Mikulski, we were greeted with a sense of resistance, and pro-forma conversation, but after the group showed itself to be very knowledge and credible, the staffer became more open to our points. Mikulski has been consistently “pro-military”. She “would never do anything to jeopardize our soldiers in the field”. She did recently make a statement on the floor of the senate against the surge, but she has not given an inch past this. She also has consistently refused to take the nuclear option off the table in discussions about Iran. So we have our work cut out for us. At this time there is a CD coalition here in Maryland which expects to go into action in late Feb. or early March. There is a high level of frustration with our usual meetings with this senator.
On the other hand, we had a totally different reception by the foreign policy staffer in Ben Cardin’s office. He was realistic, and candid…. that their office is driven mainly by the issue of becoming operational right now. He thinks that once the dust settles his senator will call for an end to the war on a tight timeline. He was very encouraging and told us that the most important thing to do against the war, is to keep voicing our dissent. That the entire senate was getting more communications against the war, than on any other topic. He asked us to return and keep the discussion going. – Dr. Pat Salomon, Maryland
Three of us from Massachusetts visited the offices of both Kerry and Kennedy, and were well received in both places. In Kerry’s office the young aide we spoke with said she would pass on to the Senator our thanks for standing with Kennedy’s non-binding resolution.
At Kennedy’s office the aide was … a career diplomat who had just spent (I think) 12 or more years in Peru, and in other countries before that! Apparently it’s not uncommon to give a diplomat a year in the Senate to get a different view of how things work. He was mature, intelligent, very interested, took lots of notes. He agreed when I said I my idea of a diplomat’s job is that it’s very hard to have to do the bidding of decision-makers elsewhere rather than speak one’s own mind. Again we thanked the Senator through the aide.
My two MA colleagues are very much on fire about an important issue in our state that is and isn’t a federal matter, which is the Level 4 Bio-lab being built in a low-income part of the city of Boston. The entity that has the federal contract to build it is Boston University, and the city government is all for it. The pro-lab folks thought they had a done deal…and maybe they do…but a strong law suit is being brought by some environmental groups to stop it from going forward.
My colleagues lobbied in both Senators’ offices as strongly as they could against the bio-lab. I’m 100% against the bio-lab, which is certainly part of the radical militarization of the country under Bush, and although we were in DC to lobby against the particular war(s) our country is fighting I made not effort to rein in my friends. (After all, we’re talking Kennedy and Kerry, who are on board with the war.) The Senate is not directly involved with the bio-lab but both Senators have expressed support, and that matters. – Mary Gilbert
Nebraska’s Republican Senator Chuck Hagel’s office was visited, by appointment, by Eva-Lee Baird, Phyllis Cunningham, and Granny Peace Brigade supporter Caroline Chinlund – all of New York City. We met with Senator Hagel’s Chief of Staff, Lou Ann Linehan and Deputy Legislative Assistant, Joseph C. Maher. Mr. Maher, a former marine, who had served in the current Iraq war.
The conference room decor in Senator Hagel’s office included framed photos and many awards/commendations, books, a gorgeous wooden table with chairs, and in the corner, a barber’s chair. Our meeting with staff members was both cordial and informative. Among the topics we discussed were components of the non-binding Bipartisan Senate Resolution On Iraq sponsored by Senators Hagel, Biden, Levin, and Snowe. Mr. Maher highlighted the importance of territorial Integrity (U.S. Military patrolling Iraqi borders). We shared varying opinions when we introduced the necessity for the U.S. financial contribution concerning the restoration of all aspects of civil society in Iraq.
