Iraq: 5 Years Too Many

A "Peace Vigil" starring Cindy Sheehan, Justin Raimondo — and not Sean Penn

March 16, 2008, San Francisco

I was lured to the Unitarian Universalist Church on Geary in San Francisco by a press release saying that actor Sean Penn, "peace mom" Cindy Sheehan, and a plethora of far-left anti-war semi-celebrities would be participating in a "vigil for peace" followed by a march through the city.

When I got there, I found World Can't Wait, ANSWER, Code Pink and the usual crew of communist groups doing land-office business in the church foyer.

Inside the main hall, it was standing room only. The anticipation was palpable.

Up on stage the speakers awaited their turns, including (as seen here) Carole Migden (California State Senator for the San Francisco area) and Joe Wheeler, a leading member of Iraq Vets Against the War.

Joe Wheeler was there to promote IVAW's "Winter Soldier II" hearings, which had wrapped up the day before in Washington DC. Just as in the original Winter Soldier hearings in 1971, the purpose of the event was to portray American soldiers as sadists, killers, rapists and war criminals. To that end, a series of veterans are paraded out one by one to recount the hideous crimes they committed, or observed being committed, or (more frequently) heard about from a guy who once met another guy who said they were committed. As the video shows, at this San Francisco event Joe Wheeler got a huge standing ovation (the biggest ovation of the night) before he even began to speak. Then he went on to give everyone what they wanted to hear, recounting how a female soldier got raped in Kuwait in 2003; how he heroically did not fire back at a sniper, lest he hit a civilian; and then, the coup de grace: a third-hand tale of a American soldier who took gruesome glee in the killing of the enemy. Watch the video yourself and decide how believable (and/or how egregious) his story is. Needless to say, as in just about every single Winter Soldier testimony, not a single shred of evidence is presented to support the stories.

Matt Gonzalez, one-time president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and currently Ralph Nader's Vice-Presidential running mate in his independent 2008 bid for the White House, also gave a speech, which I thankfully failed to record. Gonzalez is the furthest-left politician in a city full of far-left politicians.

At one point, Code Pink was invited on stage to sing a dreary song about grief.

Justin Raimondo gave a stirring speech about how terrible America is, declaring (as the video reveals) that "the enemy is in Washington." Raimondo positions himself as a "paleoconservative," but he's so far right that he has come out on the other end of the spectrum, and spends most of his post-9/11 career associating with totalitarian communists and anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists. In this speech, he atttacked the Democrats as much as the Republicans (a common theme throughout the evening). Raimondo blamed our problems on "the neocons in the media," which might come as a surprise to the 93% of journalists who self-identify as "liberal."

Then an unannounced guest took the podium: Daniel Ellsberg! Woo-hoo! People were at first excited by this doddering icon of the anti-war movement -- at least until it dawned on everyone that Ellsberg was there not as a bonus guest, but rather as a replacement for Sean Penn, who inexplicably failed to show up. The palpable anticipation turned to palpable disappointment, as it had been Penn's star power that had lured many of the attendees. How could you do this to us, Sean?

Ellsberg, as expected, nattered on about My Lai and the Vietnam War, as if the intervening 40 years had simply never happened. Do we really have to do the Time Warp again?

Penn's absence left Cindy Sheehan in the role of keynote speaker. Since she's now running against Nancy Pelosi for a seat in the U.S. Congress, Cindy was wearing her "campaign best" -- the first time I'd ever seen her in a dress.

Cindy's speech went on for quite some time. Excerpts from it can be seen in this video clip. She agreed with Justin that "Washington DC is the enemy" -- even though she's doing her darnedest to get elected to Congress and thus join the enemy camp. The most bizarre part came when she recounted in detail how she had received, just 24 hours earlier, an email from a mysterious sender who claimed to be Casey Sheehan's "buddy" in Iraq and who claimed, out of the blue after four years, to have personally witnessed how Casey (Cindy's son who was killed in Iraq in 2004) refused orders to be deployed on his mission -- contradicting the official version of the incident, which is that he had bravely volunteered. Cindy was apparently as aware as the rest of us that there was an inherent contradiction in her simultaneous idolization of her son and demonization of American troops. The mystery email provided the answer she'd been looking for: Casey said "No" to war after all! Well, that certainly is a relief. (And just as with the Winter Soldier testimony, no actual proof of the story's veracity is required.)

Then we all filed outside to go on a march through the city. Behind a giant banner with the mystifying message,


Five years to many what? I kept looking around for the second banner that must have had the rest of the sentence. Something like, "5 YEARS TO MANY OF US SEEMS LIKE A LONG TIME TO WIN A WAR" or something.

But there never was a second banner. Maybe Sean Penn was supposed to bring it?

Stop the toxicity! No blood for oil!

Cindy took up her position at the front of the march, holding up the mystery banner.

Along the way, we passed many stereotypical San Francisco cars, such as this one.

Sorry, I just can't get enough of that banner! The parade stretched out for a block or two through the city. I'm no good at estimating crowds, so I'll give a guess at somewhere between "a few hundred" and "several hundred."

Were there kaffiyehs? Oh yeah, plenty of 'em. Can't have a Bay Area protest without kaffiyehs, can we?

Frank Chu was on hand as well, sporting one of his incomprehensible signs. The woman standing behind him also held a yellow sign that defied analysis.

Finally we arrived at our destination: the Veterans Building and War Memorial. Is it just me, or isn't that the least appropriate place for the march to end?

It was right around here that it dawned on me: it's supposed to be "Too many." Oooooooohhhhhhhhh.

We all milled around with Cindy, vainly hoping for a last-minute appearance by Sean. No such luck.

Cindy then announced we were all going to put our flowers (which had been handed out to the marchers) on the building as a memorial to the dead. And I thought to myself -- could anything be more hypocritical than this? To spend two hours relentlessly defaming American soldiers, and then concluding the ritual by "honoring" them?

People "honored" the soldiers while carrying signs displaying the word "atrocities" -- and believe me, it's not the soldiers' enemies who are being accused of committing atrocities, but the very soldiers themselves whom we are now pretending to honor.

Then we all sat around and had a meditation circle about our terrible, evil, sadistic military staffed by wonderful, innocent soldiers, while singing "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?"

And then we went home.

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