Women Lead the Way

A month earlier, the Tucson, Arizona branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) decided that they were tired of conducting vigils in front of the military recruitment center. As ‘raging grannies’ they had been singing there every week for three years. On July 13, five of them entered the center to enlist. They read a statement, saying in part: "The Raging Grannies want to enlist in the U.S. military forces to make possible the immediate return of all U.S. service personnel, and to set an example of what REAL diplomacy can achieve. We would meet with our counterparts in Iraq (women) and come to a mutual agreement of how best for Iraq to regain its own independence, as all U.S. troops, bases and corporations leave their country." They followed their reading with a few songs (of course) and left. The recruiters ignored them, called the police, and five grannies and four journalists were given citations for ‘criminal trespass’ as they were standing on the sidewalk.

The action got coverage around the world. Women ranging in age from 59 to 84 saying they want to enlist!!?? In a seven minute news clip on MSNBC’s Today show, one of the participants, Betty Schroder, said "I take this action very seriously. We went in asking to be sent to Iraq so our kids and grandchildren can be sent home, but rather than listening to us, they called the police. It was their place to tell us the qualifications, but they wouldn’t even speak to us. They should’ve said, ‘You’re too old."


[Photo: Grannies on Today Show, Upper from left: Pat Birnie, Betty Schroder Lower from left:  Dorothy Richmond, Connie Graves. ]

She added, "We can settle this thing diplomatically. We can do this as women." She hopes that women in Iraq and Afghanistan will become aware of their actions. We need to support the women there, she said, because they can "form a government and let the men get busy reconstructing their countries."

In response to the question, ‘Are you harmless?’, another ‘granny’ replied, "we’re perceived as such. But I think we’re damned dangerous!"

News just in is that the City of Tucson dismissed the cases as "unlikely to meet burden of proof at trial."

In the midst of these women led events, I was one of around 240 women who gathered in San Francisco for the 29th triennial US Congress of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Traveling to the left side of the country, I found, is invigorating. There’s a lot of good energy out there, despite Arnold at the helm. During the Congress groups of raging WILPFERS played hooky and joined a large demonstration at Union Square in downtown San Francisco for a demonstration against torture. A 24 hour ‘Camp Casey’ was set up on the steps of the San Francisco War Memorial Building. Indymedia was everywhere, documenting events.

WILPF’s Triennial Congress

A Congress implies that voting takes place, but actually the membership of WILPF had voted earlier in the year to determine what our campaigns will be in US WILPF for the next three years. In a surprise tally, the membership choose ‘Women and Water’ and ‘Women Challenge US Policy: Building Peace on Justice in the Middle East’ over disarmament and racism, which will now become ‘issue committees’ and receive less staff support. The Congress offered plenarys on the two campaign issues, and numerous workshops to delve into the complications and connections between them.

WILPF members feel it is important to focus the attention and activism of our members on US Policy towards Israel/Palestine, even though it has been controversial within WILPF in the past. The campaign statement calls for a U.S. policy that will end ‘US military aid to Israel’, and a Middle East policy that will emphasize ‘long denied justice for the Palestinian people’.The statement concludes that "What is seen as the U.S. refusal to be an ‘honest broker’ in negotiations has led to anger in the Middle East against this nation, helped fuel the 9/11 tragedy, and resulted in the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is a situation where there is no winner. The only nation that can stop this destructive cycle is the United States, by changing its objectives and foreign policy."

One of the positive proposals mentioned at the Congress was the "Megiddo Peace Project," an initiative by Odile and Alan Huguenot Haber from Michigan. Megiddo is an ancient site in Israel that is the origin of the term Armageddon. (The Hebrew words for the site, Har Megiddo, means literally "the mount of Megiddo" and has entered English as ‘Armageddon’.) During the past 4000 years, at least 34 bloody conflicts have already been fought there and at adjacent areas of the Jezreel Valley. Odile and Alan are proposing a "model peace conference," to take place on the site next spring. As the place of Armageddon," it is an appropriate focus for looking at all wars and the war system as a whole and how to make peace. We consider this a collaborative artistic, spiritual and intellectual endeavor."

To contact the Megiddo Peace Project, email megiddo@umich.edu. For more on the campaigns, check out the WILPF website at www.wilpf.org. To order a DVD copy of the complete Today Show footage, plus hitherto unviewed footage of the grannies inside the Recruitment Center, contact Robin Lloyd at robinlloyd@greenvalleymedia.org.

 This column appeared in Peace and Justice NewsRobin Lloyd is the publisher of Toward Freedom