Veterans Occupy National Archives

By David Swanson

This was the second time that a group of veterans opposed to illegal wars and in favor of the rule of law had taken over the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. The first time, several weeks ago, a group of them had climbed onto a ledge on the front of the building with flags and banners. This time, they aimed higher.

Mike Ferner gave me a report over the phone at 2:30 p.m. on Saturday. He said that at 7:45 a.m. he and others had arrived at the Constitution Avenue side of the Archives. There had been no police presence on this side because the Pennsylvania Avenue side had been swarming with police focused on blocking traffic for G-20 delegates’ endless limousine motorcades. That remained the case throughout the day, as world leaders burned oil and produced hot air.

Eight people, including six members of Veterans for Peace, one member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, and one member of Military Families Speak Out got around a construction fence, went up the Archives steps, and climbed 90 feet of scaffolding. From the top of the building they unfurled giant banners, the first at about 8:15 a.m. and the second around 8:45. The first read: “Defend Our Constitution, Arrest Bush and Cheney, War Criminals!” The second said: “We Will Not Be Silent.”

The enormous banners stayed up until about 2:30 when it started to rain, hail, and blow. Many hundreds of people stopped by. One man, who said he’d seen the banners from blocks away, said he’d come over imagining the Archives had opened an exhibit on freedom of speech. The vets took a sound system up with them, and all day blasted music and speeches by Martin Luther King Jr. Down below, allies passed out flyers and talked to reporters, including representatives of NBC News, German television, Argentinean television, and KPFA.

As the banners were being unfurled Saturday morning, a few security guards came out and said that they might call the police and fire departments to come and get the activists down, but that they hated to deprive citizens of the city of needed services. Ferner found this ludicrous, given the thousands of cops working overtime to wait on G-20 delegates. Later the guards threatened to arrest everyone on the sidewalk. Nobody took these threats very seriously, and they turned out to be empty.

“Our goal is to have the Bush administration tried for war crimes no matter how long it takes. There is no statute of limitations on war crimes,” the veterans said in a press release.

The same messages were also displayed at demonstrations in Santa Monica and Long Beach, California on Saturday.

“The offenses of Bush, Cheney, and their accomplices are appalling,” said Kim Carlyle, a VFP member and Army veteran. “Their misdeeds have killed or maimed more than a million people – American soldiers, innocent civilian children, women, and men. They have displaced almost five million people, with millions seeking refuge in other countries. Their total disregard for international agreements has severely tarnished the reputation of America in the world. Their unlawful wars have squandered billions of dollars that could have bolstered a troubled economy.”

The veterans are demanding Bush administration be tried for war crimes, crimes against humanity, and crimes against peace; asking the media to clearly inform the public of the administration’s crimes; and encouraging citizens to take similar nonviolent actions.

According to Tarak Kauff, a VFP member, “People say Bush and Cheney will be gone soon so what’s the point? The point is, there is no statute of limitations on war crimes, and if not held accountable, criminality will continue regardless of who is in office. We either are or we are not a nation of law.”

These individuals took part:

• Elliott Adams VFP: 61, Sharon Springs, NY, VFP President and former Army
paratrooper, Viet Nam
• Ellen Barfield VFP: 52, Baltimore, MD, former Army Sgt.
• Kim Carlyle VFP: 61, Buncombe County, NC, former Army Spec 5
• Doug Zachary VFP: 58, Austin, TX, VFP staff, former USMC Lance Cpl.
• Tarak Kauff VFP: 67, Woodstock, NY, former PFC, Army Airborne
• Will Covert VFP: 63, San Diego, CA, VFP lifetime member, former E4 Navy
• Elaine Brower MFSO: 54, Staten Island, NY, Military Families Speak Out, National Steering Committee, mother of USMC Sgt. James Brower on third tour in Iraq
• Matthis Chiroux IVAW: 24, Army Sergeant, served in Afghanistan, refused deployment to Iraq

And these people provided support on the ground:

• Mike Ferner VFP: 57, Toledo, OH, former Navy corpsman
• Debbie Tolson VFP: 52, Potomac, MD, associate member of VFP
• Michelle White MFSO: 24, Clarksville, TN, Military Families Speak Out, wife of Iraq war vet currently serving in Afghanistan
• Michael Marceau VFP: 59, Rockville, MD, VP VFP Chapter 16, former Army, Viet Nam
• Bruce Berry VFP: 62, Minneapolis, MN, former SPC 4 Army, Viet Nam
• Fred Nagel VFP: 65, Rhinebeck, NY, former SPC 4 Army
• Jay Wenk VFP: 82, Woodstock, NY, former rifleman, 90th Infantry Div., WWII
• Tony Teolis VFP:


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