We applauded Senator Hagel for his work on the resolution and presented to the staff our “Twelve Points for Peace,” the McGovern/Polk Out of Iraq book, and two white roses. All-in-all, we were well received by Senator Hagel’s staff and the meeting was productive in that we communicated the Granny Peace Brigade’s position. – Phyllis Cunningham
A few of us from New York met Jerry Nadler in one of the hallways. He was in a hurry but stopped when some of us said we were constituents of his. He was very friendly and showed and later gave us copies of his new Bill, H.R.455 – Protect the troops and bring them home Act of 2007 (Introduced in the House). It calls for their withdrawal by December 31, 2007. – Corinne Willinger, Granny Peace Brigade, New York
I’m from New York. In DC I did have a surprising “moment” with Hillary when I ran into her at the end of a large hall on my way to the Women’s Room in her Senate Office Building. She had just finished a press meeting and must have been in transit. Serendipitously, it was just Hillary, me and her security, so I stepped right up, shook her hand and didn’t let go while I delivered my lines as she started out smiling warmly: I’m a constituent from Greenwich Village in New York City and I’m here today with the Granny Peace Brigade. (Her smile begins to fade.) We want you to insist that the funding for this war be cut and for you to stop waffling about your view of this. (Her face hardens, her eyes glaze over and she stammers, “I’m with you on that, didn’t you read my latest statement about Iraq?”) That was it; I had to let go of her hand and she was swallowed up by her Security and disappeared. Anyway, I got great satisfaction from confronting her since she was obviously avoiding us, and has done so consistently in New York as well as in DC.
I’m not sure if I could have said something better, but I think we all have to devise a few good 30 second pitches for speaking truth to power and to maximize the impact of our encounters in case we run into Hillary or our other “representatives”. – Karen Beatty, New York
Visits to North and South Carolina Senators went well. Lillian Rydell joined me in the office of Senator Richard Burr (R-N.C.). We met with his staff person, D’Ann Grady, who listened to our views and was pleasant and polite. I left with her my personal letter to the Senator and George McGovern’s book.
I also stopped by Senator Elizabeth Dole’s (R-N.C.) office, introduced myself and left my personal letter and Mc Govern’s book with her receptionist, who was friendly and polite. A columnist for the Raleigh News and Observer recently wrote that Elizabeth Dole seemed to be moving away from Bush’s Iraq policies, and this story ended up on some websites. However, at this particular point in time, I wouldn’t get too excited about it. There is a rumor that Dole won’t run in 2008, and another rumor that Governor Easly’s wife is thinking about running against Dole in 2008.
At 4:45 pm, I and some other Grannies went with Elaine Johnson to the office of Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.). Elaine had a meeting with the Senator; we were not able to go into his office with her, and as you know she reported that her meeting with him was quite satisfactory. While she was with the Senator, we chatted with his staff in the outer office; one of them talked about her frequent visits to Raleigh (where I live) to visit friends. Of course, I told her that I have lived in Raleigh for 45 years.
When returning to Raleigh on Amtrak, I picked up the Philadelphia paper at Union Station and saw the front page article on the Grannies. When I got back home, I emailed the article to Triangle CodePink members and got a few positive comments. The Atlanta paper also had an article on its website. My local paper did not, and my husband did not see any article in the N.Y. Times. Was there one?
Supposedly, hundreds of people from North Carolina are going to D.C. on January 27. Buses are leaving from Chapel Hill (university town), Fayetteville (home of Fort Bragg), but nothing in the way of buses from Raleigh (population 320,000), although apparently students from N.C. State University will be traveling to D.C. in vans. No one in Raleigh seems to have taken the leadership on this, although a lot of people are opposed to the war.
I have been considering the possibility of forming a Granny Peace Brigade chapter in Raleigh and the Triangle, but have two main things to consider: a location for the initial meeting which would attract potential grannies, and who would want to join if they already belong to other organizations such as, N.C. Peace Action, N.C. Peace and Justice Committee, Tikkun Community, Raging Grannies, Elders For Peace, etc. Possibly a featured speaker at a first meeting would be an attraction.
So that’s where everything is right now. I really enjoyed our descent on the Senate on January 18, and look forward to further involvement with the Granny Peace Brigade. – Elizabeth Axtell, Raleigh, North Carolina
Our group met with Senator Jim Inhofe’s (Oklahoma) Military Legislative Assistant, John Bonsall during the Granny Peace Brigade Decent in Washington on January 18. We asked him if the military had predicted the casualties for the 21,500 “Surge” soldiers, yet. We were amazed to learn that, “There is a book this thick at the Pentagon that gives those estimates.” He raised his hand more than a foot off the conference table. “In, fact,” he continued, “They had predicted huge amounts of casualties for overturning Sadaam. And, not a fraction of that happened.”
