March 23, 2004

West Pointers Against the War

I attended the peace rally in Crawford Texas (George Bush's adopted hometown) this past Saturday March 20, 2004. It was well attended (reports indicating between 800-1000 attendees). I brought a 5 foot by 15 foot banner that my family created the day before that read, “Texas Muslims for Peace & Justice.” It had lots of additions that the kids made like: hand prints, hearts, smiley faces, peace signs, etc. Fortunately just before we were set to march I found three fellow Muslims to help carry the banner.

We then marched from Tonkawa Falls Park in to downtown Crawford. This was a good mile. Crawford is a very, very small town. As I walked in to town lots of the local residents were sitting out on their porches watching the day’s activities. I tried to smile and wave to them. As I looked at the pretty but run down houses I couldn’t help but think that 87 billion dollars could have gone a long way to spruce up the place.

There were some local town folk (I’m guessing) dressed up in military garb counter protesting so I asked my fellow Muslims to hold up my end of the banner and I hopped out of the march and shook one guy's hand and said, "my name is Ian Benouis and I'm a West Point grad combat vet for peace." They all were in a state of shock and didn't know what to say.

Downtown Crawford is basically 2 traffic lights so we made a big U coming in to the town. One right and then another and then back the mile to the park. On the way back I saw the former Air Force veteran who was blocked in traffic that the news reports mentioned. He was doing his best not to look at us and maybe later he put up his cowboy hat in front of his face as the reports indicated.

Right before we got back in to the park, there was a family counter-protesting right next door. The news reports later informed that they had been there for a chili cook off and on the spur of the moment decided to protest against the peace rally. That really warmed my heart that he we were in America where we all had the right to speak our piece.

It was kind of interesting however that they weren’t really for anything (other than Bush and Cheney for another 4 years) as they were against what we were doing. They had red, white and blue balloons, a Bush Cheney 04 sign and were playing military marching music. They were dancing around doing their best to ignore our presence and pretend like we didn’t really exist. It kind of reminded me when kids put their hands over their ears and go, “la, la, la, la. I can’t hear you” when you are trying to talk to them.

Before the march there were some speakers and musicians performing. One speaker definitely got my attention when she was introduced. Her name is Shannon Sharrock and she is a West Point graduate from the class of 1997 and 2nd year law student at Baylor. She is a former Chinook helicopter pilot and her husband who is also a West Point graduate and Blackhawk Helicopter pilot with the 101st Airborne Division had just completed a full tour of duty in Iraq and was in Kuwait on his way back to the US.

I got the chance to talk with her after the march and she was kind enought to send me her speech. I have included the full text of her speech and also included the one that she gave last year at a similar rally at Crawford below. She is also a member of Military Families Speak Out. Hearing her made me wish that I had brought my poem "America is Babylon" to read at the rally that I wrote before the war began:

I've also included some articles about the rally (including a Republican and Bush Supporter who is against the war) at the end of this entry and some links to some other West Point Alumnus with commentary about the current war on terror and other current events. I've even included some pictures from the event.

March 20 2004 Speech, Crawford Texas

I am Shannon Sharrock. Wife to a soldier deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom since March of last year. I am a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point. I am a second year law student at Baylor University, and I am a proud member of Military Families Speak Out. I am not here to endorse Mr. Nader or any other candidate for President of the United States. Contrary to what some may think, this gathering was not meant to be a forum from which to debate national issues or gain political clout, and it certainly should not be used as such.

I am here for a sole purpose: to fight for our soldiers and give voice to the military families who refuse to sit idly by and watch as their loved ones are sent to a war that has never been justified and never will be. Simply put, I am here to speak out against the war in Iraq- against the dishonorable, deplorable, deceptive foreign policy fashioned by the Bush administration, which now has our soldiers mired in an ethnic battle for which there is no end- an elective war hatched by the chicken hawks now roosting in the White House who feather their pockets with soft money from soft contracts- who know nothing of combat or Islamic culture or the sacrifices that our soldiers and their families make every day that this is allowed to continue.

We are all familiar with the lies and the deceit and the selfish, swaggering, self-promoting, preemptive policies that have lead to this blood soaked debacle. All of us feel betrayed, angry, frustrated, cast out by a society- albeit an ever decreasing society- which would rather label us unpatriotic or traitorous than face the truth that President George W. Bush sent our soldiers to die in an ill-conceived, ill-planned, ill-begotten war. We all know these statements to be true- we have known their truth for over a year now. We have spoken out, demonstrated, protested, called for action, called for justice, and called for peaceful alternatives to war. And much has changed… Yet much remains inadequately and unconscionably the same.

Over the past year, there have been repeated boastful statements made by our Commander-in-Chief that our soldiers have the best equipment that $87 billion can buy- yet for an entire year, my husband’s soldiers lived in tents shredded by both age and the elements. Over the past year, there have been repeated perfunctory promises made by Congress to equip our soldiers with the best armor, weaponry, and defenses available- yet after a year in the desert, my husband and most of his unit left Iraq just two days ago without having ever received bullet proof vests. Over the past year, there have been repeated adamant denials that our military was stretched too thin, that we have adequate numbers of soldiers both to defend our country and to deploy to other countries, yet the first wave of soldiers to return from Operation Iraqi Freedom have already received return orders to Iraq- some of whom will have had as little as six months of stabilization before their redeployment.

And soldiers and civilians continue to die and continue to be wounded. And excuses continue to be made. And there has been no accounting and no accountability. No weapons of mass destruction, no link between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, no end in sight to the life of the war beast created and nurtured by those who understand nothing of the convolution of ethnic war.

