[Marxism] A Cafe Opens to Serve a Mission to End the War
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Dbachmozart at aol.com
Sun Nov 19 07:11:14 MST 2006
A Cafe Opens to Serve a Mission to End the War
By MICHELLE YORK
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_
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
“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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