Radical lefties from all over the nation are gathering in a big steaming pile here in Washington, DC for a giant Protest-A-Rama against the war and against Bush, Cheney, Halliburton, and dozens of other things. It seemed a sure bet that some of them would find their way to the Friday night "peace vigil
" Code Pink
has been holding at Walter Reed Army Medical Center for five or six months now. So I took my camera out to see what was happenning in the ongoing protest drama there.
To recap the Walter Reed story, Code Pink, a far left group, has targeted Walter Reed Army Medical Center for their anti-war protest in a gesture of monumental insensitivity. They've made a lot of wild charges about military conspiracies regarding the wounded soldiers from Iraq who are treated there. They claim this is a vigil, not a protest. Nobody is fooled.
Conservatives consider Walter Reed an outrageous venue for a protest. A number of ad hoc conservative groups, the "Freepers" of Free Republic foremost, have been counter-protesting Code Pink at Walter Reed for at least five months. Their morale was still as high as when I visited a month ago and they doubled their numbers in anticipation of this weekend's surge of protestors.
Melanie Morgan, co-chair of "Move America Forward", stopped by to visit on her coast-to-coast "You Don't Speak For Me, Cindy" bus tour. She hosts a conservative talk show on KSFO 560 radio in San Francisco out there on the Left Coast, of all places. I had no idea conservatives were allowed in the Bay Area. Isn't she a little cutie-pie?
I had hardly been there ten minutes before a middle-aged man from the Code Pink side darted across the Georgia Avenue to confront the Freepers in a shout, "DON'T CALL ME UNAMERICAN!" Everyone kinda looked at each other, wondering who called him un-American. Turns out nobody did, but nevertheless that's what the Code Pink guy was feeling. He was a Navy veteran, he claimed, and had the moral authority to oppose the war.
Of course, you need to take the claims of demonstrators claiming military service with a grain of salt. B.G. Burkett in his book Stolen Valor tells us that his investigation of weepy vets at antiwar demonstrations revealed that two thirds of them were phonies, either grossly misrepresenting their military service to gain attention or having no service at all. Generally, the more bits of uniform a protestor is wearing, the more likely he is a fake whose only time in the military was spent shopping in the army surplus store. The probability of them being a phony rises dramatically if they claim to have been in an elite unit like the SEALs or Green Berets. Generally, combat veterans clam up rather than spout off. Those who spout off the loudest about their horrific combat experiences often turn out to have been supply clerks.
However, taking the Navy Code Pinker's claim at face value, he did finger the central contested issue of this series of demonstrations: moral authority. The Code Pinkers desperately want it and are frustrated that their protest is not gaining it for them. They are becoming more edgy, more strident, more confrontational, louder, angrier. They are resorting to dirty tricks to defeat the Freeper counter-protest. They are losing and they don't like it.
Most of all they are confused as to why their protest isn't working. They thought that if they just repackaged themselves from the classic lefty troop-haters to pose as supporters, they could fool the public. They thought if they just changed their signs from "MAIMED FOR LIES" to "WE SUPPORT THE TROOPS, BRING THEM HOME NOW", public opinion would support them, even the troops would support them. After all, the lesson of the Vietnam war protests is that spitting on the troops loses the sympathy of the general public.
So they have changed their marketing pitch to "Love the troops, Hate the war." The flaw in this marketing campaign is that lefties still hate the military, which comes through in spite of themselves. What the Code Pink people don't get is that the medium is the message. The implicit message of a protest at Walter Reed where the war-wounded recover is one of contempt for the troops.
There's Melanie Morgan, again, standing with a counter-protestor with a pretty funny sign: "How about rooting for OUR side for a change, you liberal moron?" I'd like to see that message plastered on billboards across Blue State America. Plant the first one outside the Kennedy compound in Hyannis Port.
