The Peace Abbey, born of a pacifist's dream 19 years ago, has brought the inner hum of meditation and the occasionally harsh spotlight of international attention to this small, affluent town.
It is a place where a conspicuous bronze statue of Gandhi and a memorial to a runaway cow have prompted double-takes from motorists and passersby. It is also a multifaith retreat that Mother Teresa has visited, as have Muhammad Ali, the poet Maya Angelou, nuns of the Dalai Lama , and thousands of people seeking spiritual refreshment.
But now, the abbey has been put on the selling block for $5.5 million. Its director, Lewis Randa, cites a plummeting drop in donations that he links to the abbey's visible protests against the Iraq war.
Randa, who was discharged from the Army National Guard as a conscientious objector in 1971, wants to sell the abbey's two buildings and 3 acres to what he calls a "guardian angel," a benefactor or foundation that would allow the abbey to continue its work. But if no such buyer is found by mid year, he said, even commercial buyers will be considered.
"My biggest fear, and I can envision it, is that the memorials will be bulldozed, and it would become a parking lot for whatever offices would go in that front building," Randa said.
In any event, Randa added, "we will be forced within the next four or five months to sell this property."
The above is from Brian MacQuarrie's "Era of war pinches a place devoted to peace" (Boston Globe). The Peace Abbey is where US war resister Camilo Mejia, who had self-checked out, held a news conference on March 15, 2004. Turning to news of other war resisters, from Reuters:
EVENTS TUESDAY, MARCH 6 BERLIN- French Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel, followed by joint news conference (1330).- BERLIN- German Chancellor Angela Merkel meets Prime Minister of Luxembourg Jean-Claude Juncker- 1800 GMT WUERZBURG, Germany- Agustin Aguayo, a U.S. Army medic and self-described conscientious objector stationed in Germany who has refused to return to Iraq, faces military trial in the southern German city of Wuerzburg.-
And that may be all the coverage Agustin Aguayo gets today despite the fact that he faces a court-martial tomorrow. We've noted Gillian Russom's interview with Helga Aguayo, wife of Agustin, three times now. It's a wonderful interview. But we'll note it again today both for that reason and because there doesn't appear to be a great deal of coverage. From Russom's "The Court Martial of Agustin Aguayo" (CounterPunch):
GILLIAN RUSSOM: IS IT true that he saw the movie Sir! No Sir! shortly before he refused to deploy?
HELGA AGUAYO: YES. ONE of the workers at the GI Rights Hotline in Germany gave my husband a copy of Sir! No Sir! He was hypnotized by it. When he was watching it, it just revved him up for what he knew he might have to face.
He had already made the decision when he was in Iraq. But seeing other soldiers come out and seeing this movie about soldiers who actually stopped the war gave him the knowledge to stand by his decision.
GILLIAN RUSSOM: WHAT DO you expect from the court-martial on March 6?
HELGA AGUAYO: I EXPECT that Agustín will be found guilty, at least of being AWOL and missing movement. If he gets the desertion charge and is found guilty, he will get more time.
He's facing seven years. Based on other soldiers' experience--like Kevin Benderman and Camilo Mejía--the most a soldier has been in jail so far was a year, with good conduct. He's in Germany, and they're stricter over there. I'm just hoping it's not more than two years.
Activists can absolutely help. Courage to Resist started this campaign "Free Agustín Aguayo" up in Seattle, and we loved it. In Germany, the German peace activists went out to the base on his birthday and demanded his freedom.
The more people who stand up and say, "We stand by him," it sends a clear message. Not only to the military, but to soldiers who want to do the same thing, and to kids who are thinking about enlisting. They need to know the realities of what war does to families and communities. And if people want to help us on a personal level, we need fundraisers.
Sir! No Sir! does make DVD copies of the brilliant documentary (of GI resistance during Vietnam) available to active duty and deployed service members. Meanwhile,
Lauren Frayer (AP) reports that the death toll for the bombing in Baghdad's book district today has already risen to 28. With more on the cracked up crackdown in Baghdad, Ryan Lenz (AP) reports this:
Separately, U.S. troops raided a mosque in Baghdad and captured three suspected insurgents hiding inside. The detainees included a man believed to be responsible for distributing weapons to build bombs for attacks on American and Iraqi forces, the military said.