“Well,” we asked, “how do you know if you are meeting objectives…if you are being victorious or not?” Mr. Bonsall, then, began to brief us on a biannual Report dated November 2006, Measuring Stability and Security in Iraq. It would be more aptly titled Measuring Chaos in Iraq. http://www.defenselink.mil/home/features/Iraq_Reports/Index.html
Mr. Bonsall the background: The government of Iraq has just been formed. The President of Iraq was inaugurated in January and it took him until spring to build a working coalition, so, the government has been working for just a few months. And, Mr. Bonsall stressed that this raw lack of experience caused the Iraqi public to doubt the legitimacy of the government. According to this Report, the public has been enduring continuous degradation of already bare bones services; so, more public works failures further erode confidence. And, still, Mr. Bonsall affirmed, in many ways, the Iraqis welcome the Americans and are overlooking the shortfalls in delivery.
Following along with this line of thought, he touched on what the “Rule of Law” is. Apparently, US and partners can build water treatment plants and maintain them but only under heavy guard. Then, distributing public services is another matter, i.e., the waste and water piping, cables and electrical grid and telecom plant poses a specific and widening police problem. (See chart on page 16: “Daily Hours of Electric Power.”)
MAP TALK: Baghdad, is a wee ragged dot in the center of the country, it is colored red because receives electricity less than 8 hours a day; while flanking it is Anwar province, shown in saturated green and, roughly, 80 times the size of Baghdad it gets more than 16 hours of power a day.
SALIENT QUOTE: “New Projects have added capacity to provide access to potable water to approximately 5.2 million Iraqis … Direct measurement of water actually delivered to Iraqis is not available.” Pg.16
Clearly, things need to be done differently and, so, police patrol protocols, another part of “Rule of Law” are being revamped this way. In the past, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) would secure an area and return to base at night. Since, the areas were immediately being reclaimed, the new protocol calls for ISF to secure areas over night. Read: Mission creep — more ISF police are required than were forecast.
Anbar is most problematic; currently, they are allowing the US lead forces to counter the al Queda — their fellow Sunnis but, “They hate everybody.” Mr. Bonsall explained that of the eighteen provinces, there are four very tough ones causing most of the trouble in Iraq: Anbar, Baghdad, Salah ad Din and Diyala.
Blue shaded maps show Anbar to be the largest province and conspicuously white because it was not surveyed on, say, confidence that government can improve situation in Iraq (Pg.5) or on citizen’s perception of civil war, (Pg. 24) It would be safe to say that is statistically significant to ignore one third of the country.
Meanwhile, even though it is not directly queried on the threat of civil war, other maps in the Report divine Anbar as “hours of power” (Pg.16) “not ready for transition” (Pg.28) and living “with no counter insurgency operations in their area” (Pg.28) and having “no confidence in the Iraqi government to protect from threat.(Pg.26)” I am wondering what statistical and field methods the US team employed to tap those attitudes or predict those responses. It is helpful to know how many people were surveyed. The astonishing sample sizes are listed on pg.49 –for ALL OF IRAQ OCT06 4,533 and JUL06 1,870; Bagdad contributed 1,834 and 173 to the total respondents, respectively. It would be safe to say that is statistically significant to ignore 99.9% the country.
SALIENT QUOTE: “…the total number of ISF that have been trained (is) 322,600….However, the trained-and-equipped number should not be confused with the present-for-duty strength. The number of present-for-duty soldiers and police is much lower due to scheduled leave, absence without leave and attrition.” Pg 3. One is left wondering just how much lower present-for-duty is as it is not quantified in the Report.
This analysis has been confined to the few matters that were discussed in our impromptu briefing. However, reading the 60 page document, itself, leaves many questions about the methods, accuracy and efficacy of these metrics. Alas, I am still trying to identify and contact the authors. These Reports are worth reading because you know how accurately a no bid “Victory” can be predicted and measured. -Diane Dreyfus, New York
A group of Pennsylvanians went to visit 10th District’s Christopher P. Carney and 11th District’s Paul E. Kanjorski, and we also left materials at 14th District’s Mike Doyle’s. Carney is one of the new guys and I was very impressed with Jeffrey S. Gabriel, Jr., his legislative director, who gave us a wonderful reception and brought up all sorts of things we had talked about before we even had a chance to talk about them, including Iran. Rep. Carney’s staff is doing research on ways and means to defund and de-escalate, and to make sure we do not invade Iran and other countries. At the tail end of our talk, the Congressman walked in and took a picture with us; I don’t know how to download it from my phone, but will send it as soon as I have it. If we had more Carney’s, we would need do little else. He did say that they may support Murtha’s bill and that Woolsey’s bill may not make it out of committee.
