Thursday, October 11, 2007

Democracy - Senator Murray missed it - Darcy Burner saw it - citizens felt it - General Paul Eaton made it real

My military family friends up there in Seattle area didn't plan it to go the way it went, but it sounds like a lot of the Eastside Democratic fundraiser attendees got a glimpse of democracy in action, courtesy of Maj. General Paul Eaton's instincts. (Paul D. Eaton, a retired Army major general, was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004.) General Eaton, was a primary speaker at the fundraiser, along with Keynote speaker, Patty Murray. General Eaton chose to welcome and invite returning Iraq veteran, Josh, to join him rather than dismiss him as Senator Patty Murray has been inclined to do weekly.

It also sounds like Darcy Burner didn't do such a good job either of making a returning Iraq veteran, a veteran Gold Star father, and a veteran father with son deployed to Iraq for a third time feel welcome. I expect more of Darcy, as she is, after all, a military family herself and I expect that time honored military culture courtesy to be extended to other military families and veterans.
Report from my military friend, David, and let me give you the setting. There are four men, veterans and fathers of veterans, in the Tuesday Vigil group who stand vigil every Tuesday at the Federal Court House in Seattle. Others join them, but these four are the core group who are faithfully there every Tuesday, rain or shine.

David - Vietnam veteran and father of son who is now on third deployment in Iraq. Father and son are from Washington state.

Joe Colgan - veteran and father of Lt. Benjamin Colgan, killed in Iraq in 2003. That makes Joe a Gold Star Father. Father and son are from Washington state. from Seattle Times article Among the soldiers is Lt. Ben Colgan, 30, a 1991 graduate of Des Moines' Mount Rainier High School. Colgan was killed by a roadside bomb Nov. 1, 2003, just weeks after he was filmed in Iraq. (war documentary, "Gunner Palace.") instincts. (Paul D. Eaton, a retired Army major general, was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004.) General Eaton, was a primary speaker at the fundraiser, along with Keynote speaker, Patty Murray. General Eaton chose to welcome and invite returning Iraq veteran, Josh, to join him rather than dismiss him as Senator Patty Murray has been inclined to do weekly.

Joshua - returning Iraq veteran, Washington state.

Howard - he stays in the background and is a trusted friend to all three, as well as crucial to the organizing the Tuesday Vigil.

They took their Tuesday Vigil to the recent Eastside Democratic fundraiser at the Westin in Bellevue. Below is his email account to me of that event;

Hi All,

It was supposed to be dark and stormy day, but it wasn't. Therefore the turnout was good. I counted 15. The sidewalk traffic is decreasing, however. I did speak with a tourist from England today who discussed P.M. Brown's decision to reduce by half the number of British soldiers in Iraq. She thought it was a good thing. I thought it was a great thing. The British do have a way with understatement.

But there is more. Last Sunday several of us from the group attended the East Side Democratic Fund Raiser and Dinner at the Westin in Bellevue. It seems that Patty Murray was the keynote speaker. The main speaker was General Paul Eaton who retired so he could speak out against the war and Bush's war policy.

We thought that it would be a great opportunity to speak to Murray given that she has dodged us for so long. A generous soul paid for our entrance and dinner. While several of the Tuesday Vigil Group stayed outside in the rain to hold banners, it was decided that Joe, Josh and I would speak when Murray had finished her speech.

Our comments were to address Murray's continued support of the war through her votes on supplemental spending bills while maintaining that she is only supporting the troops but opposing the war. Joe, Josh and I planned to identify our personal stakes in this war then Josh would make the statement.

The speech ended and Murray quickly exited the stage and out of the room not to return. I think she smelled us, or it could have been that we were introduced by the moderator prior to her taking the stage. We found this doubling strange since she spoke so highly of General Eaton but didn't stay to listen to his comments. In any case, she took what will be referred to in the future as "A Murray." This development put a slight kink in the plans.

Darcy Burner then took the stage to introduce General Eaton. When she gave a slight pause, Josh seized the moment, stood and made his statement. God bless the courage of youth. Darcy tried to shut him down by telling him to sit down and she would explain how the war was going to be stopped. Josh, to his credit, did not sit down. He completed what he had to say, then sat down.

