A dusty, poor village in Iraq called Fallujah happens to be considered strategically important by U.S. military planners. The local Iraqi population accepts our military occupation after substantial resistance. These Iraqis’ simple lives — already challenged by a simmering civil war with religious roots — are now further burdened by the presence of foreign, uniformed men with guns who patrol their streets. Some of these wielders of weaponry are members of the Marines or other armed forces. Some are non-military men. Security forces of private corporations working in Iraq use their weapons too. Atrocities have occurred within both military and corporate-mercenary ranks.
Adam Charles Kokesh became aware of the harsh effect of the military presence in Iraq during his tour of duty there. His reserve unit, November Battery, Fifth Battalion, 14th Marines, had been activated in 2004. He served in the Fallujah area, west of Baghdad. He was discharged and came back to the States to finish college. In 2006 he volunteered for another stint of duty and spent most of that tour managing a barracks. When Adam was given an honorable discharge, he gladly went back to civilian life.
Somewhere along the way, Kokesh found himself in a state of increasing disagreement with the government’s rationale for being in Iraq. He began to see himself as the Iraqis saw him: a menacing, ruthless and unpredictable predator.
You may not agree with Kokesh’s opinion, which is that we Americans were sold a “war” for false reasons. However, many people in the United States today feel increasingly uncomfortable with our continued presence in Iraq. They feel that we are doing harm, not good, to our own honor and sense of national rightness as well as to the people of Iraq.
In February 2007, Adam Kokesh finished college. His desire to change the way Americans perceive the war led him to become involved with a political activism group called Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).
In his first public expression of political activism, Kokesh went to the congressional hearing at which the members questioned Attorney General Alberto Gonzales concerning the apparently baseless dismissal of several U.S. attorneys. Noticing how frequently Gonzales said, “I can’t remember” and “I don’t recall,” Adam created one sign on which was written “I can’t recall” and another sign on which he kept track of the repetitions. That afternoon, Mr. Gonzales could not recall a total of 74 things.
Kokesh and his signs made the front page of the Los Angeles Times, and suddenly his presence was requested all over the world by people and groups who are fighting for peace, justice and restitution.
My favorite of Kokesh’s expressions of political activism occurred on March 19, 2007, at the four-year mark of our occupancy of Iraq. He and fellow Marines in the IVAW wanted to bring the reality of this war home to the streets of our country. They decided to dress in their camouflage uniforms and patrol the streets of Washington exactly as they had done in Iraq, except that they had no weapons. In a brilliant piece of street theater, Kokesh and his group executed a patrol along Pennsylvania Avenue, walking past the White House.
I saw a video clip of that silent demonstration. The effect on the people walking past them on the streets was profound. Even with no guns in hand; even holding imaginary weapons, the patrol frightened people. There were no words spoken. None needed to be spoken. The essence of war is not in the weapons themselves. It is in the men who are prepared to use them.
Needless to say, the Marines were not amused. But by that one act, the IVAW vets had brought home to us just a tinge of what war is like for the occupied people of Iraq.
When Don Elkins and I were in the Philippines in 1975, investigating psychic surgeons in Manila and Barangabong, I was struck by the sweetness of the native population. Like the Iraqis, they are extremely poor. Living in Edenic conditions, they do not starve because the tropical climate produces fruit and other foods, but they are often without rice. Their values are deeply traditional, centered on the church and the family. These small-boned, gentle people touched my heart.
What was bizarre was the constant presence of military personnel in Manila. There was a soldier posted on each city block carrying a gun that seemed larger than he was. Each time we ventured forth from our hotel, the sight of these small men with great big guns was a new shock. I never did get used to it during the two weeks we spent there. I can attest to the feelings of tension and fear that such soldiers evoke.
It has been a long, grim and gruesome time to watch the news unfold since Sept. 11, 2001. We lost about 3,000 Americans in that act of terrorism. We have lost several thousand more soldiers to the fighting in Iraq. The Iraqis themselves have casualties estimated to be running at 60,000 per month. Each month, we are paying them back, an eye for an eye, 10 times what a terrorist group did to the World Trade Center.
We all have our gifts. Kokesh’s gift is provocation. There are times when the role of provocateur becomes important, and I believe this is one of those times. As Rocky Anderson, mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah, has said, this war is “illegal and immoral.” If we are shocked at men in camo holding “air” weapons and miming a patrol, then we need to be shocked.
On Nov. 18, 2001, our L/L Research public meeting chose to ask the Q’uo group about war. It is an interesting session. They said, among many other things:
“The heart of war and the heart of the reason for war in third density [meaning our present earth world] is the nature of love. All things that you experience come to you as distortions of love. There is no other substance but love from which to draw life. So all of life, including murder, pillage and rape, is act after act of love: love distorted, love blocked, love asked to go where it would not go. Nevertheless, no matter how many times the stock seems to be hybridized and ruined, the basic root stock of all experience is love.
“Third density is a very focused, very intense density, the Density of Choice. The choice is not between love and hate. The choice is between two ways of seeking love: loving others as a way of choosing to love, or loving the self as a way of choosing to love.”
Q’uo goes on to say, later in that session:
“It is not that anyone knows not how to love. There are many examples of unconditional love. There are very simple words to indicate the qualities of forgiveness, compassion and love. However, all of these words are only within the mind until an energetic attempt begins to be made to translate these ideals into that which can be manifested in physical life. So the question becomes, ‘What is each seeker’s response to the call of love?’ And this is not a simple thing.”
I open my arms and embrace your spirit. My heart aches with its burden of compassion and love for us all. We are in this together. What shall be our response to the call of love?