The peace movement has failed it's obilgation to remain independent of party offiliation. That is to say, the so-called professionals in the peace movement are as currupted as the repubocratic party that pays their saleries.
My experience was very similar to yours.
I joined Veterans For Peace in 2004 to work with other veterans to stop the war in Iraq and impeach the president and his staff for their war crimes. I wanted to call on republicans and democrats who love this country more than party offication to act in the best interest of their fellow citizens and military service members. I wanted to stop what is being done in their name for corporate power and greed.
As a Canadian, I served in the US Navy as a Corpsman, I saw the costs of war first hand. The price paid by the sons and daughters of both parties and all religeons. Since I could never vote, I did not care what party was in office, I just wanted to serve the country I grew up in. After I saw what was really going on, all I wanted to do was stop what was being done in the name of "dissent" being the highest form of Patriotism - Thomas Jefferson.
I thought that the Veterans For Peace would be above party politics as the military was when I was in the service.
After I painted and drove the Veterans For Peace Impeachment Tour Bus to our National Convention in Dalas in August of 2005 I heard you talk forcefully, and honestly about the price your family has paid for a war that never had to be waged. I was so moved that when you asked my partners on the Impeachment Tour bus to take you to Crawford, Texas to ask president "For what Noble Cause did your son died for" I did not think twice about it. We would go and I encourage the membership at the convention to follow the bus, and I would video tape the trip.
The night before we drove to Crawford, I was approached by members of the Veterans For Peace board of directors with concerns that if we encouraged the entire convention to support you in Crawford, their board meeting would have no audience.
I told them that they should support you and delay their board meeting. I said, "we have over 400 members in Dalas, we should have planned for a protest in Crawford Anyway." What is so important about a board meeting anyway?
Since you asked us to take you, I thought it was a perfect oppoertunity to make a collective statement of dissent. After all, it was just a short two hour drive to Crawford and we would never have a better opportunity to get national attention for our organization with the Washington Press corps.
The Board was more concerned with the membership not hearing the speaches of members who were running for board membership.
I was one of those members running for a seat on the Board. I said, I would not be doing my duty as a member if I did not support your effort. I also said, I will run for a seat on the board with my actions not talk.
The next morning we left for Crawford with about 75 peace activists and a hand full of veterans and began what was concidered by many as the begining of the modern peace movement.
The board remained behind and held their meeting with a captive audience of those that wanted to hear them talk or were descourged by the board from leaving the group for your action at the Western White house.
But after you were able to get national press coverage and started Camp Casey, The VFP board quickly turned into one of your biggest supporters. Or so it seamed.
Over ten thousand people who watched the National news and/or saw the video I created do document the trip (http://www.neworleansvfp.org/node/197) got in their cars, took a plain, a train or a bus and headed to Crawford to support you and and small group of veterans who were willing to stand up against Bush and his illegal war right in his own front yard.
For the next three weeks we raised our voices of dissent and protested against the deaths caused by the lies Bush used to go to war and made international headlines.
The left side of demoicratic party and many of it's hollywood support machine came running in right behind th Veterans For Peace board of Directors to basque in the limelight and the texas sun. A fellow veteran for peace member who is a republican bought the Impeachment Tour Bus a Satellite Internet system. And for the next couple of weeks we were able to work together under very harsh conditions in order to show the world that not all Americans, be they republican or democrat were as blood thirsty as the president.
Near the end of August, we becan to hear of a Bitch of a Hurricane called Katrina. She had the potential of war like destruction and was headed directly for New Orleans.
Many of your supporters had come from New Orleans to participate in the Camp Casey protest and were very concerned that the Louisiana National Guard was not fully equiped or maned to handle the disaster of this size do to the fact that they were otherwise occupied in Iraq and Afghanistan.
We had planed to take you on the Impeachment Tour Bus to Cities across the South and East Coast. The goal was call for the rest of America to "Bring Them Home Now". However, after talking with the Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans and peace activists from New Orleans, we disided to gather what donations we could and head to for the Big Easy. While you rented motor homes and organized support for not only your national peace activism but the Katrina Relief that we were beginning.
The VFP board was in full support of this idea and gave us their the go ahead to raise money for this effort. After we held a final ceramoney of taps with the peace activists and pro Bush suppoters. We all left Crawford with a new mission and a sence that we had been given an opportunity to help Americans without party politics getting in the way of what makes this country great.
Arriving in Louisiana on the I-10 freeway, we saw an endless stream of Buses full of evacuees headed for Texas. For some strange reason, I'm still not clear why, these buses were escorted by police cars, and miltary vehicles.
We tuned our radio into a New Orleans radio station that was broadcasting the fate of those who could not evacuate before the levees failed. We heard the cries of city and parish officials calling for help and depicting the cause of the levee failures. Some said they were blown up other saying the budgets for their reinforcement were cut a year earlier to help fund the wars we were waging abroad. We knew that we were headed for another war zone except that this war would only have civilian casualties, most black, poor, and without help from Washington D.C. and the politics of wealth.
Since Marshal Law was in effect, we could not get into New Orleans, so we ended up in Covington, LA. A very "Vanilla" middle class city just north of New Orleans. The next morning the New Orleans radio was continuing calls for water, food, boats generators, and assistance of any kind. The Red Cross had moved it's New Orleans headquarters to Covington and was not going to go into the New Orleans at the request of FEMA. They were instead setting up shelters out side the city and were asking the people to come to them if they needed food and water. Some attempted to walk out of New Orleans via the Cresent City Bridge but were turned bake by the gun fire of the Gretna Police and Jefferson Parish sheriff department.
