Dear Captain Lund,
We thank you for your Oct. 2 letter to Code Pink published in the Daily Planet. Your letter and our weekly protests at your Marine Corps Recruitment Center are emblematic of the difficult times we live in. Declaring our intentions over matters of public concern invokes the democratic spirit of debate. Perhaps together, Capt. Lund, we can represent to Berkeley and to the world that is watching, what it means to engage in America’s democratic process meaningfully, vigorously and, most importantly, peacefully.
Capt. Lund, we would like to honor the concerns that you set forth in your letter. These are: 1) you were insulted; 2) you felt that our statements about military recruitment were unfair; and 3) you believe that our efforts at ending this war by targeting your Marine Corps Recruitment Office were misdirected. We are happy to respond to all of your concerns.
For the past five years, Code Pink chapters across the nation have been at the forefront of the peace movement. From meeting with our local politicians, to attending hearings in Congress, to picketing war profiteers, Code Pink has consistently demonstrated that we understand that war mongering is not an isolated activity, played out by a few warm bodies. You, Capt. Lund, are one of the most powerful components of the war machine. Without recruiters, the war has no players. Please be clear, Capt. Lund, that this is not an attack on you as a person. Instead, this is a multi-pronged, well-orchestrated, nation-wide attack on the War Machine and everything that feeds it, by the women of Code Pink.
We have had the honor of protesting the war in Iraq with thousands of Iraq war veterans. What they have shared with us is that they were not told the truth by the recruiters, they did not understand the full and deadly consequences of signing on the dotted line, and that they did not get what they were promised in terms of medical care and benefits upon discharge. It is important to note that the American public was intentionally lied to by our own government in order to get into this war. We will not continue to be deceived, but will work until those political leaders tell the American people the truth. The truth is that soldiers who are returning from Iraq are committing suicide at an alarming rate and becoming deathly ill with cancers. We are women for peace, and our obligation is to the people, not to the military chain of command.
Capt. Lund, you object to our use of the word “traitor” in connection to the word “recruiters.” The definition of “traitor” is one “who betrays another’s trust or is false to an obligation or duty.” The connection between the two terms goes to the very heart of what we are protesting: misinforming individuals and/or encouraging recruitment of uninformed individuals. This allegation is supported by the stories of returning veterans, and lying has been extensively documented to be a regrettably common practice among recruiters. We are here to question such recruitment tactics.
You concede to telling potential recruits that becoming a Marine is “not an easy path.” Without specifics, this is a dangerous euphemism. Do you tell them this war is recognized as illegal by international law, the UN, and our own U.S. Constitution? Do you tell the kids that come into your office that eighty percent of Americans, including Republican and Democratic members of Congress, and even high ranking members of the military have denounced this war as unjust and something we need to extricate ourselves from immediately? Do you tell them that if they do survive their tour of duty, they will very likely return with undiagnosed illnesses due to contamination from depleted uranium? Do you tell them that they may be injured with irreparable brain injury and loss of limbs or even genitals? Do you tell them they are likely to return broken by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and will be statistically more likely to beat and/or kill their wives than men in the civilian population? Do you tell them that 100,000 plus military personnel have reported that they lack adequate medical coverage? Do you tell the young women that the Department of Defense reports sixty percent of women in the military and National Guard are sexually assaulted or harassed by their peers or superiors? We understand that you couldn’t possibly tell them that because—who would go? Would you have gone?
Finally, you state that “any independent nation must maintain a military to ensure the safety and security of its citizens.” You go on to ask Code Pink the following questions: “Who will defend us if we are directly attacked again as we were at Pearl Harbor? Who would respond if a future terrorist attack targets the Golden Gate Bridge, the BART systems, or the UC Berkeley clock tower?” We too wonder who will protect us from attacks on U.S. soil, or in times of natural disaster since you state that everyone you recruit “will almost certainly go to Iraq.” We wonder if the wildfires now raging in southern California could have been contained if 8,182 California National Guard and their equipment were not in Iraq. When Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, there was no one to protect Americans here at home. Our military is not here.
You contend that by protesting in front your Marine Officer Recruiting Center, Code Pink is misdirected. You ask us to direct our efforts towards politicians, the president, and Congress, saying: “They are the ones who have the power to change the policy in Iraq, not members of the military.” We must disagree with you on this matter, Capt. Lund, because you forgot one very important group that has incredible power: the people. The politicians, President, and Congress work for us—no matter what their actions show. The first step in taking back this country is ending the war. Berkeley voters passed several political initiatives since Sept. 11, 2001 to publicly state, from the outset, that we oppose this war. Your Recruitment Office flies in the face of these resolutions. We are here to ensure that the people’s mandate against the war is meaningful.
We understand that you have taken an oath to follow orders sent down to you through the chain of command. We understand this requires that you set aside your personal beliefs. We, however, did not sign on the dotted line and we will not “do as we’re told.” To shut up and go elsewhere with our protest would effectively make us traitors to our cause. We will never sacrifice our steadfast commitment to peace. We will not forsake the courage it takes to restrain ourselves as we bear witness to a continuous parade of flag-shrouded coffins. We reject the violence and intimidation that is hurled in the direction of the peace movement. While we do not have the might of guns, generals, and sinister legislation, we have the truth. Eventually and inevitably, truth will win out.
Zanne Joi on behalf of Code Pink
P.S. We want to set the record straight by pointing out that the anti-war statements left outside of your office were made with sidewalk chalk and duct tape, none of which is permanent. We are very respectful of the environment, and did not deface your Center.