10 Vets Arrested Outside Presidential Debate

  Today’s edition of Democracy Now! did a pretty good job of covering the protest led by Iraq Veterans Against the War outside the presidential debate on Long Island last night. You can go to http://www.democracynow.org/2008/10/16/stream to watch the video stream. Viewed from up-close, however, it was considerably more intense than the video clips can convey: a row of 6-8 mounted police repeatedly charging their horses into a peaceful and unarmed crowd, the front line of which was composed of uniformed IVAW members. Several protesters, both vets and civilians, were violently thrown to the ground and injured. One middle-aged woman just in front of me arose with blood gushing from two or three places on her nose and cheeks, while an elderly woman suffered an ankle or leg injury; the Nassau County police report that IVAW member Nick Morgan suffered a fractured cheekbone when he was assaulted by the police (of course, the police report doesn’t use those words; it says Morgan "came into contact with a Mounted Unit horse"). The police brutality witnessed at both conventions and last night must be condemned and punished, though at the same time we must bear in mind, as IVAW’s Liam Madden reminded the crowd, that individual police officers are also human beings who are usually following the orders of their superiors just like US soldiers in Iraq: they are not absolved of their actions, but at least some—particulary, perhaps, those of working-class origins—might be converted to the side of peace and justice.
  Democracy Now‘s coverage seems to be the exception to the rule, as we might have expected. I didn’t see anything in the NYTimes or Washington Post, though both featured detailed coverage of the "debate" itself; refusing to report on the actions of antiwar vets is of course consistent with the standard narrative that veterans are by definition "pro-war." The Long Island-based Newsday had an article and video clip on their website, but neither mentioned the fact that the protest was organized and led by veterans, and thus reinforced the mythical image of the antiwar movement as composed of hippies and fringe elements disconnected from reality and indifferent or hostile to soldiers and vets (perhaps partially accurate for a tiny and insignificant fraction of the movement, but demonstrably false and misleading in general, now and in the Vietnam era; Jerry Lembcke’s book "The Spitting Image" is an excellent historical corrective to this myth for the movement of the 60s and 70s).
  Below is the letter I just sent to Newsday, followed by a link to the original article and the video clip they posted (I think I made out just one blurry image of a veteran in the latter).

Why Are Antiwar Veterans’ Voices Silenced?

Dear editor(s):

While I applaud the fact that Newsday at least chose to cover the antiwar protest outside Wednesday night’s debate ("15 Protesters Arrested at Presidential Debate," 16 October), several major points need clarification. First, the demonstration was organized and led by Iraq Veterans Against the War (www.ivaw.org), who had respectfully requested in advance that two of their members, Kris Goldsmith and Matthis Chiroux, be allowed to enter the debate and each ask one question of the candidates. When their request was ignored, they and a group of fellow veterans attempted to peacefully enter the debate anyhow. Second, ten of the fifteen people arrested are Iraq veterans. And third, the man who was assaulted and trampled by police mounted on horses, Nicholas Morgan, is also an Iraq veteran.

One of the most dominant myths regarding the antiwar movement in this country, from Vietnam to the present, is that it is composed primarily of hippies and well-to-do college students antagonistic to US servicemembers and out-of-touch with working-class and military realities. The article in question and the accompanying video clip reinforce this misconception by neglecting to mention IVAW’s leadership of the protest and the close collaboration that has traditionally existed between antiwar vets and the civilian antiwar movement; at one point the article even characterizes those who wish to prolong the deadly occupation of Iraq as "pro-troops." In Kris Goldsmith’s words, whenever veterans courageously raise their voices in protest against the immorality and illegality of US foreign policy and the government’s treatment of veterans they face a "media black-out" that either ignores or marginalizes them.

Kevin Young, civilian and proud supporter of Iraq Veterans Against the War
Stony Brook, NY

[original article and video clip]: http://www.newsday.com/news/local/politics/ny-usprot1016,0,5355709.story

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