The Apotheosis of War (1871) by Vasili Vereshchagin (1842–1904), “dedicated to all conquerors, past, present and to come”.
They also serve their conscience
California veterans, including some still on active duty, are speaking out against the U.S. presence in Iraq.
By Rone Tempest, Times Staff Writer
WALNUT CREEK, CALIF. — Off duty in Baghdad, Army Sgt. Ronn Cantu operates an antiwar website.
When not repairing Black Hawk helicopters for the California National Guard, Jabbar Magruder conducts counterrecruiting sessions with would-be enlistees.
Fresh from two tours each in Iraq, decorated former Marines Sean O’Neill and Mike Ergo give antiwar speeches at Northern California high schools.
Although their numbers are still small compared with the draft-fueled Vietnam veterans’ movement four decades ago, California’s Iraq veterans are gaining a voice in opposition to America’s continued military presence in Iraq. Recent antiwar demonstrations in Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities have seen the first sizable contingents of veterans from the conflict.
The protesters even include some soldiers — like Cantu, of Los Angeles — who are still on active duty. “I’ve taken a public antiwar stance,” Cantu, 29, recently e-mailed from Baghdad, where he serves in intelligence with the 1st Cavalry Division, “but I didn’t shirk my responsibilities.”
O’Neill, a 24-year-old Marine veteran from Fremont, said he likes to take the antiwar message to conservative areas of the state “to add legitimacy and to show that it is not just crazed leftists who are against the war.”
For the most part, the military has tolerated the antiwar activities of its active-duty soldiers and reservists.
“While not on duty or in uniform, our service members maintain similar rights as other Americans,” said Lt. Col. Jon Siepmann, director of public affairs for the California National Guard. “There are, however, limitations that exist to ensure the good order and discipline of the service and to maintain an effective chain of command.”
The only significant court case related to antiwar activity, the court-martial of Army 1st Lt. Ehren Watada at Ft. Lewis, Wash., ended in a mistrial in February. Watada was charged with “conduct unbecoming an officer” for antiwar statements he made before Veterans for Peace and other organizations and for refusing to deploy with his unit to Iraq. A new court-martial is set for July.
Cantu belongs to an organization called Iraq Veterans Against the War and is an active antiwar blogger. Except for a letter of admonishment he was given for his largely antiwar website http://www.soldiersvoices.net , he said, “the Army has respected my rights.”
After he registered his website and promised not to post pictures of himself in uniform, he was left alone.
“A lot of soldiers have the belief that freedom of speech doesn’t apply to us, but that couldn’t be further from the truth,” Cantu said. “Since speaking out, I’ve been part of two Army briefings where we were explicitly told that freedom of speech applies to us.”
Legal scholars sense a softening on the part of the military on free-speech issues since the discordant Vietnam era.
“There is a much more nuanced idea of what it means to ‘support the troops.’ Both sides now use that slogan,” said Diane Amann, a constitutional law professor at UC Davis.
“It is a very different atmosphere from the last time around. It is much easier to see those in uniform as part of the great circle of society.”
Iraq Veterans Against the War is modeled on Vietnam Veterans Against the War, which was founded in 1967 and played a high-profile role in the antiwar movement of that era. But the Iraq group does not yet have the same political traction as its predecessor, which had the concurrent anti-draft movement to help fill its ranks.
With an estimated 700 active members nationwide, the organization has a simple platform: the immediate withdrawal of all troops, improved treatment for soldiers upon their return and a national contribution to the reconstruction of postwar Iraq.
Sgt. Jabbar Magruder, 24, served in Iraq in 2005 and is still a member of the California National Guard while he attends Cal State Northridge as a pre-med major.
In his civilian mode, he serves as secretary of the Los Angeles chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War, attends antiwar demonstrations and meets with students on college campuses. He recently traveled to Hawaii to speak to potential military recruits about the Iraq war and was one of nearly 1,000 regular military, National Guard and Reserve members who signed an Appeal for Redress that was delivered to Congress in January.