Code Pink voices their frustration at being counter-protested by what they call "loud, raucous Rove brown shirts" (two of the sinister Rovian agents are pictured above) on their website in the rather desperately titled "Save The Walter Reed Vigil" page:
"NOW TODAY, there are some who are so unsure of their own position that they feel they cannot tolerate even our small, short, weekly vigil. These people wave the American flag but they have lost the essence of what it means. They say God Bless The Troops but they don't understand what it is that you and your comrades fought for, are fighting for. Their goal is to silence us, and what will they do then? HOW DID it come to this? That a small, humble vigil of ten people or so, should turn into such a storm? What are we saying that gets them so angry?Support Our Troops. Full Benefits for Our Vets. Bring the Troops Home".
Code Pink is quite transparently lying here. They started out carrying mock flag-covered coffins and signs saying "ENLIST HERE AND DIE FOR HALLIBURTON", before bad publicity made them sanitize their signs to convey more decent sentiments. Friday night, the Code Pink people were strumming a guitar and all singing along to a song that urged the troops to stop killing children:
"No more blood for oil;
We shall not be moved.
No more killing children;
We shall not be moved."
And so on and so on. The lyrics go on like that forever like a dentist drill in your skull. Calling the troops child-killers is not supporting the troops, but rather is the kind of slander which makes ordinary people angry, which creates the storm of counter-protest. Simply put, what Code Pink advertises in their website does not match what any casual observer can see with his own eyes at Walter Reed.
The counter-protestors are composed mostly of military veterans, military wives, military family members, and girlfriends of soldiers. It seems to me that they speak with moral authority when they say "God Bless The Troops," as opposed to Code Pink people who have very little connection to the military and find it an alien entity. This clumsy appeal to "you and your comrades" in the military is a creepy, condescending, and manipulative approach which assumes a bogus camaraderie with military people. Nobody is buying it.
The troops despise Code Pink, according to the word of a person who works with them in the hospital who came out to thank the counter-protestors after Code Pink departed. The person added that the troops were very appreciative of the counter-protestors.
I'm happy to second their appreciation. A blind man could see that these are just the kind of patriotic women who make America stand tall. We salute them! Keep up the good work! You are an inspiration to red-blooded American men everywhere.
A wounded soldier wheeled himself out to the Freepers one night when the counter-protests began. He had lost both legs above the knee. He had burn spots all over his forearms. He told the Freepers the spots were worse on his chest. He was maybe 22.
According to him, wounded soldiers returning to the hospital routinely flipped the bird to Code Pink. On Friday nights, a bus takes many wounded troops out to dinner and shows, which patriotic DC businessmen donate to them. They return about 9:30 PM. Sometimes the troops would ask the bus driver to stop halfway in the gate and turn on the inside lights so that Code Pink could get a good view of their middle fingers. That was pretty discouraging to the Pinksters.
The Freepers think that's why Code Pink changed its original protest hours of 8 to 10 PM, moving it forward an hour to 7 to 9 PM, so they would avoid encountering the troops on the bus. Evidently, it was beating down the morale of the Code Pinkamaniacs and whittling down their numbers. The bulk of the regular, local Code Pinkers tend to be naive folks who think that a crass appeal to the self-interest of the troops, ie pulling them out of harm's way in Iraq, is supporting the troops. They don't think the troops can see through that because they assume that anyone who joins the military is fairly stupid. The Code Pinkers don't understand the military people's sense of mission. They think they can trick the hicks from the sticks with a couple syrupy slogans. That arrogance and ignorance has undermined their protest, thank goodness.
The Pinks are fond of grandiose claims. For example, in their Walter Reed Vigil Report No. 5: "Before tonight's vigil two of the vigilers went door to door in the neighborhood. What they found was universal support for our presence and for what we are doing."
Well, I stopped and chatted with some of the neighborhood people. It was a warm night, which brings the folks on this side of town out on their porches like back in the old days. These working folks don't have the money to run air conditioning all the time.