At Kanjorski’s office we were greeted by Tom Nicholls, whom I have had occasion to speak to before, as he is the Congressman for the Pocono area where I have lived for close to ten years. Last September when we lobbied him, Kanjorski had said that no matter what initiatives were proposed, they would be outvoted; that if they got power back, they would start investigations and then things could be done. Well, I am happy to report that he is one of the original sponsors of the Murtha legislation, so he is keeping his word… and we discussed briefly some constitutional alternatives concerning the original joint resolution and the present escalation (which he opposes) and possible carrying of the war into other countries.
I found this granny initiative to be very helpful, loved the press conference with Kucinich and some of my old ‘friends’ such as Ann Wright, and felt like singing the lyrics I wrote when he ran for President… Dennis Kucinich, tú serás mi presidente, (to the tune of Guantanamera).
When we return, I propose more music… –Silvia A. Brandon Pérez, Abuelita Revolucionaria, Pennsylvania
As part of our continuing campaign to end the war grandmothers and supporters from all over the country came to Washington with “Bring Troops Home Now” and “Stop Funds For The War” as our focus. We began with a planning meeting on Wednesday evening. This was a chance for far-flung sisters to get to know each other. On Thursday morning we had a press conference in the Capitol hosted by U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich. Elaine Johnson, a Gold Star mother whose son was killed in Iraq told of her “vocation of agony.” As she spoke, we were moved to tears. After the conference, we descended on the offices of all 100 Senators. Yes, we got to all of them! We left each senator a packet containing our “12 Points for Peace,” the book “Out of Iraq” by George McGovern and William R. Polk, and two white roses. The lobbying experiences varied greatly, and we’ll post reports as we get them. After lobbying, we assembled in the Hart Senate Office building. From various points in the atrium, we began walking, at first apparently aimlessly while quietly reading the first amendment. Slowly, we converged, reading the amendment a little louder each time we repeated it. And suddenly, we were together reaching a crescendo saying, “Troops home now alive! No funding for war! We will not be silent!” Next, we began reading the names of the dead. The police tried to stop us and disperse us, but ended by asking us to be quieter. A number of us then met one more time to review activities of the day. We talked mostly about the lobbying experiences and how varied they were. It was good to make new friends, and gain resolve to go on and broaden a movement to bring peace to our world. Together we are stronger today. – Eva-Lee Baird, Betty Brassell, Phyllis Cunningham
Beyond “We will not be silent.” We are listening.
Just because we say “We will not be silent” doesn’t mean that we will not take a briefing… seriously. The NYC Granny Peace Brigade planned a capitol visit to just our Senators: Schumer and Clinton, but that mission wildly souffléd to include 100 Gran-sters from 21 states seeking to sway and/or fact find among all State’s Senators.
In support of the GPB, a pacifist friend, Joey, joined me and my sister granny jailbird Barbara Walker along with two regulars from the Grandmothers Against the War Vigil in calling on six senators — five from hostile states. Our group of five was hoping to open eyes, hearts and minds to the possibility of Bringing Troops Home Now and so, we set about delivering two gifts for each senator. The first, a white rose bound with black crepe, attached to a black card with white letters saying “We will not be silent” (the obverse side of the card tells the history of the “White Rose Society” nonviolent activists of the Nazi era; and, the second, a book Out of Iraq: A Practical Plan for Withdrawal Now, detailing that position.
One senator’s aide refused the book saying, in error, that the office could not accept gifts. (NOTE: The real rule is that a senator or congressperson can accept gifts but none worth more than $50 and limited to no more than $100 in total from a lobbyist per year.)
Most of our encounters were with young staffers, who stoutly recapitulated their senator’s counter-position. So, no conversions were made and some interchanges were quite formal but only a bit brittle, at worst. For example, when asked “What would your Senator consider ‘victory’?” in Iraq?” one aide responded, “’The Rule of Law’, M’aam. “ Given such a pat reply some Grannies dispatched a fusillade of questions about false causis belli, the abandonment of the Geneva Conventions, Abu Grabe, and how would it be for USA, if the Arabs wanted to impose the “Rule of Law” on us? The young aides were steadfast; but our departures were always friendly.
