Sunday, November 14, 2004


About those "tanks" in LA and other matters

The blogosphere has been abuzz over the arrival of what were initially said to be "tanks" at an antiwar demonstration in Westwood, a district of Los Angeles. There is a sensible account of the event to be found here.

Here are the facts, as best I can ascertain them. A fellow named Steve posted a comment with LA Indymedia,1 saying in relevant part—

I talked to one Marine with one of the "Striker" vehicles. He told me they had driven the vehicles up from Camp Pendleton the night before (Tuesday) on the freeway. Getting off the 405 Freeway going north, they would have passed Wilshire and Veteran where ANSWER had called a rally to protest the attack on Fallujah in Iraq.

I asked him if he was "rolling around Westwood" Tuesday night. He said, "Yeah, and we drove past that anti-war demonstration. We was lost. We're not from L.A. We didn't know where this place (WLA VA) was. We were trying to find it."

"Did you drive around the block twice?" I asked.

"Yeah, we did. We stopped to ask them (the protestors) directions, but they weren't very nice."

Todd Beeton at Wild Democracy Ride has gotten what appears to be a confirmation of this through Rep. Henry Waxman's office—

[S]ince this event happened in my backyard, I figured I'd do some digging. I called Representative Henry Waxman's office and they were equally curious about the story and have been extremely helpful in trying to get to the bottom of it. They found out that the tanks had driven up from Camp Pendleton in San Diego to attend a Veterans Day event that was to take place today at the West LA Veterans Affairs Center, which is just up the street from where the protest was.

Now what the tank was actually doing stopping at the site of the protest is still a bit murky. The woman I spoke with at Waxman's office told me that it was suggested to her that the tanks were merely pulling over to ask for directions. And another said that the protesters got in front of the tank when they saw it and actually prevented the tank from moving on. The tank certainly had no business driving past the protest if it was going directly to the VA Center, so either they really were lost or...well you can imagine the speculation.

Another controversy has been the proper description of the vehicles. Were they tanks or Light Armored Vehicles (LAVs) or Armed Personnel Carriers (APCs)? As someone who can't tell the difference between a Dodge and a Ford pickup, this seems to me to be a distinction without a difference. But since the soldiers were Marines and since they were driving down the freeway, the vehicles must have been LAVs.


So far as the antiwar demonstration is concerned, the questions are these: Were the vehicles truly there by accident—a little amusement for the Cosmic Jokester? If not, was there an order from Camp Pendleton or above for those LAVs to make an appearance at the demonstration, and if not, was the circling of the demonstration deliberate on the part of the soldiers?

Frankly, I don't know the answer, but there were some comments on LA Indymedia that bear a follow-up.

Someone claiming to be one of the Marines involved writes

Hey this vehicle the LAV -25 with a bushmaster cannon does not have a built-in GPS. The GPS we would use is a hand-held device that must be check out of an armory. Instead we did used map-quest which we all know is not very accurate. Do you really believe we were sent to intimidate you I think you are not being practical, and the parade was on the 10th, look it up? I am so trying to be understanding toward your cause, but you make it so hard with your rhetoric. You on one side calling troops murderers, poor dumb red necks and, how horrible our country is, and then the administration on the complete opposite you mean there is no compromise, no understanding you all are starting to make me sick and I mean both sides. Also, we all take offence to all the OH they are poor and do not know better. You think we get paid well here? You are so wrong, no one joins for money, it is something you obviously will never understand. FYI most of our unit are college graduates and come from affluent areas of Orange County and San Diego County2 so much for the dumb poor red neck myth.

Then someone identifying himself as Bill McAndrews comes in with

I'm the second guy on the right. Our corporal received orders to route by the protest and we were directed to stop in front of you and then to go around the block and stop again. Don't believe any more of the anonymous comments you're reading here.

If McAndrews was indeed one of the Marines, this can be verified by Rep. Waxman's office. I've posted a comment to Todd Beeton, hoping he will follow-up with Waxman.

If the appearance was ordered, why?

Again I have no direct knowledge nor way of knowing. But one commenter at LA Indymedia had some interesting thoughts

There seems to be something that no-one has mentioned yet. The first being a reminder that this administration has proven its mastery of media manipulation. The second is that even a shortsighted, so-called christian (probably) would not react favorably to seeing armed and armored military vehicles being used on Americans.

So, keeping in mind the first item with the intent of taking care of the second, what better way to inoculate the media and their brain dead zombies by introducing tanks (for this purpose, it does not matter that they technically are not tanks) into the peace protest mix?

First, you just put them there without having them really do anything. This gets people use to seeing them there and, gradually, images of Tienneman (sp?) Square dissipate.

Once that happens, you can actually start using them. They'll start out being used as barricades, etc. Eventually, some activists will get hot-headed and altercations will start.

This is when you’ll see the true mastery at work. At first, the tanks will not be used to counteract any the altercations. This will lead to people speculating as to why the tanks weren’t used. Once it gets into the mainstream that they should have just used them, they will be used. It will even be argued that the “people” wanted them to be used. (Of course, it will be the political theater hacks like Rush and Tucker that will make these arguments publicly.)

It’s the kettle being brought to boil slowly. [emphasis added]

If in fact tanks (or LAVs) begin to make appearances at protests, I would be inclined to take this comment seriously. In the meantime, I think we might all toss off a note to our Representatives asking that they investigate the incident.

The protestors

Some of the demonstrators were apparently quite overwrought. According to one person present, "an utterly moronic woman started screaming at [the soldiers] that they were murderers and baby killers and other foul verbal attacks." This is not helpful.

In fact, I'm not sure that frequent demonstrations "against the war" by small groups of people are helpful. They make opposition to the war appear to be a small, "fringe" activity, which is just what the government wants. If you're going to do a general antiwar demonstration, try to arrange a few hundred thousand or so participants. Otherwise, there are other actions that 400-500 people can take more effectively.

The event for which the LAVs were headed

As described by "Steve" above,

Lots of marching middle school ROTC "cadets" (including 11-to-14-year-old boys and girls from Mt. Vernon Middle School all in US Army uniform, some shouldering parade "rifles") and a high school band and antique cars filled with VAFW members. And two USMC Striker armored vehicles complete with 6 or 7 Marines in fatigues and body armor giving junior high ROTC kids and adults tours of the vehicles.

Early training and public relations are such an important part of any war. Naturally the government would intertwine these with Veterans Day. As we say in the South, this is going to be a long, hard row to hoe.

Previous post
Antiwar suppression begins in earnest


1 I'm certainly not suggesting that anyone slog their way through these comments. For the most part, they're not very illuminating. [back]

2 Which may explain a lot about why they were showing off LAVs to middle-schoolers instead of fighting in Iraq. [back]

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