I went to conference with Veterans for Peace, a gnarled bunch of salty dogs, old ladies and young vets, all angry about war and looking for a new commander in chief.
But Boston emptied out fast because the Democrats were coming to town. And it was not the liberal policies Bostonians are afraid of; it was the security of the Homeland, excessive searches, the long, long lines hampering common communication. So people were finding reasons to visit far-off friends, and we vets and other politicos had the town practically to ourselves.
This Veterans for Peace conference drew a lot of the peace activists, and I made old acquaintances and new friends, some of whom fought in Iraq and are back telling us it is (GASP!) just about oil! They told stories of house-to-house fighting, roughing up civilians, getting caught in ambushes. And meanwhile the heaviest guard duty is pulled around the oil pipeline, while corporate fat cats make tons of money off our soldiers. The Vietnam vets have heard it all before, another time, another country.
New forms of Agent Orange-style illnesses are cropping up, and therell soon be a new group of veterans marching on Washington if this mess keeps going. The conference had lots of resources, speakers, and I invited everyone to come and visit Rockford, which they say they will do.
I then got a chance to stay with a member from the Illinois delegation to the Democratic Party conventionfirst time I got to see a convention from the inside looking out. Id visited Miami in 1972 during the infamous renomination of King Richard the Nixon, but then I was marching on the outside with Vietnam Veterans Against the War.
But the Boston Democratic Convention was sumptuous! Parties and meetings and lots of political stuff.
I was amazed to see the variety of people in attendance. I really thought the majority would be big, fat white guys puffing on cigars. Sure, there were rich people, but the vast majority looked middle class and was as colorful as south Rockford on a summer day.
I had to see the Veterans for Kerry caucus. I admit I got hooked. Even though I proudly wore my Veterans for Peace cap, I was well received and got to meet the guys who served with John Kerry on his Navy boat. Some of them said they might even visit Rockford if we could get a meeting together, but I think theyll be too busy working the swing states. And they worked the crowd.
There were more than 600 people crammed into this large room at the Sheraton in Boston, and more people trying to squeeze in; all types of veterans from all the branches of service. I got the sense that people knew we were in trouble in Iraq, and we were going to put our trust in John Kerry to get us out.
That was in direct contrast to the Veterans for Peace convention held just a week before. There we met with veterans from the Iraqi war, freshly returned from the front. They told us that the same crap that happened in Vietnam (confusion about the mission, innocent Iraqis caught in the crossfire, and not enough supplies for helping the poorest Iraqis) spelled disaster. I invited those veterans to come to Rockford, too. There was great skepticism that John Kerry would get us out of that mess. The lure of the oil is too great. But almost everyone I spoke to said we had to support John Kerry over George Bush.
Its good to be home. I want to invite you to attend the next CROP Hunger Walk rally on Tuesday, Aug. 10, 7 p.m. at the Riverfront Museum Park, 711 N. Main St. Rockford Urban Ministries will give out materials for the upcoming CROP Hunger Walk in October. I also hope you will attend the Ogle County Energy Fair the weekend of Aug. 7-8.
And I hope to get together some more Veterans for Kerry here in northern Illinois.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.