Thursday, March 02, 2006

Cindy Sheehan's visit to Landstuhl

Elsa Rassbach
Member of American Voices Abroad in Germany writes regarding Cindy Sheehan's article of February 26 about "Camp Casey in Germany."

As a member of American Voices Abroad - AVA (www.avaworld.org), I am one of the organizers of Cindy's visit to France and Germany from March 9th to 15th. I am writing from Berlin, where I live, one of many thousands of American citizens living abroad and working for peace and justice.

AVA has initiated the hearing at the European Parliament in Strasbourg (France) on March 14th, at which Cindy, among other witnesses, will testify about the Iraq war. AVA was also involved in drafting the resolution which will be considered by the European Parliament.

AVA has also set up Cindy's visits to the French Parliament on March 13th and to the German Parliament on March 15th. In both cases, she will have the opportunity to speak to Members of Parliament from several different political parties. All of these events are supported broadly by the German and French peace movements and by many U.S. expats living in Europe.

However, the "heart" of Cindy's visit to Europe in March has been planned at Ramstein, in Germany, which is the logistical hub of the U.S. war on Iraq and of other wars threatening the Middle East. This is where Camp Casey in Germany will be. It is at Ramstein that nuclear weapons are held. It is from Ramstein that the planes carrying fresh soldiers, weapons, and supplies fly out daily to Iraq.

The German people never supported the war in Iraq. The German government publicly deemed the war on Iraq illegal, yet nevertheless allowed use of the U.S. military bases here to conduct it. Without this German government support, the U.S. would have had and still would have great difficulty in conducting these attacks on the people of the Middle East.

The hypocrisy of the stance of the German government towards the war on Iraq is now being widely discussed in the press here. The secret complicity of the German government with CIA rendition flights is becoming ever more clear. German intelligence also directly assisted the U.S. in the war on Iraq. But the main way in which Germany has helped the U.S. has been through allowing the use of the U.S. bases still on "German soil" more than sixty years after the liberation of Germany from the Nazis.

There are strong currents of opinion here against supporting the U.S. in any more illegal wars. For example, this past summer, a high German court acquitted a German career officer, Major Florian Pfaff, who in the spring of 2003 refused military orders to provide software to the German Military. Major Pfaff refused the German Military's orders on the grounds that the software would ultimately be used by the U.S. for the illegal war on Iraq.

The German court held that Major Pfaff's concerns were well founded and held that neither Germany nor Major Pfaff were not bound by NATO agreements in the case of an illegal war such as the war on Iraq. Together with Cindy, Major Pfaff will be a witness at the European Parliament hearing on March 14th and will be travelling with her throughout her visits to Germany and to France.

Major Pfaff will be with us in Ramstein and also in Landstuhl, and we hope Cindy will be with us, too, once she has a clearer understanding of what the plans are.

It is of course easy to say that people demonstrating at Ramstein Air Base are coming too close to Landstuhl, because it is only two miles from Ramstein. Landstuhl is the site of the large hospital complex where almost all U.S. soldiers wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are first brought before being transferred to the veterans hospitals in the U.S.

In the frenzy of the right wing blogger attacks on Cindy for coming anywhere near European governments, somehow the idea has been promoted that some irresponsible and insensitive people are planning to demonstrate at the hospital in Landstuhl, Germany, or to set up a "camp" there. It has even been written in these blogs that Cindy wants the soldiers to die, etc. What nonsense!

The peace activities planned for Landstuhl will be solely inside a German Protestant church there. The pastor of the church is the leader of the local German peace group in the region, the Friedensinitiative Westpfalz ("Peace Initiative West Pfalz"), which is hosting the events in Landstuhl and in Ramstein with Cindy on March 11th and 12th.

On Saturday, March 11th, there will be a discussion with Cindy and other European Parliament witnesses inside the church, and then we will walk together from the church two miles to the parking lot not far from the entrance of Ramstein Air Base. There we will hold a vigil led by spiritual leaders from many different faiths, as was often done in Crawford, Texas.

There is nothing shocking or unusual about this plan. Indeed, on the first Saturday of each month, the same Friedensinitiative Westpfalz traditionally holds this same march from Landstuhl to Ramstein air base and holds a vigil there, led by the pastor. Only because of Cindy's visit, the Landstuhl/ Ramstein march has this time been scheduled for the second Saturday of the month. What is shocking to the U.S. Military, perhaps, is that Cindy will now bring some media attention to concerns that the German community has long been voicing.

Yes, there will be a sort of "Camp Casey," but it will be at Ramstein, where the "military machine" is, and not at Landstuhl. The German peace group has received special permission from the local German authorities to set up crosses and half moons (representing the Iraqi dead) along the road leading towards Ramstein Air Base. There is also permission to set up three tents to symbolize Camp Casey. These items will be allowed to stay up over Saturday night near Ramstein. After church on Sunday, we will ceremoniously gather the up the crosses and half-moons, which may be reused again for further peace demonstrations at Ramstein. We do hope, with Cindy's help, to establish a new tradition, Camp Casey Germany, and come back to Ramstein again and again until Germany finally just says "no" to the U.S.

Cindy is being criticized for coming anywhere near Landstuhl, even though her own son Casey's remains were brought there from Iraq -- because Landstuhl is also the morgue. And just as the Bush administration forbade photographing coffins, this regime would surely prefer that there be no publicity whatsoever about Landstuhl, where so many tragically wounded soldiers are being brought every day, as well as those who have died.

We feel the objections to Cindy coming to Landstuhl and to Ramstein have solely to do with her effectiveness. Her presence here will bring European and American public attention to the imortance this key logistical hub for the U.S. war on Iraq, as well as for any "pre-emptive" attack on Iran.

In peace,
Elsa Rassbach
Member of American Voices Abroad in Germany

HELP click on the time stamp - here 5:11 - to get a valid URL for this post.

Gisela Strauss

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