Veterans for Peace responds about the Impeachment Resolution

Mike Ferner, September 14, 2011

A good bit of drama found its way into John Walsh’s blog post for Antiwar.com about a resolution, passed at the Veterans For Peace convention last month, to impeach President Obama. Unfortunately, not all the drama was based in reality. Here’s to setting the record straight.

1) The “impeach Bush” resolution Walsh refers to that VFP adopted in August 2004 was not an “impeach Bush” resolution. It said that whoever was elected President in the upcoming November 2004 election had 10 days after inauguration to announce the withdrawal of troops from Iraq and if a timely announcement was not issued, VFP would join the already ongoing effort to impeach Bush. So it would be just as accurate to say that the August 2004 resolution was an “impeach Kerry” resolution or an “impeach whoever was the frontrunner in August” resolution – Republican or Democrat.

2) Walsh added, “…that Mike Ferner, at the time executive director of VFP, made an indignant Bush-bashing speech for impeachment in front of the White House. You can view it here in all its glory. A hard copy letter with the signature of the VFP president was mailed to each member of the House calling for impeachment.”

  • I was not executive director of VFP when I made that speech June 16, 2005
  • A hard copy letter was not “mailed to each member of the House…”

3) Continuing: “How about the present resolution? Mike Ferner opposed it in the floor debate at the August convention. There has been no rally and none is planned – not in front of the Whhite House or anywhere else. This time a fax of the resolution has been sent to the House members without signature of the (VFP) President.”

  • I did not oppose the impeach Obama resolution at the August convention. I was not even present for the debate.
  • The June 2005 White House rally was not organized by Veterans For Peace. I gladly accepted a speaking invitation from “AfterDowningStreet.org” who did organize it.
  • Our office faxed a copy of the entire impeach Obama resolution, with a cover letter on our letterhead, to each member of the House, just as we did with the 2004 resolution. Walsh is correct that the letter was not signed by the President of VFP. I signed it in my capacity as VFP’s interim director.

4) Walsh concludes, “Unfortunately this story can be repeated in different ways in a variety of ‘progressive’ organizations with leadership more loyal to Dems than to antiwar principle. This writer has witnessed it himself in organizations like PSR and United for Justice and Peace. But the ground is shifting, and much to its credit VFP has led the way.”

  • Thanks to Mr. Walsh for the “…has led the way” statement, but let’s be clear on one important point: The most dearly-held section of VFP’s Statement of Purpose is we seek to “…abolish war as an instrument of national policy.” Our experience tells us that the American Empire is a bi-partisan effort and that lives are at stake if we play partisan favorites. We owe no allegiance to party – none.

5) In his bio note, Walsh says “He attempted twice to reach a voice against the resolution but received no reply.” On September 2, I emailed him the names and contact information of two articulate VFP members who gladly agreed to speak with him. I’ve since checked with one of them, Ward Reilly, who sent me a copy of a Sept. 2 email he sent Walsh, explaining in very clear terms why he opposed the resolution.

Finally, I’d like to add that although Mr. Walsh’s article contained a good bit of drama, not all of it was based on the record. But more importantly, what he made no mention of was the spirited debate, before and at the convention, about why to vote yes or no. It cannot be simplified into a debate between principled members who campaigned to “do the right thing” and those who didn’t want to offend Democrats or were afraid of looking like racists. It was this: in order to live up to our Statement of Purpose, how can we strategically join forces with those most likely to be our natural allies so we can gain the political power needed to stop war? Viewed in that light, the story of this resolution looks a little different.

Mike Ferner is a writer from Ohio and a former Veterans for Peace President who is now serving as VFP’s interim director.




7 Responses to “Veterans for Peace responds about the Impeachment Resolution”

  1. Reply from John Walsh

    Mike Ferner, interim executive director of Veterans For Peace (VFP) takes issue with my article on the resolution to impeach Barack H. Obama for war crimes passed at the 2011 national VFP convention. But although he picks at details of the article, he does not dispute its central thesis. That is, the resolution was finally passed this year, after three years of trying, by the rank and file led by the Central Florida chapter of VFP. For over two years much of the leadership of VFP, Ferner included, opposed such a resolution. And that stands in stark contrast to the cheerleading for impeachment by Ferner and others when Bush was in office. That conclusion stands. Is such behavior on the part of Ferner and others hypocritical? You decide.

    Ferner’s tactic is to try to nitpick the article to death and thereby discredit the central thesis or distract from it. In fact there are only a few details with which he disagrees when you come right down to it. Let us look at them one at a time. Ferner’s first contention is that the resolution passed in 2004 was not aimed at Bush but the incoming president whoever he might be. Thus the impeachment rally at which Ferner spoke in 2005, he implies, might have been an Impeach Kerry rally. But we will never know that since Kerry, who was like Obama pro-war, did not get elected. We do know that when a Democrat, Obama, was elected, the Board of VFP opposed an impeachment resolution in 2009 and 2010 until the rank and file rebellion was successful in 2011. So for Ferner to say “We owe no allegiance to party – none,” does not fit the facts – unless the allegiance is to Obama and not the Dems in general. But it amounts to the same thing. To imply that he and others were as enthusiastic about an impeachment resolution aimed at Obama as one aimed at Bush is disingenuous at best. In a similar vein, Ferner points out that he did not speak on the floor of the convention against the resolution in 2011 but he neglects to mention that he opposed such a resolution for over two years. And he does not even make clear where he stands on it now. Are you for it now or against it, Mike? And why do you neglect to state your position?

