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2005-03-21

Thousands Protest in Fayetteville in Largest Army Base Demonstration Since Vietnam

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A protest near Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina was the largest protest of any kind there since a 1970 protest against the Vietnam War. We hear some of the speeches from the rally. [includes rush transcript]

We go to Fayetteville, North Carolina. The protest near Fort Bragg was the site of one of the largest protests in this country on Saturday.

Some 4,800 people gathered in what was the largest protest of any kind in Fayetteville since a 1970 protest against the Vietnam War.

More than 10,000 soldiers from Fort Bragg are serving in Afghanistan and Iraq–and the Fayetteville Observer reports that about 80 service personnel with ties to the region have been killed since 2002.

  • Lou Plummer, a veteran of the National Guard and the father of the current military resister Andrew Plummer.
  • David Potorti, a founding member of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.
  • Cindy Sheehan, her son Casey was a soldier who died in Sadr City in 2004.
  • Michael Hoffman, founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War. He served 4 years in the Marine Corps and participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
  • Kevin and Joyce Lucey, Their son, Jeffrey, committed suicide three weeks after he was discharged from a military hospital.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We go now to the first speaker at the protest rally Saturday, Lou Plummer. He is a veteran of the National Guard and the father of a current military resister, Andrew Plummer.

LOU PLUMMER: My name is Lou Plummer. I live here in Fayetteville and have been a member of this peace group that we started on the first day of the war, since the day that it started. And a lot of people want to criticize what we do and say it’s political. Yeah, some of it is political. But most of it is personal. In this community when you talk about the military, when you talk about the war, you’re talking about people’s lives. There are husbands and wives right now that have been separated from their families for three out of the last four years. And what we’re doing today is we’re reuniting families, we’re saving lives, and we’re making a difference, and everybody knows it. Thank you.

Yesterday was a real special day for me. The day the war started here in Fayetteville, there were a few of us out holding up our signs, letting the government and the military know that they were fighting a war we didn’t believe in, and my son who was a petty officer in the Navy was home on leave, and he went with me down to the demonstration, and we were standing there holding our signs. And when the press came up and were asking their questions, they asked Drew, they said, "What do you think about the war?" And he said something really, really radical. He said, "I don’t think our guys should be dying in Iraq. So, I guess the opposite of that is our guys should be dying in Iraq." And then he further said, "I think the war is about oil, but hey, you know, I enlisted, and I’m going to do what they tell me."

And for making those three simple statements, he was charged by the U.S. military with disloyalty, which is a violation of Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. He was tried by the Navy, and he was convicted. And when he went to his captain’s mast, they asked him, "Do you sympathize with the enemy?" And I wish he had had the foresight to say, "No, I don’t like George Bush," but he said, "No, I don’t sympathize with the enemy." And they said, "Are you going to sabotage the ship?" And he said, "No, I’m not going to sabotage the ship." And then they said, "Well, do you regret what you said?" And he said, "No, I don’t regret what I said." And I am just about as proud of him for doing that as anything he’s ever done.

Well, it’s been a long road since the day the war started. As you can imagine, a young sailor, on a ship full of people who believe in the war, who speaks out against it, doesn’t have an easy road. Last month, after being AWOL for six months, my son was arrested. He was put in jail. He was transported to Great Lakes Naval Station, Illinois, and yesterday he was discharged from the U.S. Navy. And it’s people like you that brought him home and kept him out of this war, and I just want him to come up here and see the people that supported him when he spoke out. Come here, son. This is my son, Drew Plummer, and both of us want to thank you for being here. All right.

ANDREW PLUMMER: Thank you all. Thank you all so much.

AMY GOODMAN: Lou Plummer with his son Andrew Plummer at Fort Bragg, protesting outside the military base.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to David Potorti, the founder of September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows.

