Yes, my friend, Sunsara, I will get my butt to DC this weekend to march on the Pentagon. And so will my sister Laura who has come from Kentucky to go with me and take part in this action to end the occupation of Iraq and bring the troops home.
There are many events this week as we move into the fifth year of an illegal war. On Wednesday, I went to one at the Times Square Recruitment Center in New York City. Sponsored by various organizations, including the Granny Peace Brigade, World Can’t Wait, and Code Pink, this particular action pays tribute to the war dead, both military and Iraqi civilian. Names and death dates are being read all week from sunrise to sunset. Laura and I went Thursday and she read the name of our nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase Comley, killed on August 6, 2005.
As we neared the location of the vigil, I commented that the crowd was larger than the day before. And it was noisy. Turns out, ACT UP was present to protest the hate speech of General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who has just pronounced homosexual acts “immoral,” comparing them to adulterous affairs between two members of the armed forces. His belief is based on his personal “upbringing.” In other words, Pace’s mouth is a weapon of mass destruction.
So picture this: There are two people who are reading names of American dead and Iraqi dead while a third person rings a bell after each name is spoken. To the left is a poster with photographs of dead military. On the right is a photograph of four, crying Iraqi women. In the center, beneath the readers, is a pair of empty boots, one used as a vase for a single, white rose, and a pair of children’s shoes. Above and in the background is a large screen, courtesy of the U.S. Armed Forces Career Center, displaying a slick advertising campaign to lure our young with images of handsome men and beautiful women in uniform and patriotic platitudes like these: “Freedom Worth Fighting For,” “For honor, for courage, for country, the few, the proud,” “There’s nothing on this green earth that is stronger than the U.S. Army because there is nothing on this green earth that is stronger than a U.S. Army soldier,” and “Currently hunting bin Laden.”
And then picture a large group of men and women who are outraged over General Pace’s indictment of their identity. Carrying a gay pride banner, they circle the recruitment center with their supporters while chanting: “Pace is out, peace is in,” “War is immoral,” Fire General Pace,” and “Don’t ask, don’t tell. General Pace, Go to Hell.”
Police officers swoop in and the Peter Pace protestors move to the street. Some sit down. I glance at the recruitment center screen to see “The strength to obey.” When I turn my attention back to the street, a man is being arrested. I ask who he is and someone says, “A rabbi.”
Meanwhile, names of the dead continue to be read.
Today, our troop death count in Iraq is 3,210. It’s estimated that more than half a million Iraqi civilians have been killed. There are so many names to read and so many rings of the bell, sounding for lives ended too soon and for families who will grieve as long as they live-all because of the lies of an immoral leadership.
Complicity in these lies is immoral. The speech and “upbringing” of General Peter Pace are immoral.
Yes, Sunny, I will get my butt to Washington DC.
Missy Beattie lives in New York City. She’s written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. An outspoken critic of the Bush Administration and the war in Iraq, she’s a member of Gold Star Families for Peace. She completed a novel last year, but since the death of her nephew, Marine Lance Cpl. Chase J. Comley, in Iraq on August 6,’05, she has been writing political articles. She can be reached at: Missybeat@aol.com