Report Back from Toby Blome of CODEPINK, with photos by Curt Wechsler of World Can't Wait:
Friday, March 14, Stanford University -
We live in a very surreal world, where a 4 Star General, David Petraeus, who is responsible for some of the bloodiest and most brutal human rights violations against the people of Iraq and Afghanistan is invited to speak at one of our most prestigious universities. Gen. Petraeus helped train, orchestrate and protect the brutal paramilitary death squads that did America's worst crimes in those countries, including the torture and killing of thousands. Oh, and he also helped expand President Obama's secret drone wars, including popularizing the "double tapping" tactic of sending secondary drone strikes into an area already hit, killing anyone that happens to be trying to give aid to the injured survivors of our murderous hellfire missiles. Oh, and let us not forget that he was head of the CIA at the time when the bodies of 16 year old Tariq Aziz and his 12 year old cousin were turned to ash by a U.S. drone hellfire missile while they were driving on a highway by themselves on the way to play soccer. Why were they targeted by the CIA? Tariq had the courage to vow to use a camera to photograph the civilian victims of our drone war in Pakistan. Mr. Petraeus was also in charge when Abdulrahman Al-awlaki, a 16 year old U.S. citizen and non-combatant was killed in Yemen by U.S. drone while sitting in a cafe with 5 or 6 other youth who were also killed in the attack that day.
(Photo showing Stanford anti-war students invited CodePink and World Can't Wait in a protest outside the event location)
Activists brought great visual displays and signage to break the silence and deliver the truth to the public entering, reminding them of the real horrors and crimes that bloody the General's hands.
"Dear Petraeus, Funerals, weddings, parties, and tribal council meetings are NOT terrorists cells. Stop Bombing Them!"
Four CODEPINK activists, Diana, Charlotte, Fred and myself (Toby Blome), participated. I chose to cover up my "PINK" in order to indiscreetly get inside, which didn't look like it was going to happen, as they were giving priority to all SU students, even though many of the rest of us had been waiting in line for 45 minutes longer! We did ultimately get in, but were kept "isolated" in an upper tier balcony, with the very watchful eyes of the campus police officer nearby, yet still close enough to be heard by Petraeus on the stage below, if one chose to speak their mind. There was about 50 minutes of joking and camaraderie between the general and his host, a former military academy student of Petraeus', and much misinformation and lies discussed about the success of THE SURGE and the "Counter-insurgency" effort. The most difficult moment was hearing the disingenuous general speak about "truth" and "integrity". At that point I needed to get my emesis basin nearby (vomit bucket). But it also helped me prepare for what I came for: speaking truth to power.
As I indiscreetly pulled off my green cover to expose my prideful pink, the watchful gaze of the campus police looked over.
I stood up tall, and spoke in the loudest voice I could muster, without screaming:
"General Petreaus, You are a 4 Star War Criminal.
You should be arrested for the torture and killing of thousands of Iraqi and Afghan people.
Your drone machines are terror in the sky.
Your death squads and special forces are terror on the ground.
Stop killing so that the 1% can profit from stolen resources.
War Criminals stay off our campuses.
Stanford Students Wake Up and learn the truth."
Fortunately the campus police officer was very gentle, as he slowly escorted me out of the building. There still remains a little bit of democracy in our country. I wasn't manhandled and brutalized as our dear Medea was recently in Cairo, or worse, I wasn't killed on the streets as activists are in many of the countries we give military aid to. Maybe, just maybe, the officer himself was pleased that a little bit of truth was told that afternoon.
- Always Marching Forward, [signed] Toby Blome, S.F. CODEPINK
P.S.: "Always marching forward.....," thank you Emma's Revolution [emmasrevolution.com]
and Laura Zweig for providing a joyful and inspiring evening of music
and dance performance later that evening, that helped us to detoxify
from the Petraeus propaganda machine. I feel very blessed to be
surrounded by the love and commitment to peace exuded by my CODEPINK
sisters and brothers! Speaking of blessed, Petraeus said in a Meet the Press interview [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPijrJ9kXEs#t=35]
(THIS IS NO LIE): "Afghanistan is blessed with the presence of what are
trillions of dollars, with an 's' on the end, trillions of dollars of
minerals, if and only if,... to enable you to get it out of the
WAR for $$$! Dear Petraeus: I feel blessed to be standing on the side of peace and justice!
Telling it like it is, through point-by-point visual aids!
Telling it like it is, within earshot of Petreaus' supporters!