The General then took the podium and said that this was what democracy was all about and pointed at Josh, asking him to join him. Josh went to the stage where he saluted the general who returned the salute then hugged Josh.

Following this, the General told Josh to take the podium while he stood back. Josh went to the podium, collected himself and gave the most eloquent, impassioned and moving speech one can imagine.

I couldn't see Darcy Burner's face during this, but she must have felt as though the General had taken her to the woodshed. It was priceless.

Following his speech, Josh left the podium. General Eaton again hugged Josh and Josh returned to the table with the applause of the audience. Josh later described this as an out of body experience. One man at our table was reduced to tears.

During General Eaton's speech he made reference to Josh several times. He also noted that one of his sons is named Josh and that he is soon retuning to the Iraq theater (he has two sons in the Army). Following the speech a man stood and made an anti-war statement. Joe stood and made a statement about the loss of his son in Iraq and his disappointment in Murray for dodging us at every turn.

Following this I stood and was told to sit down by one of the organizers who was standing behind us (There must have been some fear that we were out of control.). I did not sit but made my statement. By this time the crowd was no longer focused on the fund raiser. Our planned event had become something much bigger than planned thanks to Josh's courage.

At this point the auction was supposed to have started, but a woman in the audience stood and said that given how things had developed, we should all stand in a moment of silence for the fallen in Iraq. It should have become clear at this point to all in attendance that the dinner was about an immoral and illegal occupation for which few are paying the price.

It's only too sad that Murray did not have the courage to stay to take a few comments from those of us who are in the 1% club who are sacrificing. Her rhetoric of "I support the Troops" must not be allowed to go unchallenged. After all, funding this war is killing out troops and she knows it. And it's ironic that an Army general had to identify to a person who wants to go to Congress what democracy is.

Following the dinner, and as we were leaving, several people approached Josh and thanked him. There were no negative comments. You could say that the East Side Democrats provided a forum for we of the West Side Tuesday Group. We will be forever grateful.

Today Joe and I went to Murray's office in another attempt to talk with her and to get a sense of how the event was viewed by Murray and her staff. Ardis talked with us because Murray was "out of town." She said that she didn't know much about the event. She didn't even know that General Eaton was there. We expressed our regret that Murray won't meet with us. She said that we have a great deal of access to Murray through her. I reminded her that she is not Senator Murray. I also reminded her that my son is returning to Iraq for the third time next week and that being a member of the 1% club can be lonely when the other 99% are asked only to go shopping.

What can we all take from the Bellevue theater event and our visit to Murray's office today?

Primarily we can always count on the courage of youth to bring us through. This is something that the military has known forever. We can also know that there are no limits to the depths to which a politician will sink in pursuit of power and the maintenance of office. There are some exceptions, but I can't think of them right now. For a Democrat like me, I am sad to make these observations about fellow Democrats.

Carry on the good fight and don't let the bastards wear you down.

In Peace and Solidarity,

my comments - would be Congresswoman Darcy Burner and Senator Patty Murray - maybe it would be better to embrace us (military families in Washington state with skin in the game) than what seems to be efforts to try to distance from us since we all share in common our grave concerns for our military at time of war. If General Paul Eaton can embrace us, if General Wesley Clark can embrace us, then it no longer makes political sense for either of you to seemingly wish to keep distance from us. Our messages may not be exactly the same, but all of us share in common those values of integrity, courage, honor, duty and service to our country.... we have more in common than we don't.

Speak to Joe, speak to Joshua, speak to David - all have served our country as are you and some have paid a heavier price for doing so. They are not your typical anti-war activists, for some their authentic experiences are so compelling as to have them make the difficult choice to be a military family speaking out; countering the very culture of bearing it all in stoic silence, exactly so others won't have to keep bearing it all in stoic silence.

I urge you to hear their personal stories, get to know them personally, hear why they feel compelled to do weekly Tuesday Vigils and hear their personal messages. They do not typify what is casually referred to in Seattle media as anti-war - they have authentic experiences to share and have earned the right to be heard above the din of the noise made by the anti-war crowd.

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President George W. Bush's statement in March 2006 after 3 yrs of war "a future President will have to resolve war in Iraq"


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