"Under The Hood": An Anti-War GI Coffeehouse in Texas

Begonnen von Kater, 10:36:57 Do. 24.Juli 2008

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Kater

ZitatUnder The Hood: An Anti-War GI Coffeehouse in Texas

The Rag Blog - July 22, 2008

The Under the Hood cafe offers an oasis for
members of the military to gather and talk of
issues of importance.

I welcome the opportunity to meet fellow
military in an atmosphere of peace and justice.

Ann Wright, U.S. Army colonel (retired);
Official of the U.S. State Department (retired)

Coming to Killeen: A GI coffeehouse in the grand
tradition

By Tom Cleaver / The Rag Blog / July 22, 2008

I'd like to let you all know that "Under The Hood," a
GI antiwar coffeehouse in Killeen TX, outside Fort
Hood, will be opening soon. Under the Hood has been
founded in the tradition of The Oleo Strut, the GI
coffeehouse that was in Killeen from 1968-72, and is
the focus of work by the Fort Hood IVAW chapter and
their friends and supporters in Austin.

As one of the original staff of The Oleo Strut, I was
quite happy this Spring to be able to bring 40 years of
additional experience to bear on helping the GIs to
organize the project, getting them an Austin law firm
to do the work they needed to set up the Fort Hood
Support Network pro bono, and to work with Jane Fonda
to come up with the initial funding to get the site,
equip it and operate it for the first several months.
We're looking forward to opening on Labor Day Weekend.

We have a website that I invite you to visit. We have a
PayPal account, or you can send a check to the Fort
Hood Support Network. We are in the process of becoming
a 501(c)(3) organization, so your contribution will be
completely tax deductible.

For those of you who don't know about the GI antiwar
movement and the coffeehouses back in the day, yours
truly has written a history of the Oleo Strut. [See
below.]

If you really want to "support the troops," this is the
best way to do it. GIs stopped the war in Vietnam and
they can stop the war in Iraq. Right now, Fort Hood is
a collection of some 30,000 GIs assigned to the 1st
Cavalry and the 4th Infantry Division. The average
soldier there is 20 years old, has had two tours of
combat, and is "stop-lossed." The only way out of
today's "Action Army" is a wheelchair or a coffin. The
guys need your support and we need it on a continuing
basis. The GI Antiwar Movement isn't going to stop at
12:01 p.m. on January 20, 2009 - we will be holding
President Obama to his promises.

The troops support Senator Obama, so Progressives for
Obama should support the troops.

Thank you in advance for your help.

==========

[Under The Hood is being launched in the spirit of its
predecessor coffeehouse, The Oleo Strut. Below is a
vivid history of The Oleo Strut, written by someone who
was there.]

The Oleo Strut Coffeehouse And The G.I. Antiwar
Movement

By Thomas McKelvey Cleaver

Writing in the June, 1971, Armed Forces Journal,
Colonel Robert D. Heinl, Jr. stated: "By every
conceivable indicator, our army that now remains in
Vietnam is in a state of approaching collapse, with
individual units avoiding or having refused combat,
murdering their officers and noncommissioned officers,
drug-ridden and dispirited where not near-mutinous...
Word of the death of officers will bring cheers at
troop movies or in bivouacs of certain units. In one
such division, the morale-plagued Americal, fraggings
during 1971 have been running about one a week....

As early as mid-1969 an entire company of the 196th
Light Infantry Brigade publicly sat down on the
battlefield. Later that year, another rifle company,
from the famed 1st Air Cavalry Division, flatly refused
-- on CBS TV -- to advance down a dangerous trail...
Combat refusal has been precipitated again on the
frontier of Laos by Troop B, 1st Cavalry's mass refusal
to recapture their captain's command vehicle containing
communication gear, codes and other secret operation
orders... "

