by Pat LaMarche
Bill Adams and his buddies from the Lancaster Coalition for Peace and Justice issued a press release last month. It said that they were taking a fifty five mile walk from Lancaster, PA to Carlisle, PA so that Bill could drop off some baggage he’d been carrying for more than half a decade.
Bill was ready to let go of a ritual and burden that he’d used to expose wrongdoing on the part of his country. And his country had been perpetrating this badness for a long time — from way back when he protested the Vietnam War — but now the U.S. thirst for resources and power had exacted a personal price: it had cost him his son.
On December 1st of 2005, Brent Adams’ convoy in Ramadi was hit by anti-tank weapons. The shell ripped through his vehicle and killed him, wounding the marine on the passenger side. Brent hadn’t planned to go “outside the wire” that day, but the man whose job it was to roll with the mission was tired and had already done so many missions that Sergeant First Class Adams put himself in his man’s place.
The guy who didn’t die that day has since had a son whose middle name is — you guessed it — Brent.
So the press release I received about this big walk spoke of Bill Adams, who for more than five years has been carrying a makeshift replica of his son’s flag-draped coffin. I interviewed Bill this week and he told me that once he recovered from his son’s death enough to function, he fashioned the prop (I’m paraphrasing here) to remind people that each person dying in Iraq was like his son: A real whole person who had been ripped from the lives of his or her friends and family. This war takes a weighty toll. So, in an effort to humanize the sanitized, he lugged the mock-up from peace rally to march and home again.
And for what?
Well, according to Bill, a war of design fashioned by George W. Bush, his henchman Paul Wolfowitz, and the rest of the ring leaders in between, must end. Still, Carlisle, Pa is an interesting place to choose to walk to from Lancaster. But not to Bill. Bill reasoned that Carlisle’s Army War College educated the elite of the world’s military in the strategy and techniques of war. Bill thought that there was a good chance that some of the folks who cooked up the invasion and occupation of Iraq — the plan that killed his son — might actually have learned a thing or two there, and hoped he could remind them that the war wasn’t working out as planned.
But this is where I had to intellectually disagree with Bill. I was with him on every other part of the march. I was with him on finding a final resting place for his makeshift coffin facsimile. I was with him on laying wreathes at the graves of children who died on War College property back when it was an earlier incarnation: the Indian School. I was with him that the Indian School was a perfect example of colonialism turned to terrorism as Native American Children were ripped from their families and their cultures to become “white.” But I wasn’t with him in his opinion that the Iraq war was a creature invented by shrewd military minds.
No, the Iraq war was a political beast with a head fashioned by the military industrial complex. It inhaled good decent people and exhaled greed. It chewed up the Brent Adamses of the conflict to justify another Halliburton or Blackwater contract. Remember Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez or Colonel Ann Wright and many others who have served their country honorably and well and resigned their commissions in condemnation of the Iraq war? The real soldiers don’t like the sloppy and wasteful.
I don’t want to imagine what Bill Adams feels when he holds that coffin, carries it to a rally, or stands by it trying to make folks understand that somewhere in the cold ground a real coffin holds the remains of his real son.
But I do know one thing.
When Bill Adams said to me, “George Bush squandered my son’s life,” he was right. And so that coffin may not have enough impact laid at the entrance of the Army War College because the point of the war in Iraq isn’t winning or using the talents of the military minds schooled within the compound. The Iraq war is a manifestation of the carnal desire for “war without end” and profit over life. Maybe the coffin needs to be placed at gas stations or congressional offices or all of the above.
Either way, Bill is right in his fight for peace. But Bill needs others to fight with him. Learn more about him and his march at: http://www.lancasterpeace.org/.
Pat LaMarche is the Vice President of Community Affairs at Safe Harbour, Inc. In 2004, she was the U.S. Vice Presidential nominee for the Green Party. During the campaign, she traveled the nation living in homeless shelters and on the streets; the book she wrote about those experiences is Left Out in America: The State of Homelessness in the United States (Upala Press, 2006). LaMarche writes a regular political column for The Bangor Daily News; contributes to the Huffington Post on poverty and homeless issues; and is a Contributing Author for New Clear Vision.