One Hispanic girl sitting on her front steps with her sisters and grandma told me that the Pink people came knocking on their door and asked them to join their protest but they didn't really understand what it was about. Something about bringing soldiers home but from where? Their home was only about a half block from the demonstration but they couldn't really hear anything. She said it didn't bother them. None of them were really very curious about it. That kind of political activism is for middle class people with lots of leisure time. For the people who live on Georgia Avenue, pretty much all their time is invested in surviving. Protesting is a luxury sport.
So once again, when you make even a casual investigation of reality and compare it to Code Pink's version of events, they don't match. There is no "universal support" for Code Pink in the Walter Reed neighborhood. There isn't much awareness of what the protest is about or interest in joining it. It's a rich white woman thing, like bridge.
And really, what a clumsy lie to claim you enjoy "universal support." Only Saddam Hussein and Fidel Castro make claims like that. Here in the real world, it's hard to get five people to agree on where to go for lunch, let alone get an entire neighborhood to agree on politics.
The best news of the night was that our chicks were way hotter than their chicks, which, in my view, demonstrates the nobility of our cause and the soundness of our method. Nuff said.
Hmmmm. Maybe I should have brought my old flight suit. I'm not sure I could still fit in it though. And it might smell like mothballs.
Here is a Protest Warrior who claims to have worked with Smash, recently moving from San Diego to Washington. He's the only guy on our side who worried me. Anyone who trades San Diego for DC shows questionable judgement. I can only hope the first blizzard will cure him.
Meow! She does have a point, which I think might be that Code Pink is posing as supportive of the troops rather then expressing an authentic love for the them. Code Pink only makes token expressions of affection for the wounded guys suffering in Walter Reed.
I crossed Georgia Avenue to check out the Code Pinkers, who by my count outnumbered their counter-protestors, 148 to 112. They owned the Walter Reed side of the road, while the Freepers owned the other side.
These folks, above, were the ones singing about baby-killing. They played another song to the tune of "When The Saints Go Marching In," which went on forever, like all these protest songs, beginning new stanzas with the following leads:
"When they say, no blood for oil, ...."
"When they say, no blood for Halliburton, ...."
"When they send, Dick Cheney to Iraq, ...."
"When they send, the twins to Iraq, ...."
"When they build, up the levees, ...."
"When the Iraqi, people are free, ...."
Of course, if Code Pink had its way and our troops were all brought home, the Iraqi people would never see freedom. The Baathists and jihadis would be free to do their worst, fighting over Iraq like wild dogs over a bloody bone. That is why this peace protest is so wrongheaded. Pulling the troops out of Iraq would lead to more war, more bloodshed, not peace. But then Code Pink is not really against war. They are just against America.
Many of the Code Pink protestors looked like normal people. They each had a vigil candle in a little glass vase. I had the sense that they were church people who fell in with the Code Pink Marxists out of naivete.
I really don't know what they are talking about here, but then they probably don't either.
Generally, the local regulars to these Code Pink protests tend to be older, more mature people which accounts for their discipline in culling the most radical elements from their protest. However, the out-of-town crowd passing through for the big DC protest tended to be younger and dumber, less mature and more rude. It looked like some of the older folks were standing apart from the main Code Pink mob.
Lefties have learned over the last couple years to include an American flag in their protests. Up until then, you could usually count more commie flags than American flags, although there are always plenty of adulterated Old Glories covered with swastikas or peace signs or some such nonsense. Code Pink has been careful to avoid that.
In my brief chats with the Code Pinkies, they seemed more adversarial this time around than they did a month ago. Back then, I could discuss with them in a civil way the issues at hand, even joke that they should try some Conservative Propaganda, that they may acquire a taste for it if they tried it. There was no joking around this time.
The Pinks felt aggrieved. "Do you hear what they are saying over there," they complained, pointing across the street at the counter-protestors (Rove's brownshirts in the language of the Code Pink bulletins). They were stung to have their patriotism questioned, to be accused of supporting the terrorists, to be accused of not supporting the troops when, look here, they had signs that said WE SUPPORT THE TROOPS. They wanted them to stop saying all that. The Code Pink people cared very much what the Freepers thought of them. By contrast, the Freepers do not give a hoot in hell what Code Pink thought of them. In their hearts, the Code Pink protestors have granted moral authority to the counter-protestors.