Shortly after this article appeared, President Nixon
announced the new policy of "Vietnamization" and direct
American combat operations came to an end within a
year. In 1971, desertion rates were soaring, re-
enlistment rates plummeting, and the United States Army
was not considered reliable enough to enter major
combat. Today, the G.I. Antiwar movement that
accomplished this is little-known, but it was the
threat of soldiers not being willing to fight and die
that stopped that war. Soldiers refusing to fight is
the most upsetting image to all of those who claim to
rule, since the monopoly of armed force is their
ultimate weapon to retain their power. Much of what
they have promoted in the 37 years since Heinl wrote
that article -- the all-volunteer Army, the Rambo
version of Vietnam, the resurgence of patriotism that
crested with the invasion of Iraq in 2003 --has been in
direct response to the specter of GIs deciding a war
wasn't worth it. The war against the war within the
American military began almost as soon as America
became directly involved in Vietnam, which can be dated
to the so-called "Tonkin Gulf Incident," the excuse for
direct American combat.

By 1966, veterans like my old friend, former Army
intelligence specialist the late Jeff Sharlet - who
would later found "Vietnam GI," the major GI antiwar
newspaper - had returned from their tour of duty and
were trying to tell those back in America who they met
at college what the real truth was about the war they
had served in. Many in the campus antiwar movement did
not respond to we veterans, with some purists telling
us we were part of the crime for our participation.
Somehow we were neither fish nor fowl to many.

The result was that veterans began searching each other
out. Eventually, in early 1967, Vietnam Veterans
Against the War was founded in New York City and took
part as an organization in the spring mobilization
against the war. No one was more surprised than the
veterans at the positive response they got from
bystanders as they marched together as opponents of the
war they had fought. By 1967, Fred Gardner, a former
editor of the Harvard Crimson who had served as an
officer in Southeast Asia, had returned to civilian
life.By September, Fred had raised enough money to
start the organization he had been thinking about for
two years: an group that would bring the antiwar
movement to the GIs still in the Army who opposed the
war.

In September 1967, Gardner and a group of friends
arrived in Columbia, South Carolina, home of Fort
Jackson. Jokingly known as the "UFO," a play on the
military support organization USO, the coffeehouse
quickly became the only integrated place in the city
(this was the old South of the 1960s). The regulars
soon consisted not just of black and white GIs, but
also students from the local university. A few months
later, Gardner returned to San Francisco where he
established Summer Of Support (later called "Support
Our Soldiers") which was to coordinate the spread of
similar coffeehouses to other Army bases. The first two
were to be outside Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, and
outside Fort Polk in Louisiana. The Missouri
coffeehouse managed to open, while the organizers sent
to Louisiana were run out of town before they could
even obtain a site for a coffeehouse. Fort Hood was
chosen to replace the Fort Polk operation. At the time,
no one knew what a momentous decision this would be.

In August, 1967, riots broke out in Detroit, and the
101st Airborne Division was sent to stop it. This was
the first time active Army troops had been used to
quell a civil disturbance in the United States since
the Civil War. In April 1968, Dr. Martin Luther King
was assassinated, and riots spread across the country.
In response, the Army was called on to establish an
organization for suppression of riots that were feared
that summer as the time got closer and closer to the
Democratic National Convention, to be held in Chicago
that August.

Fort Hood in 1968 was the main base where Vietnam
veterans who had six months or less left on their
enlistments were sent upon completion of their tour of
duty in the war. Somehow, the Army thought that these
combat veterans would be perfect for use in suppressing
the war at home. The Army brass weren't the only ones
who didn't know the mood of the troops. Neither did we.
These were men who had experienced the Tet Offensive,
men who had known the truth before Tet - that America
was not winning the Vietnam War. They were turned off
from their experience and unwilling to participate in a
new war, a war against their fellow citizens. Killeen
at the time was a typical "old South" garrison town.
The town lived off the soldiers, but hated them at the
same time.

