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Mike Ferner is a writer from Ohio and a former VFP President who is now serving as interim director of Veterans for Peace. He writes,
I just read the Counterpunch article by John Walsh re: the resolution passed at the August VFP convention to impeach Obama. Some of his facts are wrong and the record needs to be set straight.
1) The “impeach Bush” resolution Walsh refers to that was passed in August 2004 was not an “impeach Bush” resolution. It said that whoever was elected President in the coming November 2004 election had 10 days after inauguration to announce the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and if the announcement was not forthcoming within 10 days, VFP would join the already ongoing effort to impeach Bush. So it would be just as accurate to say that the August 2004 resolution was an “impeach Kerry” resolution or an “impeach whoever was the frontrunner in August” resolution — Republican or Democrat.
2) Walsh added, “…that Mike Ferner, at the time executive director of VFP, made an indignant Bush-bashing speech for impeachment in front of the White House. You can view it here in all its glory. A hard copy letter with the signature of the VFP president was mailed to each member of the House calling for impeachment.”
• I was not executive director of VFP when I made that speech June 16, 2005
• A hard copy letter was not “mailed to each member of the House…”
3) Continuing: “How about the present resolution? Mike Ferner opposed it in the floor debate at the August convention. There has been no rally and none is planned – not in front of the White House or anywhere else. This time a fax of the resolution has been sent to the House members without signature of the President.
• I did not oppose the impeach Obama resolution at the August convention. I was not even present for the debate.
• The June 2005 White House rally was not organized by Veterans For Peace. I gladly accepted a speaking invitation from “AfterDowningStreet.org” who did organize it.
• Our office faxed a copy of the entire impeach Obama resolution to each member of the House, just as we did with the 2004 resolution. Correct, this latest one was not signed by the President of VFP. I signed it in my capacity as VFP’s interim director.
4) Walsh concludes, “Unfortunately this story can be repeated in different ways in a variety of ‘progressive’ organizations with leadership more loyal to Dems than to antiwar principle. This writer has witnessed it himself in organizations like PSR and United for Justice and Peace. But the ground is shifting, and much to its credit VFP has led the way.”
• Thanks to Mr. Walsh for the “…has led the way” statement, but let’s be clear on one important point: The most dearly-held section of VFP’s Statement of Purpose is we seek to “…abolish war as an instrument of national policy.” Our experience tells us that the American Empire is a bi-partisan effort and that lives are at stake if we play partisan favorites. We owe no allegiance to party — none.
5) In his bio note, Walsh says “He attempted twice to reach a voice against the resolution but received no reply.” On September 2, I emailed him the names and contact information of two articulate VFP members who gladly agreed to speak with him.
Finally, I’d like to add that although Mr. Walsh’s article contained a good bit of drama, not all of it was based on the record. But more importantly, what he made no mention of was the spirited debate, before and at the convention, about why to vote yes or no. It cannot be simplified into a debate between principled members who campaigned to “do the right thing” and those who didn’t want to offend Democrats or were afraid of looking like racists. It was this: in order to live up to our Statement of Purpose, how can we strategically join forces with those most likely to be our natural allies so we can gain the political power needed to stop war? Viewed in that light, the story of this resolution looks a little different.
John Walsh replies:
Mike Ferner, interim executive director of Veterans For Peace (VFP) takes issue with my article on the resolution to impeach Barack H. Obama for war crimes passed at the 2011 national VFP convention. But although he challenges details of the article, he does not dispute its central thesis. That is, the resolution was finally passed this year, after three years of trying, by the rank and file led by the Central Florida chapter of VFP. For over two years much of the leadership of VFP, Ferner included, opposed such a resolution. And that stands in stark contrast to the cheerleading for impeachment by Ferner and others when Bush was in office. That conclusion stands.
In fact there are only a few details with which Ferner disagrees with me. Ferner’s first contention is that the resolution passed in 2004 was not aimed at Bush but the incoming president whoever he might be. Thus the impeachment rally at which Ferner spoke in 2005, he implies, might have been an Impeach Kerry rally. But we will never know that since Kerry, who was like Obama pro-war, did not get elected. We do know that when a Democrat, Obama, was elected, the Board of VFP opposed an impeachment resolution in 2009 and 2010 until the rank and file rebellion was successful in 2011. So for Ferner to say “We owe no allegiance to party – none,” does not fit the facts – unless the allegiance is to Obama and not the Dems in general. But it amounts to the same thing. To imply that he and others were as enthusiastic about an impeachment resolution aimed at Obama as one aimed at Bush is disingenuous at best. In a similar vein, Ferner points out that he did not speak on the floor of the convention against the resolution in 2011 but he neglects to mention that he opposed such a resolution for over two years.
Ferner states that VFP did not organize the Impeach Bush rally in front of the White House and that he was not executive director at the time. But I did not claim that VFP organized the Rally. I only wrote that Ferner spoke at it. And although Ferner may not have been executive director at that moment, he had been and is now interim executive director. And it seems to me clear that he represented VFP at that rally – unless Ferner is claiming that after being introduced as a member of VFP and wearing his VFP cap, he was not representing VFP in any way shape or form.
Ferner implies that I did not try to contact someone who was opposed to the resolution, and he points out that he gave me names to contact. He does not say that I requested names from his office, and I got them. I tried to contact one opponent by email and phone and received no reply. There seems to be an intense disagreement in the organization over whether the first letter was FAXed or a hard copy was sent. If I erred on that score, my apologies.
This remains a bone of contention between Ferner and the authors of the Impeach Obama resolution, among them Phil Restino of Central Florida VFP. Here is what Restino, wrote to me about the matter: “I still feel that VFP National needs to issue an official letter to Congress on VFP National letterhead and signed by the national president of VFP, just as was done in 2005, and that document should be saved as and electronic file and available for download by those of us who will carry out the mission of making sure a copy of the letter is personally addressed to each individual member of Congress and is delivered to them by either fax or snail mail.” The Central Florida chapter has volunteered to carry out that mission once they have the signature of the VFP president on the letterhead, which they do not possess as yet weeks after passage of the resolution.
Again as I said in the article in praise of VFP, “much to its credit VFP has led the way” – out of a swamp of blindness when it comes to war making by Obama and the Dems.