However, it was not until we returned to Oklahoma Senator Inhofe’s to present the rose and book, that we were given a sense of “the way things are.” We came and went from this office wildly ignorant that the occupant was named “the most conservative U.S. senator” by the American Conservative Union. We had ever so casually munched on the state snack (peanuts!) hoping for an afternoon appointment in lieu of the state granny.
After real lunch, we were greeted by a formidable gentleman of military manner. He was no less than the Senator’s Military Legislative Assistant, John Bonsell; he and two of his staff kindly hosted us in their conference room. The meeting was remarkable for its specificity and apparent candor. The impact of the unlikely conspiracy around the table was characterized by communication clearly beyond civil. The most moving outcome was to be left knowing that each one of us wants the best, under our common flag: holding very different visions, but really aligned. We had engaged each other for over an hour on (at least) Israel-Palestine relations and projections, history of terrorism in the Reagan era, Time Table for Troop withdrawal, the Surge, poor Iraqi immigration statistics and rebuilding the country on the model of the Marshall Plan.
Mr. Bonsell let us know, from the outset, that he was prone as we were to getting emotional about this war because he had already lost friends and still has relatives at stake in the action. Oddly, towards the conclusion of our talks, he pulled a slightly dog-eared photo from his jacket pocket. It pictured a few activists holding a banner blasting “We support troops – that killing their officers.” — He told us this was from a rally following a Muslim troop fatally blowing up an officer’s tent in Iraq. We were stunned that the MLA had such an image at the ready and more than horrified that it might be associated with the Granny Peace Brigade; we, could only sputter that there were always hecklers and infill-traitors (sic.) Aside from this strange sideline, participants had flared only once and that was quickly resolved.
The briefing that took place among these terse conversations came from a biannual report. Mr. Bonsell walked us through the metrics collected from spring of 2006 measuring six months of Stability and Security in Iraq. This report contains maps and attitudinal assessments of issues in areas deemed by the military to be meaningful. The conclusion of this “map talk” was the assertion, regarding the Surge, that “…if it is not working we will know by these measurements.”
In any case, I just started listening a lot more keenly since hearing, today, that my nephew is being deployed to Iraq in March. – Diane Dreyfus,
Grannies Go to Washington,
Urge Immediate End to the Occupation
On January 18, almost 100 grandmothers from all over America descended on Washington and lobbied every one of the 100 Senators and/or their staffs to end the war in Iraq. It was historic, to say the least. Has there ever been another occasion where so many grannies, some in their 80’s and 90’s, some in wheelchairs, some with canes, some legally blind and legally deaf, descended on the Capitol to press their concerns with every single Senator?
The concerns in this case were about the immoral, illegal, senseless and catastrophic invasion and occupation of Iraq. Our generation of grandmothers knows too well the dreadful consequences and futility of war, and does not want our grandsons and granddaughters or ANYbody’s grandchildren to sacrifice their lives just as they are on the brink of living them for a phony, hopeless and destructive cause. We grannies have observed with horror as more and more of our young people have been killed or maimed. We have observed with horror as, first, our casually dropped bombs killed and maimed thousands of innocent Iraqis, and, then, as more and more of our troops and Iraqi citizens have been slaughtered and wounded by the insurgency, suicide bombers and warring sects stirred up by our brutal assault.
We’ve tried marching, petitioning, phoning, holding vigils, being arrested and jailed, and many other forms of protest, but the war goes on…and on. So, we decided to try talking directly to all the Senators and a few House members on Thursday, January 18, to see if we could put some steel in their spines and encourage them to be brave and honorable and stop the funding of the war.
GRANNIES KEPT OUT IN THE COLD
We arrived at the Capitol before 9 A.M. at the security check facility. But, we were not permitted entrance for about 45 minutes while names were verified. It was very cold, and some of the elderly grannies were in wheelchairs and hanging on to walkers. We pleaded with the guards to at least let some of the disabled women wait inside until they finished checking names, but they refused. It’s apparent that disregard of the elderly starts before you even get into the hallowed halls where the lawmakers take (inadequate) care of the people’s business!