U.S. rules of engagement allow troops to enter mosques only in rare cases.
"We do not enter mosques for the sole purposes of disrupting insurgent activities or conducting a show of force. Mosque entries occur only as a last resort," said Lt. Col. Christopher Garver, a military spokesman.
U.S. soldiers "respect the sanctity and holiness of all places of worship," he said.
There was a time when that would shock or appall (or both) but that reaction is probably one more death in Bully Boy's illegal, ongoing war at this point. Which is something to remember, what's going on in Iraq does directly impact life in the United States, whether people want it to or not, whether they close their eyes and cover their ears, it still has an impact. From the front page of today's New York Times, Kirk Semple's "Basra Raid Finds Dozens Detained by Iraq Spy Unit:"
Iraqi special forces and British troops stormed the offices of an Iraqi government intelligence agency in the southern city of Basra on Sunday, and British officials said they discovered about 30 prisoners, some showing signs of torture.
The raid appeared to catch Iraq's central government by surprise and raised new questions about the rule of law in the Shiite-dominated south, where less than two weeks ago Britain announced plans for a significant reduction in its forces because of improved stability.
News of the Basra raid, with its resonant themes of torture and sectarian-driven conflict, coincided with the next stage of the intensified security plan here in Baghdad, where more than 1,100 American and Iraqi soldiers moved into Sadr City, a stronghold of Iraq's largest Shiite militia. The soldiers met no resistance in what the Americans called the plan’s biggest test yet.
As we noted yesterday: "Aref Mohammed (Reuters) reports that al-Maliki is calling for an investigation into the raid, not into the charges that prisoners were being abused, just into the raid." We'll close with Eddie's highlight. After last week's attack in Afghanistan that reportedly targeted Dick Cheney, Missy Comley Beattie reconfigues the incident along the lines of a Harrison Ford film. From her "Regarding Cheney" (CounterPunch):
Dick Cheney wasn't hurt when targeted by a Taliban suicide bomber last Tuesday while inside Afghanistan's Bagram Air Base, although more than 20 people were killed, including two Americans. When the Vice President travels anywhere, he moves in the security of vehicles impregnable to any device an "evildoer" could detonate, plus he is suited up with high-tech armor that is unavailable to our troops. Recall, too, that Cheney is accompanied by a mobile hospital in case his ticker requires an electric shock from a defibrillator. So, it's very unlikely that Cheney could even die of natural causes when he's always protected, attended, and has so much medical equipment at the ready.
But just suppose an aggressor could penetrate all that fortification and Dick Cheney happened to sustain a bullet wound to the head-the same kind of injury, causing multiple deficits, suffered by the Harrison Ford character in the movie, "Regarding Henry."
For those of you who haven't seen this film or just don't remember it, here's a plot summary: Henry Turner, portrayed by Ford, is a ruthless, controlling, ego-inflated, power-mad corporate lawyer who will spin any deception to win his case. (Remind you of anyone, two, three, four, or more?)
Henry is married to Sarah who is played by Annette Bening. The couple and their daughter live in an opulent New York City apartment. Entering a convenience store to buy a pack of cigarettes, Henry interrupts a robber and is shot in the head. Upon awakening from a coma, he's an amnesiac who can neither speak nor walk. His therapist finally forces Henry to ask for something else to eat by soaking Henry's eggs with Tabasco. Gradually, Henry relearns, his speech improves, and he begins to explore who and what he was before the injury. He sure doesn't like what he discovers about himself-that he was one despicable person.
Sarah, we come to find, was not without her own ugly side but when Henry is recovering, she gathers her goodness and becomes her husband's helpmeet. Friends who no longer understand the new warm and empathetic Henry can't get away quickly enough. Henry makes amends to those he once treated like a smidge of dung on the sole of his slides (probably, A. Testoni) which he no longer values because the brain blow has changed him. He is redeemed as a human being. His marriage is happy-he is happy-so much so that he buys his daughter the puppy she always wanted.
I guess you see where I'm going with this:
Dick Cheney, traveling to inflict his imperialistic will in the Middle East, takes one in the head. He awakens to a universe he doesn't remember.
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