Peace Rally to Greet Prez at West Point

By Michael Kaufman

When President Obama visits West Point Saturday to address the graduating Cadets and their proud families, he will also be greeted by a large crowd of anti-war protesters disappointed with both his failure to bring our troops home from Iraq and escalation of the ongoing war in Afghanistan. The Orange County Democratic Alliance, led by Goshen attorney Michael Sussman, is co-sponsor of the pro-peace rally, which is expected to draw citizens–including veterans and members of military families–from neighboring counties and states. “Our voices must be louder if peace is to prevail,” said Sussman. “We will march and engage in peaceful protest against continued occupation of foreign lands while our priorities at home
remain largely unattended.” The rally will begin at 10 a.m. at Veterans Memorial Park in High Falls.

Some are sure to regard the demonstration as an annoying intrusion on a day set aside for celebrating the achievements of the graduates. But Sussman and his fellow peace acitivists, many of whom voted for Obama in the last presidential election, see the event as an opportunity to let the president know that he will be held accountable for the continuation of the failed policies of the Bush administration.

There was never a legitimate justification to invade Iraq and cause widespread devastation and death (unless you think oil is a good enough reason). Iraq had no connection to the September 11 attacks, no weapons of mass destruction aimed our way, no Al Quaeda terrorists. But Al Quaeda has adherents there now, surely in part because of actions carried out in our name like those seen in this link:

Remember when we were told how great it was going to be for women in Afghanistan after we helped the people there get rid of the Taliban? Thanks to us, women would be allowed to attend schools and pursue professions as equal members of society, free of the restraints imposed on them by the tenets of Muslim fundamentalism. Ironically, there was a brief period in recent history when this actually took occurred. But it was when Afghanistan had a pro-Soviet government so our leaders decided to help the Taliban attain power and rid Afghanistan of Russian influence. Why was Afghanistan important to us then and why is it important now, even when we know that Osama bin Laden isn’t hiding there anymore? Did I hear someone say “Oil?” Go to the head of the class. Funny, we never invaded Saudi Arabia to help the women gain equality there.

I wish President Obama would come to West Point and tell the graduates what President Eisenhower said in his farewell address to the American people on January 17, 1961. Noting the development of a “permanent armaments industry of vast proportions” in the years following World War II, Eisenwhower, a West Point graduate and honored general, warned of its implications. “This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience…we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence…by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

And I wish President Obama would tell them about Major General Smedley Butler of the U.S. Marine Corps, who was at the time of his death in 1940 the most decorated Marine in U.S. history. During his 34 years as a Marine, Butler took part in military actions in the Philippines, China, Central America and the Caribbean, and served in France during World War I. His book, War Is a Racket, described the workings of the military-industrial complex of his day:

“I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high-class thug for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.”

And then I wish President Obama would quote Winston Churchill: “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” But he won’t….and that is why the Orange County Democratic Alliance members and others will be rallying for peace Saturday near the gates at West Point.

Michael can be reached at


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