The three-sentence appeal reads: “As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases in Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”
Like most members of his organization, Magruder is not a pacifist but is opposed to the U.S. policy in Iraq. “For me, it was all about the weapons of mass destruction. When we didn’t find any, that was the final straw,” he said.
But during weekend and summer training drills with the National Guard, Magruder said, he is all soldier. “I can’t go to drill and all of a sudden shout I’m against the war. When I’m in uniform, I have to play that role. I don’t like people who proselytize anyway.”
Magruder, who was posted at a U.S. airbase near Tikrit, Iraq, said he gets along well with his Guard colleagues, even those who still support the war. “I don’t have any trouble in my unit,” he said, “because I went with them to Iraq and they respect me for that.”
Mike Ergo, a 24-year-old former Marine who served two tours in Iraq, participated in the bloody assault on Fallouja in November 2004. “I lost my best friend,” Ergo said. “My battalion lost 21 people.”
The solidly built Ergo, an honors student at a Bay Area community college, has a large, colorful tattoo on his right shoulder that reads “Born to Fight.” His left forearm bears a tattoo of a sword-wielding St. Michael carrying the scales of justice and standing on a vanquished enemy. Ergo said he got that tattoo after he killed his first insurgent in Iraq.
Sitting at a Starbucks near his Walnut Creek home, Ergo explained how his views changed from being gung-ho on Iraq to being against the war.
“When I got back and had time to sort out Sept. 11 and the events that led to Iraq, I began to question things,” said Ergo, a jazz saxophonist who gave up a college music scholarship to join the Marines.
“At first, I didn’t understand that you could be proud of military service and still be opposed to a specific war. All of us are ready to die if necessary for a noble cause. I was just mad that this cause wasn’t worth dying for.”
Like Magruder, Ergo said his fellow Marines have responded mostly positively to his activities: “My former executive officer wrote me an e-mail saying he was proud of what I was doing.”
At demonstrations, the physically fit, buzz-cut veterans stand out among protesters drawn largely from the extreme left or special-interest causes.
“A lot of us were America’s poster boys,” said former Air Force Sgt. Tim Goodrich, 26, president of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
O’Neill, who now studies political science at UC Berkeley, sees his mission as providing credibility and legitimacy to the antiwar movement.
“Our job,” said O’Neill, the son of a University of California administrator and a schoolteacher, “is to change the image and the aesthetic and the language of the left-leaning antiwar movement to make it less polarizing.”
The Golden Guide: Hallucinogenic Plants
by Richard Evans Schultes
What are hallucinogenic plants? How do they affect mind and body? Who uses them – and why? This unique Golden Guide surveys the role of psychoactive plants in primitive and civilized societies from early times to the present. The first nontechnical guide to both the cultural significance and physiological effects of hallucinogens, HALLUCINOGENIC PLANTS will fascinate general readers and students of anthropology and history as well as botanists and other specialists. All of the wild and cultivated species considered are illustrated in brilliant full color.
One of America’s unsung masters of cartooning is rolling through town with the release of his new book, Alias the Cat.
Kim Deitch will be signing copies of the new book Thursday, May 3 at 6pm at Family (436 N. Fairfax Ave, 90048) and then at 8pm the party moves down the street to The Silent Movie Theatre where Deitch is going to be guest programmer, presenting an eclectic selection of fightin’ girl serials and shorts! Pearl White! Ruth Roland! Harry Houdini! Episodes from The Iron Claw, Lightning Raider, Plunder and much more! A real treat for both film and art fans.
Kim Deitch is widely regarded as one of the best cartoonists of his generation. A seminal figure in the Underground Comix movement in the 1960s, he has worked nonstop for the last 30 years, having his work published in McSweeney’s, Raw, and The LA Weekly, amongst others. The new graphic novel from the author of The Boulevard of Broken Dreams (“A masterpiece”–Time) and the recent Shadowlands, is one of the wildest, surrealistic, bittersweet pieces of work you will ever read. Pygmie islands, early film history, talking dolls, midget towns, madness, autobiography, cats, and obsession all blend together in Alias the Cat, creating an eye bending classic and one of Deitch’s best works.