DAVID POTORTI: On September 11, 2001, my brother became a victim of international terrorism, and in the days that followed, it became clear that his death would be used as an excuse to wage war on the world. As one of my friends, Rita Lasar, wrote only a few days after the death of her brother at the World Trade Center, it is in my brother’s name and mine that I pray that we, this country that has been so deeply hurt, not do something that will unleash forces we will not have the power to call back. Today, three and a half years later, we see clearly the forces that we unleashed after September 11, and we see clearly the negative consequences of unleashing those forces on our families, on military families, on Iraqi and Afghan families, on our Constitution, on our reputation, and on the security of our nation and of the entire world. So, as we commemorate the second anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, I ask you to remember September 11, because it is in the name of those killed on September 11 that we today occupy a country that had nothing to do with September 11, a country which posed no threat to our country, a country which had no connection to al Qaeda before the war, but has one now because of the war.

Today I ask you to remember September 11, because it was a day when we had an historic choice to join the rest of the world or to condemn the world to a series of endless wars and an endless series of victims. Today, on the second anniversary of the Iraq war, we see clearly the consequences of making the wrong choice after September 11. And today it is time to return to that historic moment when we had an opportunity to join the rest of the world in pursuing real solutions to terrorism instead of terrorizing the rest of the world with pre-emptive war. Today, let us remember the suffering of our families on September 11, which was well documented, but let us also remember the families who have suffered in the name of September 11: Afghan families, Iraqi families, Spanish families, Japanese families, South Korean families, Canadian families, British families, Italian families and all of the other military families and civilians whose suffering has not been so well documented. Let us remember those who return to Dover Air Force Base in coffins in the middle of the night so we can’t see them and those who sit forgotten in veterans’ hospitals, those who will be victimized for the rest of their lives by the images of terrorism and violence and war as a result of our wrong choices after September 11.

It is to this human family of victims that I pledge my allegiance and declare that I will not support the killing of children who are just like my children, the killing of parents who are just like my parents, and the killing of brothers who are just like the brother I lost at the World Trade Center. I will not respond to terrorism by becoming a terrorist, and I will not support a war fought in my name that terrorizes the people of Iraq, terrorizes our troops, and terrorizes the world. I pledge my allegiance to the victims and join my friends on this stage and in this audience and around the world who say, "Stop the war, and bring our troops home now!" Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: David Potorti lost his brother James Potorti at the World Trade Center, September 11, 2001. Also in Fayetteville at the protest, Cindy Sheehan. Her son Casey was a soldier who died in Sadr City, 2004.

CINDY SHEEHAN: I often get introduced as a mother who lost her son in Iraq. I didn’t lose Casey. I know right where he is. He is in a grave in Vacaville, and I know who put him there: George Bush and the rest of the arrogant and ignorant neo-cons in D.C. who murdered my son and tens of thousands of other innocent people. Before I temporarily leave that subject, why are they still in our Capitol? Why are they still running our country? From state-sponsored terror and sustained torture, we have to face it: We’re governed by psychopathic killers who need to go. On a very personal note, I told [inaudible] today it has two anniversaries. One is a second anniversary of the so-called shock and awe. Today is also the first anniversary of when my son’s deployment began in Iraq. In 16 days, my family will suffer the one-year death-iversary of Casey. Casey was a brave, honest, loving, kind and gentle soul who was needlessly and senselessly killed for lies. Since this war is based on lies and betrayals — this is very awkward — not one more drop of blood should be spilled, not one more penny for killing. If our Congress votes to give Mr. Bush $81 billion more, they should soak their hands in blood and not ink from sham elections in Iraq. On this day, we should remember the terrible loss of our country that we have suffered and the devastating losses, too, of the Iraqis, especially we families who have paid the terrible price for our leaders’ recklessness. I have a challenge for George W. Bush. [inaudible] democracy, why doesn’t he march his daughters over there. I’m done. But if he won’t send his kids, he should bring our kids home now!

AMY GOODMAN: That was Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in Iraq last year. This is Democracy Now! As we turn now to Michael Hoffman, he served four years in the Marine Corps and also participated in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, speaking in Fayetteville.

