The September 2005 Edition of Street Spirit

A publication of the American Friends Service Committee


National AFSC AFSC Economic Justice BOSS Website



In this issue:

Alarming Rise in Hate Crimes

Wave of Murders of Homeless Are A Warning Sign

Bumfights: An Incitement to Hate Crimes

Hate, Violence and Death on Main Street USA

Brazil Murders of Homeless Go Unsolved

Social Security Is NOT in Crisis

Time for Health Care for All

Cindy Sheehan's Unanswerable Question

Lawsuit Against California Hotel

Tribute to the Love Lotus Gave

A Mother's Plea for Homeless Son

Poor Leonard's Almanack: Carl G. Jung

Sept. Poetry of the Streets


August 2005

July 2005

June 2005

May 2005

April 2005

March 2005

February 2005






Street Spirit is published by American Friends Service Committee.

All works are copyrighted by the authors.

The views expressed in Street Spirit are those of the individual authors alone, and not necessarily that of the American Friends Service Committee.

Cindy Sheehan's Dangerous Question

by Carol Harvey

"Sign of the Times." Art by Jonathan Burstein

During a call for my bank balance, the worried teller confided that her husband had enlisted in the National Guard for an education but ended up in Iraq. He has never seen his infant son. The couple is terrified the hijacked guardsman will be killed before his release. The anguish this woman poured out to me has convulsed America.

The increasingly unpopular Iraq war has put President George W. Bush in a precarious political position. On August 1, 2005, Zogby International polls showed "two-in-five voters (42%) say they would favor impeachment proceedings if it is found the President misled the nation about his reasons for going to war with Iraq."

Bush's numbers sometimes dip lower than Lyndon Johnson's before public opinion forced him out of office, and, eventually, the U.S. out of Vietnam. Even some Republicans are upset about the series of apparent lies that suggest that Bush fabricated a war, caused 100,000 innocent Iraqi deaths and killed 1,800 American troops to line the pockets of his elite base.

Cindy Sheehan, California mother of a slain soldier, and member of Gold Star Mothers for Peace, set up camp two miles from Bush's Crawford, Texas, "ranch" during his five-week August vacation. She named the spot "Camp Casey" for her 24-year-old son, Spc. Casey Sheehan of Vacaville who was killed in Baghdad's Sadr City on April 4, 2004.

Sheehan vowed to stay until Bush leaves or meets with her to answer one unanswerable question: "For what noble cause was Casey sent to die in Iraq?"

California Rep. Maxine Waters, Minnesota State Sen. Becky Lourey, who also lost her pilot son, and Medea Benjamin of Global Exchange, joined Sheehan at the peace camp. Joan Baez performed a concert there on Sunday, August 21.

In his movie, "Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore interviewed grieving mother Lila Lipscomb of Flint, Michigan, who said she hated the protesters at first for dishonoring the troops. After her son Michael's death, she came to believe he died for nothing. She realized people were not criticizing the soldiers, but the war.

During a heart-wrenching visit to Washington, Lila stood before the White House where she finally released her suffering and rage. I wondered if Lila wished to be at Camp Casey with Cindy Sheehan.

To justify his attack on Iraq, Bush first falsely claimed that Saddam Hussein threatened the U.S. with weapons of mass destruction. Further allegations of Hussein's ties to al-Qaeda were discredited.

The third justification -- that Bush wanted to give Iraqis democracy -- is laughable. A worldwide influx of "insurgents" currently finds a terrorist training ground complete with hourly practice in suicide car bomb detonations. A puppet government missed the deadline for concocting a "Constitution."

The normally unaware press are covering Sheehan's protest. However, the media avoided reporting the June 2005 release of the top secret June 2002 Downing Street memos sent by the head of Britain's Secret Intelligence Service to Prime Minister Tony Blair, detailing talks with the Bush Administration to determine its upcoming plans for invading Iraq. These "smoking gun memos" revealed that "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy" of Bush's prearranged NeoCon war.

In retaliation against Ambassador Joe Wilson for contradicting claims that Niger sold yellow-cake uranium to Hussein, Karl Rove leaked to reporters the name of Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, as a CIA agent investigating WMDs. Rove destroyed a 20-year spy operation, endangering national security and Plame's life.

Such revelations unmasked Bush's pretext for invasion, and answered Sheehan's question. Bush needed Iraq for oil, power, and money for his very rich friends.

When asked why he would not speak to a grieving mother of a dead soldier camped a few minutes down the road, Bush agreed it is nice to be "thoughtful and sensitive," but said, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life." Casey Sheehan can never go on with his.

Sheehan's dangerous question, considered a moment of crucial activism and speaking Truth to Power, seems as close to revolt as the dumbed-down, numbed- down American public can get. Anger about The Downing Street Memos and the Plame affair drew groups of fed-up people to Crawford demanding a response.

A New England Journal of Medicine study showed 17 percent of 955,000 U.S. troops who served in Afghanistan and Iraq "met the screening criteria for major depression, generalized anxiety, or post-traumatic stress disorder." Soldiers describe blood and mutilated body parts strewn in the streets.