A large limited edition silkscreen print of Deitch’s poster will be for sale while supplies last.
Come join us for what will undoubtebly by a totally rad night of comics and movies.
Howard Larman, 73; host of folk music show
By Valerie J. Nelson, Times Staff Writer
April 26, 2007
Howard Larman, who helped shape the local folk music landscape as the longtime co-host of the Sunday night public radio show “FolkScene,” has died. He was 73.
Larman died Saturday at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center of complications related to a car accident last June, his family said.
The night after his death, co-host Roz Larman — his wife of 50 years — returned to the airwaves at KPFK-FM (90.7) and served as the show’s interviewer, a job her husband had done with low-key aplomb since 1970.
She plans to continue the radio program.
“Their show has been a stopping-off point for just about every single name in folk music in the last 30 years,” Steven Starr, then interim general manager of KPFK, told The Times in 2002.
“They are the folk music radio equivalent of the Grand Ole Opry,” Starr said.
Howard Larman had an encyclopedic knowledge of folk music and an elastic definition of the genre. “FolkScene” could feature little-exposed Celtic or roots-rock musicians and such prominent artists as Joan Baez, Arlo Guthrie, Randy Newman and Pete Seeger.
More than 3,000 musicians, often performing live, have appeared on “FolkScene,” according to the show’s records.
When singer-songwriter Dave Alvin first went on the show with his old band, the Blasters, “it was a huge thing for me,” Alvin told The Times. “There were so many artists in the folk music underground that I learned about as a kid from listening to Howard on KPFK in the ’70s.”
Folk singer-songwriter Richard Thompson told The Times, “Howard had an infectious enthusiasm for the music, and the show had a wonderful, relaxed style. It was like talking to friends.”
Larman was a “warm, witty and wise interviewer…. just a great guy,” singer-songwriter Peter Case said in an e-mail.
The interview that started it all was conducted in 1970 at the Montecito, Calif., home of Guy Carawan, the folk musician who helped introduce the song “We Shall Overcome” to civil rights protesters.
“And the next one we did was the Don McLean, the Tropicana Motel in 1970. We premiered ‘American Pie’ on the West Coast,” Larman told National Public Radio in 2000.
In the early days, the show was often taped in the Larmans’ San Fernando Valley living room “on this little $99 Sony tape deck,” Larman told NPR.
Over the years, the Larmans also produced folk and bluegrass festivals and music fairs.
By the 1990s, they had been downsized from their day jobs and retired early to focus even more on folk music, including releasing three CDs of “FolkScene” performances.
They also started broadcasting Internet versions of the show at folkscene.com after leaving KPFK in 2000 in a dispute over control of the program.
When KPFK management changed in 2002, the Larmans returned to the North Hollywood station.
“Both my parents had a great ear for exposing people who … later became well-known,” said their son Allen Larman, who has a classic rock show on KCSN-FM (88.5) and works on “FolkScene” as an engineer. “They had people like Tom Waits or Dwight Yoakam on before they had record deals.”
Howard Larman was born in 1933 in Chicago to Robert Larman, who owned several businesses, and his wife, Ethel, an accountant.
During the Korean War, he served in the Marines, then spent 20 years as an electrical technician in the aerospace industry.
He also attended the Don Martin School of Broadcasting in Hollywood.
Larman was a part-time technician for KPFK in the 1960s, and a station manager suggested the show after learning that he loved folk music.
As the “FolkScene” hosts, the Larmans were unpaid volunteers who bore the program’s costs.
“We buy our own tape, pay for our phone calls, use our own equipment,” Larman told The Times in 1990. “I’ve spent time with people who go boating or play golf. They spend lots of money on that. This is our recreation.”
In addition to his wife, Roz, of West Hills and son, Allen, Larman is survived by another son, Greg; and a sister.
Services were pending.