Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Under The Hood press conference coverage: Killeen Daily Herald

Good article from yesterday's Killeen Daily Herald. The online posting also includes testimony offered by visiting speaker, Dr. Dahlia Wasfi, whose joint Jewish/American/Iraqi heritage gives her a special perspective on what is happening in Iraq.

Rally for Peace
by Amanda Kim Stairrett, Killeen Daily Herald

Peace activists gathered in Killeen Monday morning to speak out against U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The event, which was hosted at Killeen's Under the Hood Café, focused on Iraq and the president's recent announcement that U.S. combat operations ended there today. Speakers also questioned the deployment of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment to Iraq. The final of several thousand of the regiment's troopers departed Fort Hood for the Middle East Friday in what military officials call an advise-and-assist mission. Those soldiers will assist Provincial Reconstruction Teams and help prepare Iraqi security forces to care for and protect their own nation.

The 1st Cavalry Division's 4th Brigade Combat Team will deploy soon for the same mission.

Central Texas activists were in town Aug. 23 to protest the regiment's deployment. As buses carried soldiers from main post to West Fort Hood's Robert Gray Army Airfield, demonstrators waited on the overpass with their headlights turned off, according to information from Fort Hood and videos posted on YouTube by participants.

As the buses drove south on Clarke Road Gate at about 3:40 a.m., the demonstrators held up banners and chanted. Several blocked the buses' path for a short time.

"Acting to protect Department of Defense personnel and equipment, Fort Hood police moved the demonstrators away from the intersection to the sidewalk," read a statement from Fort Hood.

Individuals were released without incident and the bus convoy continued to the airfield, it went on to read.

Post officials did have advance knowledge about the demonstration, they said.

Monday's speakers included Cynthia Thomas, Under the Hood manager; Rep. Lon Burnam, a Democrat from Fort Worth and former director of the Dallas Peace Center; Dr. Dahlia Wasfi, a peace activist of Muslim and Jewish heritage; Larry Egly, of the Peace and Justice Support Network of Mennonite Church USA; and Leslie Cunningham, of Texas Labor Against the War.

CodePink Austin, Iraq Veterans Against the War and Veterans For Peace were also represented.

Monday's event was just one of two in Central Texas "aimed at peeling back the mass deception surrounding 'the end of combat operations,'" according to information from Under the Hood. The first was a talk in Austin Sunday featuring Wasfi.

Most Americans are lulled to sleep because they think the war is over, Burnam said. He attacked Presidents Bush and Obama, saying the "expansionist" war was an illegal and immoral occupation — something that was fiscally wrong to start seven years ago.

Burnam heavily criticized the Iraq war's financial burden on the country, saying it was wrong for Bush to start two "outrageous" wars while providing tax cuts. Burnam said he was tired of officials using the "financial back of us working folks" to fund conflicts, and quoted a 1953 speech by President Dwight Eisenhower: "Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed."

It is time for Obama to end the occupation, end tax cuts for the rich and cure a deficit that will hurt "our children and grandchildren," Burnam went on to say.

Thomas said Under the Hood started a telephone campaign to make sure non-deployable soldiers were not deployed. The organization has previously worked with soldiers and families from the regiment who said they were not fit to deploy.

The administration and command know there aren't enough soldiers to cover two wars, Thomas said, and they continue to ignore family members and soldiers instead of focusing on their well-being.

"This community is not going to be able to survive it much longer," she said.

The 1 percent of the U.S. population in uniform are the ones fighting and paying the most, Thomas said.

If people really wanted to support the troops, they would be fighting for them to come home, she added.

Contact Amanda Kim Stairrett at astair@kdhnews.com or (254) 501-7547. Follow her on Twitter at KDHmilitary or www.facebook.com/astairrett.

For more information

Under the Hood is located at 17 S. College St. It is open daily from 5 to 10 p.m. Visit the café online at www.underthehoodcafe.org.

For more information about Texas Labor Against the War, visit www.txlaboragainstwar.org or call (512) 470-8485.

To learn more about Wasfi and her work, visit www.liberatethis.com. To read her prepared remarks about the war's effect on the Iraqi people, visit www.kdhnews.com.
photo from Killeen Daily Herald

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