We set up a outdoor kitchen and were feeding people in a local park. A police female officer came to us to ask if we had a generator. We had two, was our reply. She asked if we would move to the local school where the Red Cross has set up an evacuation center but had no power to run medical equipment or the kitchen. We packed up and moved to the Pine View Middle School. When we got their we were welcomed by the shelter director who was obviously stressed. He did not care that we came in with a Red White And Blue Bus painted like a upside down American flag or that it had "Veterans For Peace Impeachment Tour" written down both sides. He was just happy to see someone prepared to give them what they needed. We saw that they had a small child with cystic fibrosis who was slowly dieing because he could not power his medical equipment. We pulled out one of our generators and powered it up for him. We then set up the kitchen and started cooking the first hot meal they had in three days.
Since we has satellite Internet Access we began to p[ost what we were seeing on our website. We asked the community of Peace activists we had just left to assist us. We were amazed by the responce. Michael Moore wrote a letter to his audience and poisted our messages to his website. He also sent his website crew to come and help me document the needs we were seeing and foster donations and support for getting them fowfilled. Within days we had volunteers and supplies coming from all over the country and financial donations were being made on my website. The shelter manager was told by the regional director of the Red Cross to have us leave the school. He refused because we had been using our website to help the evacuated contact loved ones, rtegister for FEMA and Red Cross Relief and search for missing persons. Not to mentioned, helping to save the kid with cystic fibrosis. The Next day he was replaced, and generator was brought in by the local Sheriff and we were asked to leave at gun point.
No problem, was our responce. We had by then raised about $20,000 on our website and found a local campground and wharehouse space to rent untill Sept 20th. We packed up and started our relief efforts with several other grassroots groups that we had been in contact with. Plenty International was the first to coem and help us, they had figured out a way into New Orleans passed the roadblocks and were bringing in supplys from Tennessee and pulling people out of the city. Who were asking to leave but were not trusting the police or the natioanl guard to be supportive of their interests to go where they feel safe and supported.
For the next serveral weeks we were able to raise $500,000 to support volunteers with gas money, food and shelter and we shared that with Plenty International, Common Ground Relief, Food Not Bombs and several other grass roots relief groups that had started as responce to the needs of those who would not leave their homes and did not trust city, state, and ferderal disaster relief organizations.
While the Mayor of New Orleans, city police and the National Guard leadership were still trying to force people to evacuate and FEMA was preventing the Red Cross from helping in New Orleans we driving passed the National Guard Road blocks and setting up Kitchens and bringing in supplies to help the people survive what was turning the largest natural disaster in American history into the worse man made on American soil.
But money causes people to do stupid things or it causes them to show what they are really made of. Michael Moore asked his readers to help the veterans for peace and his crew if they did not trust there money with the Red Cross. He put up his own money and did not come to New Orleans to make a movie. He saw a need and did what any real Human should, he used it to get help for those who needed it and those that would deliver help with taking a cut of fthe top for saleries or advertising budgets.
The same can not be said for the leadership at Veterans For Peace. After two months of provided volunteers support and direct aid to those that survived the dual disasters, they wanted to start a new organization called the Allience for Environmental Recovery. The goal they said was to teach home owners on how to removed the mold from their once flooded homes. The only catch was that they were going to pay the Veterans For Peace members who came up with this idea $5,000 per month who would then charge the homeowner and small fee for the class. Thats right they were not going to do the work they were just going to sell the life saving information to the hurricane survivors.
Since I was still volunteering in New Orleans and held some sway in the Veterans For Peace organization, I came out against this plan as I felt that The Allience for Environmental Recovery was not what we said we would use the donations for. I was told byh the board that I was to stop what I was doing shut down my website and leave New Orleans.
Well I did neither, I stopped calling myself a member of Veternas for Peace and changed my website to www.neworleansvfp.org and began to work for the groups that I had helped to fund with the donations. And Veterans For Peace used the last $50,000 to start the AER foundation. They ran out of money before holding a single seminar or charging anyone for training as far as I know. The AER foundation also started to used liable statements against me and the VFP board drumed up charges against me with un written rules to have me removed for the membership. In an attempt to keep me from being heard by the membership. Well, they were able to toss me out of the memberhsip without too mush trouble. They knew I could not fight them since I was in New Orleans and the could not get to Seattle, Washington for my trial. They never called a witness nor presented any substantiated evidence. And without telling the membership, they held a secret meeting and disided I had brocken "special rules" that had never been printed, or posted in the bylaws, shared with, or ratified by the membership.
I don't see how this fits the Veterans For Peace mission or:
STATEMENT OF PURPOSE
We, having dutifully served our nation, do hereby affirm our greater responsibility to serve the cause of world peace. To this end we will work, with others
(a) Toward increasing public awareness of the costs of war.
(b) To restrain our government from intervening, overtly and covertly, in the internal affairs of other nations
(c) To end the arms race and to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons
(d) To seek justice for veterans and victims of war
(e) To abolish war as an instrument of national policy.
To achieve these goals, members of Veterans For Peace pledge to use non-violent means and to maintain an organization that is both democratic and open with the understanding that all members are trusted to act in the best interests of the group for the larger purpose of world peace.
The Veterans For Peace board and paid staff are no different than the rest of the professional Peace movement organizers have been co-opted by the sins of ego and greed.