Bush and the Neocons designed Iraq as a perpetual war machine, killing or grinding up soldiers, pouring them maimed and homeless onto American streets. Reporter Amy Goodman interviewed one traumatized veteran who lost his home because of delinquent combat pay.
American youth leave for war in the prime of their life. They drag back broken minds and discarded flesh, financing their own rehab. They will sit on sidewalks beside veterans of past conflicts, panhandling, disabled, and self-medicating their post-traumatic stress with alcohol or drugs.

Moore ended "Fahrenheit 9/11" with Neil Young's song "Keep on Rocking in the Free World." The song said it all:
"We got a thousand points of light for the homeless man.
We got a kinder gentler machine gun hand."

Said Moore, the only thing asked by the brave soldiers who enlisted after 9/11 to protect America is not to be sent into harm's way for no good reason. Cindy Sheehan is simply asking for that reason.

U.S. Media and Politicians Brand Protest as Treason

by Norman Solomon

The surge of antiwar voices in U.S. media this month has coincided with new lows in public approval for what pollsters call President Bush's "handling" of the Iraq war. After more than two years of a military occupation that was supposed to be a breeze after a cakewalk into Baghdad, the war has become a clear PR loser.

But an unpopular war can continue for a long time -- and one big reason is that the military-industrial-media complex often finds ways to blunt the effectiveness of its most prominent opponents.

Right now, the pro-war propaganda arsenal of the world's only superpower is drawing a bead on Cindy Sheehan, who now symbolizes the USA's antiwar grief. She is a moving target, very difficult to hit. But right-wing media sharpshooters are sure to keep trying. The Bush Administration's top officials must be counting on an end to the standoff between Camp Casey and Camp Carnage. But media assaults on Cindy Sheehan are just in the early stages.

While the president mouths respectful platitudes about the grieving mother, his henchmen are sharpening their media knives and starting to slash. Pro-Bush media hit squads are busily spreading the notions that Sheehan is a dupe of radicals, naive and/or nutty.

But the most promising avenue of attack is likely to be the one sketched out by Fox News Channel eminence Bill O'Reilly on August 9, when he declared that Cindy Sheehan bears some responsibility for "other American families who have lost sons and daughters in Iraq who feel that this kind of behavior borders on treasonous."

That sort of demagoguery is on tap for the duration of the war. Military families will be recruited for media appearances to dispute the patriotism of antiwar activists -- especially those who speak as relatives of American soldiers and shatter media stereotypes by publicly urging withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.

So far, during this war, President Bush is leaving the defamation chores to his surrogate media fighters. But loud noises coming from the right wing today are echoes of key themes that other presidents eagerly voiced.

During the mid-1960s, as President Lyndon Johnson escalated the Vietnam War, he grew accustomed to trashing Americans who expressed opposition. They were prone to be shaky and irresolute, he explained -- and might even betray the nation's servicemen. "There will be some Nervous Nellies," he predicted on May 17, 1966, "and some who will become frustrated and bothered and break ranks under the strain. And some will turn on their leaders and on their country and on our fighting men."

Delivering a speech in mid-March 1968, President Johnson contended that as long as the foe in Vietnam "feels that he can win something by propaganda in the country -- that he can undermine the leadership - that he can bring down the government -- that he can get something in the Capital that he can't get from our men out there -- he is going to keep on trying."

LBJ's successor Richard Nixon brandished similar innuendos. "Let us be united for peace," Nixon said early in his presidency. "Let us be united against defeat. Because let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that."

Martin Luther King Jr. found that former allies could become incensed when he went out of his way to challenge the war. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967, King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today." From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, he said, the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution." King asked why the U.S. was suppressing revolutions "of the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World, instead of supporting them.

That kind of talk drew barbs and denunciations from media quarters that had applauded his efforts to end racial segregation. Time magazine called the speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post warned that "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

When the Gulf War began, snappy phrases like "blame America first" were a popular way to vilify dissenters. "What we cannot be proud of, Mr. Speaker, is the unshaven, shaggy-haired, drug culture, poor excuses for Americans, wearing their tiny, round wire-rim glasses, a protester's symbol of the blame-America-first crowd, out in front of the White House burning the American flag," Rep. Gerald B. H. Solomon said on Jan. 17, 1991.

During a typical outburst in early 2003 before the Iraq invasion, Rush Limbaugh told his radio audience: "I want to say something about these antiwar demonstrators. No, let's not mince words, let's call them what they are - anti-American demonstrators." Weeks later, former Congressman Joe Scarborough, a Republican rising through the ranks of national TV hosts, said on MSNBC: "These leftist stooges for anti-American causes are always given a free pass. Isn't it time to make them stand up and be counted for their views, which could hurt American troop morale?"

Such poisonous sludge is now pouring out of some mass media - and we should expect plenty more in response to a growing antiwar movement.

From Norman Solomon's new book War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. For information, go to:

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