Soldiers at Fort Hood were seen by the businessmen in
town as being there strictly for the picking. Avenue D
was a collection of loan sharks (borrow $30 and pay
back $42 - the payday loan industry's been around a
long time), pin ball palaces, sharp clothing stores -
one had $100 alligator shoes, a brilliant green Nehru
jacket in the window with 12 feet of racks stacked with
cossack shirts in satin colors - insurance brokers, and
overpriced jewelry stores. If a soldier walked into one
of these establishments and didn't pull out his
billfold within ten minutes, he'd be asked to leave.
Local toughs - known by the derogatory Texan term "goat
ropers" - carried on their own war against the GIs, who
they would try and catch alone at night and with
assault and robbery on their minds. The local police
generally sided with the "good old boys" against the
"outsider" GIs.

The town was as segregated as any in the South; there
was an active Klavern of the KKK to enforce
segregation. Killeen had grown from a population of 500
in 1940 (when Fort Hood was established to train
Patton's coming armored corps) to around 35,000 by
1968. It was not a place that was going to welcome
"outside agitators" from California and Massachusetts,
as we were. I remember an organizer for the Student
Non-Violent Coordinating Committee who visited that
September and told me he considered Killeen more
dangerous than Sunflower County, Mississippi.

The Oleo Strut opened on July 4, 1968, with a public
picnic in the local park. GIs had been checking the
place out over the previous month as the staff worked
to set it up, and there was a large enough crowd that a
reporter from the New York Times thought the event
important enough to write a story about, that received
national play. The coffeehouse was given the name "The
Oleo Strut." An oleo strut is a shock absorber, and we
saw this as a metaphor for what we hoped the place
would be for the soldiers we hoped to work with. We had
no idea what a shock we were about to absorb.

Within a week of opening, soldiers were coming in at
night to tell us of riot control training they were
taking part in during the day. They'd been told they
were going to Chicago to "fight the hippies and the
commies" who were going to show up for the Democratic
Convention the next month. They were terribly upset at
the thought of having to possibly open fire on
Americans who they agreed with about the war and the
need for change here in America. Soldiers were talking
about deserting, about running away to Mexico, about
"doing something." Our response was a little yellow
sticker, two inches by two inches. On it was a white
hand flashing the "peace sign," backed by a black fist.
We printed up 1,000 of them and passed them out. GIs
said they would put these on their helmets if they were
called into the streets, to identify themselves to the
protestors. At this point, the Army got very upset with
us.

The Monday of the convention, 5,000 troops were ordered
to board the transports. They were headed for the Great
Lakes Naval Training Center in Chicago, as backup for
the Chicago Police Department. As the soldiers were
preparing to board the airplanes, the bravest act of
antiwar protest I ever knew of happened. 43 Black
soldiers, all combat veterans, refused to board the
airplanes. Due to the self-separation of the races on
the base, we had no idea this was going to happen. The
Black troops had organized themselves. They knew what
they were going to get for this. The minimum
qualification to be one of those who would refuse was
the Bronze Star and the Purple Heart, so the Army
wouldn't be able to call them cowards.

As this was happening on the base, we were on the way
from our house to the Oleo Strut, when we were stopped
by the Killeen Police. A search of the car found drugs
- we knew immediately we were set up, since we were
completely drug-free. We also knew immediately what a
terrible threat this was, since at that time the
possession of a joint could get one a sentence of 20
years in Huntsville Prison, as had recently happened to
an SNCC organizer in Houston who'd had marijuana
planted on him by an undercover officer. We were
scared. In the end, only Josh Gould was held, since he
had been identified as our "leader." He would stay in
the Bell County Jail for six weeks until the Bell
County Grand Jury would vote a "no bill" on the
indictment, thanks to the tireless efforts of local
attorney Davis Bragg.

The world knows what happened in Chicago. A government
cannot put soldiers on the street without the prior
knowledge that if they are ordered to crack heads, they
all will. No one knew how many of the GIs would carry
out their threat of resistance if put in the streets,
so all were held back. Deprived of their military
backup, the Chicago Police Department staged their
historic "police riot." The GI antiwar movement had
inflicted its first major blow against the government.