MICHAEL HOFFMAN: Two years ago today, many of us standing on this stage were poised ready to wreak destruction upon Iraq. We’ve seen that destruction. We’ve partaken in it. We have lost our friends and taken lives, and we are here to tell the truth about what is happening in Iraq now. We have seen the destruction. We have seen what is really going on in Iraq right now. We know of the lives wasted, and we know that the only solution to this problem that we have created is to end the occupation now. In the U.S. military, we were trained to fight and kill. We have never learned how to rebuild a government, how to rebuild a water system, how to fix a power grid. We cannot do those things. The people of Iraq can. And the only way they can begin to do that is for us to leave. But I do not say we need to abandon the people of Iraq. For what we have done to that country, we owe them. We owe them more than we can ever repay them. But that means real aid to the people of Iraq, not aid tied to the World Trade Organization or the World Bank. This is aid for the Iraqis, administered for the Iraqis. When the Iraqis say we need $3 million worth of building supplies, we give them $3 million worth of building supplies. And that is how we aid the people of Iraq. But the other side is we need to aid those who come home. When we joined the military, we signed a contract. But a contract works two ways. We said we would be willing to fight and die for our government. The government said they would take care of us after we do fight, and they are welching on that promise right now. We are here in Fayetteville now to say that we will stand by the troops, that we will support them, that we will fight for the benefits that we earned, that we were promised, and you will help us fight for that. We know that. And we’re here to tell all of them in Fort Bragg, in Camp Lejeune, where I was stationed, Pope Air Force Base, all around the country and around the world, that we will stand by them and fight for them. And that is what we are here to do, and we will continue to fight until this war is over and every last veteran is given the care that was promised to them when they joined the U.S. military.

AMY GOODMAN: Mike Hoffman was part of the invasion of Iraq. We turn now to Joyce and Kevin Lucey. Their son, Jeffrey, also fought in Iraq. He came home, was eventually put in a military hospital, and three weeks after being discharged, committed suicide.

JOYCE LUCEY: Whatever happened to the young man’s heart, swallowed by pain as he slowly fell apart? These words were in a song our son listened to over and over again last May and June. In a way, they described Jeff. I’m the mother of Corporal Jeffrey Michael Lucey. Yesterday would have been his 24th birthday. I say would have been, because Jeff died on June 22, at the age of 23. He chose to end his life after struggling with the demons of post-traumatic stress several months after his return from Iraq. He was deployed with his Marine Reserve unit from January 2003 until July 2003. His 22nd birthday was celebrated in Kuwait the day before the war started. He never wanted to go to Iraq. He felt we were going there for the wrong reasons, but he went because he was a good Marine and he was loyal to his unit. His dad and I have struggled every day since my husband found Jeff hanging by our garden hose in the basement. What did our son die for? We have yet to receive an answer we are comfortable with. There were no weapons of mass destruction. Yet this was used to promote fear and justify the actions taken by our government. Some may say Jeffrey returned unharmed, but the man who came home without obvious physical wounds was destroyed by the dark hidden pain of the emotional cost of this war. How many other Jeffreys will this conflict claim? And, again, the question is "why?" Do the recent Iraqi elections justify our invasion of Iraq? Does it make us feel less anger about the death of our son and the 1500-plus that have died? No, it does not. Jeff’s unit has returned to Iraq for their second tour. When will this end? We feel the end needs to begin now.

KEVIN LUCEY: Glorious words and sound bites are used in regards to our troops. But then upon their return, when they and their loved ones seek help, it is probable that they will have to meet hurdles, challenges, and to some of the injured, these may be daunting, so daunting that they give up. It is unconscionable and morally repugnant that billions and billions of dollars are poured into the war effort with very little in being devoted to the care of these men and women upon their return. In fact, some has recommended that they bear more of the burden of the cost. We argue in various forms about the rationale for the war and its urgency. Regardless of the absence of weapons of mass destruction, regardless of the lack of proof of terrorist networking, regardless of the lack of imminent threat, we must deal with the horrible reality of war and the impact of loved ones. And what of our sons, daughters, mothers, fathers, family and friends returning? Regardless of your stance on this war, we should — no, we are obligated by all that is right and good to — I’m sorry. Jesus — to truly not give just adequate, but the best of care. Whether democrat or republican, be you from a red state or blue, let not another parent find their child as we found ours, seeking relief from such horrific, unmanageable torment. Let not another mother or sister endure such an agonizing tormented journey to come home to find that their home has been changed forever, to a tomb for some in a connection to his life to memories. It was as I cradled him and took the hose from around his neck, I began crying out "why?" and have yet to stop.

AMY GOODMAN: Kevin and Joyce Lucey. They lost their son, Jeffrey, after he returned from Iraq and committed suicide.

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