And we continue to be vilified. And we continue to be labeled unpatriotic.

And still we are here, and we are many. We stand today, ever-united, ever-focused, ever-ready to continue what we have started- to continue our own battle against the political corruption that waged a war which has cost [565] American lives, thousands of Iraqi lives, and thousands more wounded. We will not be intimidated; we will not be deterred. We will continue to fight until our voices are not just heard but HEEDED, and this we use as our rallying cry: We will not rest until this elective war has come to an end. We will not lower our voices in protest until ALL of our sons and daughters, husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters have returned safely to American soil.

August 23 2003 Speech, Crawford Texas

I am Shannon Beth Sharrock, wife to a soldier serving in Iraq since March of this year. I am a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and served overseas in Korea and in the United States at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, where I was discharged in 2002 because of injuries incurred while on duty that disqualified me from further service. But for that injury, I might well be serving with my husband—also a West Point graduate—in Iraq. And, I would be proud to do so were I in the least convinced that our presence there is justified and our cause meritorious. I am not… It is not...

Ignorance, arrogance, and mendacity by our administration in the White House and Pentagon have been a lethal combination for 273—and counting—members of our military serving in Iraq, and hundreds more wounded, as well as thousands of Iraqis.

There is no question but that we were misled by our elected and appointed leaders, including our Commander-in-Chief, our Secretary of Defense and his staff, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If we were misled intentionally- it is unforgivable; if we were misled unintentionally, then our leadership is, at best, incompetent to the task upon which they embarked the young men and women of our military. Either is inexcusable. It is not the “American Way” in which I strongly believe and which led me to serve my country as a soldier.

Arrogance has isolated us from most of our traditional allies—the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and of the United Nation. Now, in our hour of need, these nations justifiably decline to join us in the reconstruction of the nation that we have destroyed, unless and until they are given a meaningful voice in decision making—a voice denied them in our rush to war, based on the false premises of the existence of weapons of mass destruction, development of nuclear weapons, and a connection with the Al Qaeda terrorist organization.

In this instance, it is clearly a truism that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Our ignorance of the religions and cultures of Islam has been at no time more evident than now. Our system of democracy can no more be imposed on a culture and on a people to whom it is completely foreign, than a totalitarian form of government could be imposed by force on us. Those in Washington to whom we entrusted the lives of our young men and women of the armed services should have known and considered this before they placed our nation’s finest young men and women in harm’s way. It is unconscionable that they did not know- even more unconscionable if they did know.

Make no mistake, I served my country willingly and with pride. I support my husband and the rank and file of the military who have had no or little voice in the decisions for which many have already made the ultimate sacrifice.

I will not…I can not… in conscience support our invasion of the sovereign nation of Iraq and the continuing occupation based on the false information with which we were provided and by which most of us were initially beguiled. I understand that we can not now abandon the good people of Iraq to yet another totalitarian despot, which is the inevitable consequence of a simple retreat of our armed forces from Iraq. We are clearly in for the long haul and must make the best of a bad situation that was not of the making of the brave men and women in uniform. Let us pray for more enlightened guidance than that which led us into the situation which we today protest.

We must be mindful of the words of Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg which I here paraphrase: that we highly resolve that these 273 of our loved ones shall not have died in vain. We must also embrace the words of General Douglas MacArthur who said, “The soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war.”

Our men and women who wear the military uniform are not warmongers. They do not seek battle or the death and destruction it brings. They are in Iraq simply because it is their job to serve. It is their job to go where our elected officials send them. They do this selflessly, knowing that there is always a chance that they will not come home. Our loved ones knew this when they took the oath to serve and defend our nation. They did so willingly and without reservation. Therefore, it is not proper nor is it acceptable for them to speak out against the war and against their presence in Iraq. It is not their job to question the validity of intelligence that brought us to war; it is not their job to challenge the reasoning for their continued occupation in Iraq.

THAT IS OUR JOB- We as voting citizens; we as the constituents of our elected officials; we as the wives and husbands, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons of those who sacrifice in Iraq every day. It is our job to raise our voices in opposition to our soldiers’ continued presence in Iraq. It is time to take a stand. It is our duty…our obligation…our purpose today to protest a cause that has been weighed in the balance and found wanting.

Republican Speaks at Crawford Texas Antiwar Protest March 23, 2004
Activists converge in Crawford

Anti-war demonstration mixes talk of peace with election-year politics Dallas Morning News March 20, 2004

Here is the website for a classmate of mine Mark Vakkur:

David Wiggins is a conscientous objector from the first war in Iraq.

I just realized that both of these guys are doctors. Maybe we should listen to "the doctor" and take our medicine so that we can get better. Otherwise we may be in for a long illness and those West Point grad, former Army helicopter pilot, lawyer types will continue to stand on their soap boxes. ;)


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View image If the People Will Lead, the Leaders Will Follow

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View image We Don't Want This War

View image Obey, Resistance is Futile

View image Lies, the Real Weapons of Mass Destruction

View image Anti-Authoritarians Against War

View image Patriot Act burning up the Bill of Rights

View image Veterans for Peace Memorial to Solider Killed in Action

View image The Stage

View image Palestinian Posters

View image Peace Signs and Crowd

View image Peace Flags

View image US Out of Iraq, Bush out of DC

View image Veterans for Peace taking a smoke break

View image War Pigs

Posted by Yahya at March 23, 2004 12:46 PM
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