In the months following, the antiwar movement took hold
at the Oleo Strut. Soldiers started publication of "The
Fatigue Press," an underground newspaper we ran off
down in Austin on a mimeograph the local SDS chapter
found for us on the UT campus. In November, 1968, GIs
from Fort Hood staged an antiwar teach-in at UT,
despite the best efforts of the Army to close the base
and prevent their participation. We also endured the
daily reports of the court-martials of the 43 Black
GIs, each of whom received several years in Leavenworth
and a Dishonorable Discharge for their courageous act.

Perhaps most importantly, a GI named Dave Cline walked
through the front door that September. Wounded in
action with the 25th Infantry Division the year before,
Dave was only now out of an extended tour of Army
hospitals to deal with his wounds. He was completely
dedicated to the cause of opposition to the war, and
became the center of the GIs who were involved in anti-
war activities on-base. He became the editor of Fatigue
Press.

In later years, the rest of the country and the world
would come to know Dave Cline, who spent all his life
until his death on September 15, 2006, from the wounds
he received in Vietnam, fighting for peace and justice
as the President of Veterans for Peace. He fought the
Veterans Administration for proper care and benefits
for all Vietnam vets, fought for both American and
Vietnamese victims of Agent Orange; he fought against
America's intervention against the Central American
revolutions in the 80s; he stood up against the attack
on Panama, the Gulf War, and intervention in Somalia in
the early 90s; he opposed the bombing of Serbia and
Kosovo in 1999 and traveled to Vieques to show
solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico in their
fight to stop the U.S. military using it as a practice
range; he organized against the invasions of
Afghanistan and Iraq, and as his last act organized a
Veterans for Peace caravan to bring relief to New
Orleans after it was devastated by Hurricane Katrina
and neglect by every level of government. A GI Dave
knew in the 25th Infantry Division was so impressed by
him that in 1986, that GI - Oliver Stone - memorialized
him as the main character of "Platoon." Things weren't
all heavy politicking.

Then as now, Austin had an active music scene and I was
able to find bands willing to make the trek up I-35 to
entertain the GIs. The most popular of these bands that
fall of 1968 was a new blues band fronted by a great
young singer who was only 16. Given they couldn't play
in the Austin bars due to his age, they were happy to
come up and play for the peanuts I could offer. The
place would be packed whenever they appeared. 18 years
later, in 1986, when I was at the United States Film
Festival in Dallas, Stevie Ray Vaughn recognized me and
thanked me for being the first guy to ever give him a
break. Over the years between 1968 and 1972, when the
Oleo Strut finally closed, many name musicians came and
entertained the troops. Among them were Pete Seeger,
who played to a packed house in 1971, followed by
Country Joe McDonald and Phil Ochs. By 1970, there were
some 20 coffeehouses - not all part of Support Our
Soldiers - to be found in the vicinity of Army, Air
Force, Marine and Navy bases across the country. Their
most important role was giving soldiers who had come to
understand how wrong the Vietnam war was the knowledge
they were not alone.

Eventually, this dissent within the military spread to
the front lines in Vietnam, as reported by Colonel
Heinl. Of the three original SOS coffee houses, the UFO
was closed in 1970 by a court order declaring it a
"public nuisance." The coffeehouse outside Fort Leonard
Wood succumbed to harassment and threats in 1969. The
Oleo Strut stayed open till the war ended in 1972.
Today, the site of the coffeehouse on the corner of 4th
and Avenue D (101 Avenue D) is an office complex. One
can still, however, find the red paint in the cracks of
the sidewalk that was thrown on the door and windows
weekly, back 40 years ago.

Kater

ZitatCoffeehouse by Fort Lewis would support veterans
'We're trying to reach out to soldiers'
By CAROL SMITH
P-I REPORTER

A group of local veterans hopes to launch a coffeehouse near Fort Lewis where soldiers – both active-duty and out of the military – could brew both good java and good company.