The distress of the Code Pink protestors arises from the perverse definition of patriotism adopted by the extreme Left. Back in the '60s, the leftists considered protesting against Vietnam as the highest form of patriotism. By degrees over the decades, the lefties came to define patriotism as protest. Now, they live in a parallel intellectual universe where you can only be a patriot if you are castigating America. By their peculiar inversion of values, they see people who support America as traitors, Rovian agents, brownshirts. They live in a topsy turvy moral universe where black is white, up is down, treason is patriotism.
Consequently, it exasperates the Code Pink protestors when their demonstrations are not well received. They are used to being granted moral authority the moment their protest hits the street, whatever their cause, and enjoying popular support. Being counter-protested has thrown them off. It doesn't seem fair to have their tactics turned against them, to be hoisted with their own petard. They have no strategy for dealing with dissent from their position. The old protest game isn't working for them anymore. They're bogged down in a protest quagmire.
"I'm not threatening you," said Mr. Radical Ponytail right before he threatened to have the cops remove me if I took more photos of the Code Pink demonstration. He claimed to be the demonstration monitor, whatever that is. This is a permitted demonstration. We have a permit and you can not harass us. And so on. He was quite full of shit. I called his bluff and walked him over to the nearest police officer to referee the dispute, who had a "Why me" look on his face.
I asked the officer if there was any problem with me taking photos of the demonstration. Nope.
But he's from the Other Side, said Mr. Radical Ponytail. We can't have people coming from the Other Side disrupting our demonstration. We have a permit. These people will cause trouble. You have to head this off now before there is trouble. We have a permit that protects us from this.
I'm not a demonstrator, I told the cop. I'm covering the demonstration for my blog. I'm not disrupting anything, just taking photos.
He's intimidating people, said Mr. Radical Ponytail. He's sticking his camera in people's faces and that's intimidating. He can take pictures from the other side of the street instead of intimidating people by sticking a camera right in their faces.
I'm not intimidating anyone, I told the cop. If people don't want their picture taken, I don't take them out of common courtesy.
At that, Mr. Radical Ponytail brightened up and ran off to tell his people to tell me not to take their picture. When I walked back over to the Code Pink demonstration, I faced a stony wall of disapproval where nobody wanted their photo taken. Being a gentleman, I honored my word.
But I won't let myself get trapped like that again. Lesson Learned: No dickering with Marxists. They don't negotiate in good faith. The approved solution is to brush them off. Let them pester the police with their nonsense instead of me.
The greater lesson learned here is that Code Pink is uncomfortable with free speech. They like it for themselves but they hate it for others and seek to suppress it by whatever means available. Apparently, they realize that even simple bloggers can do their demonstration harm by publicizing it. And, of course, that's perfectly true. That's exactly what I'm shooting for.
With Code Pink, it's like shooting fish in a barrel. Even the Democrats are turned off by anti-war protests in front of military hospitals. It's an embarassment. Code Pink has lost its moral authority by taking its protest to the wounded. Every Friday night in front of Walter Reed, they dig their moral hole a little deeper.
The Communists won the Vietnam War on the American home front and made a point of thanking the American Left for helping them to victory. The Baathists and jihadis are not going to win Iraq on the American home front, not at the front gate of Walter Reed, not with the help of Code Pink, not as long as the Freepers contest their message.
I certainly don't want to see Saddam thanking Code Pink for helping to reestablish Baathism and its killing fields in Iraq nor Zarqawi thanking Code Pink in its bloody snuff videos for helping establish a Wahhabi theocracy in Baghdad. The Baathists, Al Qaeda, and Code Pink must be defeated. The struggle to defeat them goes on not only on the battlefields of Iraq but on the intellectual battlefields at home as well because the bitter lesson of Vietnam is that evil wins when good people do nothing to resist it.