[Marxism] A Cafe Opens to Serve a Mission to End the War

Dbachmozart at aol.com Dbachmozart at aol.com
Sun Nov 19 07:11:14 MST 2006

A Cafe Opens to Serve a Mission to End the War  
Published: November 19, 2006, NY Times

It was sparsely furnished, with three Internet stations, a black sofa and an  
offering of hot or cold cider. A customer who actually wanted coffee would 
have  to buy it a few doors away.  
Mr. Hartlaub stayed most of the afternoon anyway. He browsed a few dozen  
military books for sale, then pulled up a folding chair to watch “Poison Dust,”  
a documentary about the health effects of depleted uranium weapons on 
soldiers  returning from _Iraq_ 
(http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/international/countriesandterritories/iraq/index.html?inline=nyt-geo) . 
He left with mostly positive feelings. “It could end up being very  
informative and helpful,” said Mr. Hartlaub, 41, who has served in the military  on and 
off since 1985.  
The organizers of the cafe were hoping for such a reaction. But, being not  
far from the largest military installation in the Northeast, they are prepared  
for backlash, too.  
They say theirs is the country’s first G.I. coffeehouse for the war in Iraq.  
It is a project of the peace movement that is focused on changing opinions  
within the military, with an ultimate goal of ending the war. 
During the Vietnam War, about 20 G.I. coffeehouses, as they were known,  
operated around the country. Each was close to a large military base and was  
intended to support the efforts of soldiers who were against the war. The  
coffeehouses were incubators for war resistance and part of the counterculture.  
Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix were on the jukebox. A decent cup of coffee was on  
the menu.  
“It was extremely important,” said David Zeiger, the writer and director of  
“Sir! No Sir!” a 2005 documentary about the G.I. movement to end the Vietnam 
 War. “One thing coffeehouses will do is link civilians and soldiers.”  
The idea is that the two can meet, learn about movements against the war and  
talk about the contradictions of what the public hears versus what soldiers 
have  witnessed, he said. In the past, coffeehouse patrons were sometimes 
subjected to  arrests and intimidation. A cafe in Mountain Home, Idaho, was 
firebombed, and  another near Camp Pendleton, Calif., was shot up. 
But the main organizer of Watertown’s new coffeehouse, called Different  
Drummer Internet Cafe, said he did not expect such confrontations this time  
around. “The military today is very different, and we have to adapt to that,”  
said Tod Ensign, the organizer, who is also a lawyer and director of Citizen  
Soldier, a veterans advocacy group in New York City. “The soldiers are all  
volunteers. The Vietnam protests were driven very much by the draft.” 
After Mr. Ensign decided this year to open the coffeehouse, he sent out a few 
 dozen letters asking for financing, including one to the Ben & Jerry’s  
Foundation. “They talk a lot about peace,” he said. 
The appeals went unanswered. Undeterred, he used small donations from  
activists, farm workers and war resistance leagues to start the project, which  he 
estimates will cost $50,000 a year. He chose Watertown, a city of 27,000  
people near the Canadian border and Fort Drum, home of the 10th Mountain  Division. 
The division has deployed more soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan than  any 
other in the Army. 
Mr. Ensign has three goals for the cafe. They are to allow the free exchange  
of ideas, to provide accurate information and to be an enjoyable gathering  
place, with live bands and karaoke. He and his supporters have not decided  
whether they will serve coffee. 
Most in the community do not seem to know what to make of the cafe, several  
people said. Watertown’s mayor, Jeffrey E. Graham, said he did not attend its  
ribbon cutting on Oct. 27. In part, because it was inconvenient and in part  
because he was not sure of the cafe’s purpose. “I don’t think people want to 
be  openly antiwar for fear of dissing the families that make that sacrifice,” 
he  said. “On the other hand, I don’t see any harm.” 
In the cafe’s first three weeks, foot traffic has been minimal. Its manager,  
Cinthia Mercante, who served for eight years in the military before the 
Persian  Gulf war started, recently found herself calling out to a few soldiers 
hovering  near the entrance: “Folks, you can come in. We won’t bite.” 
Paul Foley, a volunteer who works in highway design, said he hoped the  
community would warm up to the cafe. “There’s been a little talk,” he said. “But  
the people who come will see that we’re not dangerous rabble-rousers. We’re 
just  giving people a place to talk.”

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