The coffeehouse would be a safe place, off base, where GIs and their families could go for support, information about their rights and a chance to express what's going on in their lives, said Mateo Rebecchi, 24, a student at Seattle Central Community College and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War, one of the coffeehouse backers.

"We're trying to reach out to soldiers who feel they have nowhere to go," he said.
The coffeehouse would be the third such effort around the country, said Molly Gibbs, a community organizer who has worked with Veterans for Peace and other Seattle advocacy groups.

Rising concerns about the effect of longer deployments, the increase in post-deployment suicide rates, sexual assaults in the military, PTSD and employment have created a need for a place where people can go to share experiences and find resources to cope, she said.
These kinds of coffeehouses have a time-honored tradition in the post-Vietnam era, said Gibbs, whose first job in the mental health field was with Vietnam vets, every one of whom came back "indelibly shaped" by that experience. Something one of them told her has stayed with her and kept her motivated to help veterans connect.

"I had a friend who was a medic in Vietnam," she said. "He told me, 'I left who I was over there – I never came back.' "
The coffeehouse, which has yet to be named, is still in the fundraising stages, said Rebecchi, who estimated $30,000 is needed to launch and operate the first year. The group is hoping to nab space in an abandoned coin-operated laundry near the base. The cafe also would serve up music, movies, poetry slams, lectures and access to legal help.

Rebecchi said one of the main goals of the coffeehouse is to inform soldiers and veterans of their rights and to encourage them to speak their minds, even if they don't agree with official military policy.
One of the best things the community can do for soldiers, and soldiers can do for each other, is to listen to each other's stories, Gibbs said. Time and again, she's heard from veterans and active-duty military that what they needed most when they got back from a deployment was a chance to share what happened to them and have it be heard in a nonjudgmental way.
Rebecchi hopes the climate of the coffeehouse will encourage more military members – both active duty and not – to consider ways to end the war in Iraq.

Rebecchi served a four-year tour in the Persian Gulf with the Coast Guard before being honorably discharged. He said he began questioning the war effort while he was deployed.
"Ultimately, what's going to stop it is the GIs standing up and saying, 'We're not going to fight anymore,' " he said.

The coffeehouse effort, which also has been endorsed by Seattle Veterans for Peace, Citizen Soldier, Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War, Fellowship of Reconciliation and Physicians for Social Responsibility, is holding a fundraiser at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle on Aug. 25 from 7 to 9 p.m., featuring Tod Ensign, director of Citizen Soldier and co-founder of the Different Drummer Internet Cafe near Fort Drum in upstate New York.

For more information, contact Gibbs at mollygibbs3@ gmail.com

Kater

ZitatNetwork of GI Support Grows: Two New Coffeehouses for Soldiers to Open

More info: Tod Ensign, Ft Drum, N Y (212) 679-2250
Seth Manzel, Ft Lewis, WA  (253) 228-8912
Alice Embree, Ft Hood, TX  (512) 740-4819

Coffeehouse/Counselling centers for Soldiers will open near Ft Lewis, WA and Ft Hood, TX in the next two weeks.

The "Coffee Strong" cafe next to Ft Lewis  (www.GIVoice.com) will provide educational programs, entertainment and GI rights counselling as well as links to psychological and legal support for Ft Lewis personnel and their families.  Coffee Strong also makes a mean cup of coffee!

The "Under the Hood" project, adjacent to Ft Hood TX (www.underthehood.org)  will also offer social programs, counselling and legal referral to servicemembers from Ft Hood--the Army's largest base.

These new projects join "The Different Drummer" internet cafe, a GI counselling project near Ft Drum in upstate New York.  In its third year of operation, the "Drummer" salutes the new arrivals and will actively share information and project ideas with them (www.differentdrummercafe.org)

All three projects plan to aid activists who're seeking to  launch similar operations at other military bases during 2009.


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