DRAMA IN THE PRESS CONFERENCE
We were incredibly lucky to have Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D. Ohio), the great anti-war Representative and presidential candidate, sponsor a press conference with us the morning of the 18th, at which he spoke eloquently about the need to get out of Iraq and applauded us for being what he called “the conductors on the train of peace.” We feel that If we’re the conductors, he certainly is the engineer…he has boldly opposed this shameful war from the beginning and been consistently vocal in his opposition, and on January 15 presented a plan for exiting Iraq, which the Granny Peace Brigade fully supports. Newly-elected Maryland Congressman Albert Wynn appeared at the press meeting and spoke passionately about the need to bring the occupation to an early conclusion, and strongly anti-war Congresswoman Barbara Lee of California was able to make a brief stop-by on her way to a meeting.
Another eloquent speaker was the heroic Ann Wright, representing Hawaii. Ann, a former Army Reserves colonel and diplomat, resigned her diplomatic post in protest the day before “Shock and Awe” was launched. Since then, she has been a tireless advocate for bringing the troops home without delay. She had just returned from a few days in Cuba where she investigated conditions at Guantanamo when, without skipping a beat, she joined the grannies in our mission.
We were all moved to tears by the words of Elaine Johnson, who lost her son in Iraq. Elaine came to Washington from South Carolina, and we are so grateful to her for sharing her tragic story with us. She is a committed member of Gold Star Families for Peace.
A highlight of the press conference was Marie Runyon, the feisty 92-year-old New York Granny Peace Brigade jailbird, and former New York State Assemblywoman, who, in her usual outrageously amusing style, told the room what she thought of George Bush. Marie just received the New York State Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award, on Martin Luther King Day. It is worth mentioning that Marie is both legally blind and deaf, but that she considers these conditions mere inconveniences and goes everywhere and does everything nevertheless.
Also speaking was the New York Granny Peace Brigade “celebrity,” well-known Broadway actress/playwright and great-grandmother, Vinie Burrows, still acting almost non-stop in off-Broadway and regional theatre productions.
GRANNIES VISIT THE SENATORS AND A FEW CONGRESS PEOPLE
The grandmothers then fanned out in teams to meet with all senators, to give them white roses attached by a black ribbon to a card saying, WE WILL NOT BE SILENT, the theme for the granny groups; the granny “12 Points of Peace” demands; and a copy of George McGovern’s fine book, “Out of Iraq.” They were able to secure face-to-face meetings with a few Senators and Congress people, but mostly met with staff — not surprising, it is supposed, given the enormous numbers of meetings on Capitol Hill that day.
However, a few “catches” occurred. The New Jersey grannies met with their very receptive senators, Frank R. Lautenberg and Robert Menendez, both opponents of the Iraq War. Mr. Menendez opposed the original resolution authorizing George Bush to conduct a preemptive war on Iraq. Mr Lautenberg was not in the Senate at that time but has been a consistent opponent of the Iraq debacle. The New Jersey grandmothers were very impressed with the exhibit outside his Senate office, which shows pictures of every fallen military man and woman who was a casualty in Iraq.
Gold Star mother, Elaine Johnson, had a lengthy meeting with her South Carolina Senator, Republican Jim DeMint, who agreed that it was time for the troops to come home. He said that they were giving Bush one more chance (it is assumed he meant the “Surge”) but if that didn’t work, they would take action. He was very kind to Elaine, and she was most pleased. She had a personal situation for which she requested his assistance, and he immediately offered help. In fact, his aides called her the next day to begin the process.
Other Senators and House members with whom some grannies had face-to-face meetings were Senator Arlen Spector (R. PA) and Pennsylvania representative Chaka Fattah from Philadelphia, who told the Philly women, “I’m on your side.”; Also, some of the New Yorkers had a very cordial meeting with Rep. Charlie Rangel, now head of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, who knows the New York Granny Peace Brigade well, has supported them in many ways in the past and offered on Thursday to give them a substantial monetary contribution. A few grandmothers had a brief encounter in the hall with Nancy Pelosi as she was scurrying to open the Congress, during which she praised the grannies for their peace work.