    Ferner states that VFP did not organize the Impeach Bush rally in front of the White House and that he was not executive director at the time. But I did not claim that VFP organized the Rally. I only wrote that Ferner spoke at it. The Impeachment movement at the time of Bush was a cottage industry led by David Swanson and others, and VFP was very much a part of it as Ferner’s presence shows. That industry went belly up once the war crimes became Obama’s. And although Ferner may not have been executive director at that moment, he had been and is now interim executive director. And it is very clear that he represented VFP at that rally – unless Ferner is claiming that after being introduced as a member of VFP and wearing his VFP cap, he was not representing VFP in any way shape or form.
    CONTINUED IN NEXT COMMENT

  2. John Walsh's reply continued:

    Ferner implies that I did not try to contact someone who was opposed to the resolution, and he points out that he gave me names to contact. He does not say that I requested names from his office, and I got them. I tried to contact one opponent by email and phone and received no reply. That is what I said I did. Why does Ferner even raise the issue? This seems like another attempt to distract. And the same is true with his mention that he as executive director and not the president of the organization signed the letter FAXed to Congress. There is no disagreement there although there seems to be an intense disagreement in the organization over whether the first letter was FAXed or a hard copy was sent. If I erred on that score, my apologies. But Ferner left that impression when he said at the rally in front of the White House:
    "We believe that these are important steps. But Veterans For Peace also believes these are only preliminary steps. That’s why, on the second anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq we sent a letter to every member of the U.S. House and Senate demanding that George W. Bush be impeached!" – (See http://mikeferner.org/washington-d-c-impeachment-… “Sent” implies mailed in most cases as opposed to FAXed, but perhaps Ferner was just trying to inflate his effort a bit. And it was a proper letter on letterhead signed by the national president. And this remains a bone of contention between Ferner and the authors of the Impeach Obama resolution, among them Phil Restino of Central Florida VFP. Sometimes within an organization principles can turn on seemingly small matters. To be fair, Restino deserves to have his say, which Ferner does not include. Here is what Restino, wrote to me about the matter: “I still feel that VFP National needs to issue an official letter to Congress on VFP National letterhead and signed by the national president of VFP, just as was done in 2005, and that document should be saved as and electronic file and available for download by those of us who will carry out the mission of making sure a copy of the letter is personally addressed to each individual member of Congress and is delivered to them by either fax or snail mail.” The Central Florida chapter has volunteered to carry out that mission once they have the signature of the VFP president on the letterhead, which they do not possess as yet weeks after passage of the resolution.

    Ferner characterizes the point of the debate before the resolution at the national meeting in 2011 thus: “It was this: in order to live up to our Statement of Purpose, how can we strategically join forces with those most likely to be our natural allies so we can gain the political power needed to stop war?” I will pass over the fact that he said he was not there, so this characterization is second hand. But what “allies” does he speak of? And what were their demands of VFP? Why did they want VFP to compromise on this? Certainly the pro-Obama contingent in VFP with whose ardor for censorship I have had personal experience would not want the resolution passed. But Ferner is silent again on this.

    Finally, Phil Restino, who submitted the impeachment resolution, has also written thus to me about the history of the votes on impeachment which provides some insight into the thinking and behavior of the leadership: “As far as I know personally, the only member of Veterans For Peace's national leadership during the 2009, 2010 and 2011 votes on the impeachment of Obama resolution to vote in favor of it was current national president Elliott Adams who told me on the telephone a couple-few months ago that he voted for the resolution at the 2010 convention but would vote against the resolution at the 2011 convention out of concern that VFP's passage of an impeach Obama resolution would risk VFP being labeled as racists. If there were any others in the national leadership who voted in favor of the impeachment resolution in any of those years, then Mike Ferner himself would have to be asked to tell you that information.”

    Instead of nitpicking, Ferner should be proud of his organization for taking a step that others have not. There are many “leaders” in the peace movement who have been similarly hypocritical when it comes to Bush versus Obama. Ferner should simply admit his error and say he has changed – if indeed he has. And if so, he should express gratitude to the rank and file who have saved him from continued hypocrisy and dragged him into a principled position on Obama’s impeachment. That is better than trying to weasel out of a two-year record of hypocrisy. Again as I said in the article in praise of VFP, “much to its credit VFP has led the way” – out of a swamp of blindness when it comes to war making by Obama and the Dems.

  3. saw this at the common ills and hopped over to say i agree with john walsh and his rebuttal to the rebuttal

  4. I think Mike Ferner uses a lot of words but none of them disprove John Walsh's point. I also checked out the site mentioned in Malik's comment and they point out that not only did VFP call for impeachment in 2004, it was for anyone who did not announce 10 days after the inauguration that all troops would be out of Iraq in 60 days. As the site points out, why didn't VFW leadership do that with Obama? And the site also points out that this 10 days to declare complete withdrawal in 60 days was voted into the bylaws so why didn't the leadership demand it ten days after Obama was sworn in?

  5. veterans for peace responds about the impeachment resolution

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  6. [...] about Veterans for Peace calling for the impeachment of Obama for war crimes, on which Mike Ferner gave further details. Eric Garris touched on the rather embarrassing U.S. response to non-threats on 9/11 and the [...]

  7. For more background on this issue, please listen to the following discussion:

    Impeach Obama Now, Veteran For Peace tells Nonconformity Live http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rHUyaZH7Ujc

    In response to popularity of his recent article "Impeach now or forever hold up peace", the author Phil Restino of the Central Florida chapter of Veterans For Peace was invited to appear as a guest on the Monday, June 27, 2011 edition of the radio show "Nonconformity Live".

    "Impeach now or forever hold up peace" at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article2

    (continued in next comment box)