For the most part, however, the lobbying group met with assistants and advisors. Debbie Hardy, who came from Ohio to join the grannies, met with aides to Sen. George V. Voinovich, Sen. Sherrod Brown and Cong. John Boehner, all representing Ohio, and with Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont, and asked three questions formulated by her son, Jeremy Brooks: 1) In your opinion, what needs to happen before we can begin withdrawing American troops? 2) Do you support a deadline for the Iraqi government to start taking control of the security of Iraq? 3) If the situation in Iraq does not improve after we send in additional troops, at what point in time would you suggest to the President that enough is enough? The advisors promised written replies to the three questions from each Senator, and suggested that the questions be asked of ALL Senators. Debbie spoke to them about her missing fiance, an Iraqi policeman she met while he was assigned to the United States for training in a police academy so he could return to Iraq and train the police there. He disappeared in October 2005 and Debbie has been desperately searching for him ever since.
Generally, the grannies were treated with respect and, for the most part, felt they had made a significant impact. The New York delegation, for instance, had a very cordial meeting with Senator Schumer’s aides, who listened attentively and had a give-and-take with the grannies that was quite satisfactory.
A NOT-SO-FRIENDLY ENCOUNTER WITH SENATOR MCCAIN
There was another face-to-face meeting with a real, live Senator. A few of the grandmothers came across Senator John McCain in the Capitol rotunda holding an impromptu press conference. They listened politely as he ranted on about the need for more troops, about how we must respect George Bush and so on, and then followed him as he walked back to his office. One woman, Laurie Arbeiter, approached him as he was about to enter his domain and asked, “How did you feel when Bush nullified your torture amendment using the signing statement? What did Iraq have to with 9-11? Justify the illegal invasion.” McCain said: “I appreciate your views.” His inquisitor said, “You do not appreciate our views.” “I DO appreciate your views,” McCain insisted. “No, you DON’T appreciate our views,” she countered. “How could you support the Administration policies regarding Iraq if you did?”, at which point McCain quickly ducked into his office.
IRAQ VET’S RUN-IN WITH HILLARY’S AIDE
As cordial as their meeting with Sen. Schumer’s staff was, the New York delegation was disappointed with their meeting with Hillary Clinton’s people. The New Yorkers were shunted for about 15 or 20 minutes through the halls and up and down steps in order to find a bigger room to hold the meeting. There was a degree of animosity between some of the grannies and her Chief Policy Advisor, Laurie Rubiner, and a hoped-for open exchange did not take place. Nor was there any indication of a commitment on Hillary’s part for a swift end to the war. At the end of the meeting, Ms. Rubiner said to Iraq vet, Geoff Millard, ‘”I’m proud of your service.” He asked, “Which service — my tour of duty in Iraq or my service in the anti-war movement?” “Your service in Iraq,” she replied. Geoff said, “If you understood that I participated in an illegal war, you would be ashamed to be proud of me.” “I’m still proud of your service,” was her answer, totally missing the point — just as Hillary has continually missed the point about the wrongness of the Iraq occupation.
THE GRANNIES SCOLD THE CAPITOL POLICE AT DAY’S END
After completing their arduous lobbying through the long, long corridors of the Capitol and the various office buildings, the grannies gathered at 4 PM in the atrium of the Hart Building. They softly read the First Amendment and then intoned quietly the names of the fallen soldiers with a gentle meditation bell sound at the end of each name. As they augmented the volume of their voices, the Capitol Police approached and said that they had better stop the ringing of the bell and lower their voices, that they were “disturbing the peace.” One of the grandmothers said to him, “You are concerned that our reading the names of the dead is disturbing the peace? The peace has already been disturbed by some of the people that work in this building. We are here to restore the peace.”
IF ONLY!! – Joan Wile
On January 4th, as the new Congress convened, New York based activists were present to demand that our representatives put an immediate end to the illegal occupation of Iraq and bring to justice those responsible for a U.S. policy of torture and illegal detentions. These are our first steps to let the members of Congress know that we are watching, and will come back again and again until the war, occupation, torture and detentions stop. A hardy band of protesters, from various groups- the Critical Voice, Granny Peace Brigades of NY and NJ, Artists Against War,World Can’t Wait, and Not in Our Name- exercised their rite of free speech in the Hart Senate Building. Positioning themselves strategically on floors facing the atrium, in front of Senate offices, they dropped four black banners with stark white words: WAR TORTURE LIES , and the 26 foot long WE WILL NOT BE SILENT. Many staffers emerged from their offices to view this statement of purpose. As the group moved away from the banners, Capitol police arrived and carefully undid the multiple knots. They even returned the banners. – Ann Shirazi