Military mums, canny carpenters, and fun with mud

IssueFebruary 2006
Comment by The Mole

Back in December, The Mole surfaced at London's City Hall - the glass monstrosity near Tower Bridge, home of ex-red Ken Livingstone. It was a “peace reception”, and guest of honour was US “peace mom” Cindy Sheehan - who's become a peace campaigner since her son was killed whilst taking part in the US military occupation of Iraq.

Her sincerity is not in doubt. But The Mole couldn't forget the strictures of Jeff Cloves in his column in the final issue of Nonviolent Action a year ago, when he suggested that pacifists were too mealy-mouthed about the phenomenon of proud parents cheering on their smart, parading sons and daughters - only to change their tune if their offspring get killed.

Killing and being killed (and not only killing of soldiers) - that's what soldiers willingly let themselves in for; so what kind of dream world do their parents inhabit? Yet Cindy Sheehan put all the blame on the political system which sent her son to his death, and eulogised the soldiers themselves.

Those who are suspicious of the concept of specific “war crimes”, asserting that all warfare is a crime against humanity, believe that involvement in war must be an issue of personal responsibility. However culpable Bush and Blair might be, no one picks up a gun and pulls the trigger unless they choose to.

Cindy Sheehan had been wearing one of the Peace Pledge Union's white peace poppies, signifying pacifism. If she had adopted that view rather earlier, and tried to influence her son before he joined up, she might have saved not only his life but - equally importantly - the lives of some other human beings in Iraq whom her son was involved in killing.

Opened in error

Overheard in an East London cafe: a carpenter saying, “I'm doing well - I've been getting quite a bit of work from the police.” When asked what sort of work, he replied, “Oh, when they kick the wrong door in!”

Tyre satire

In France, a group called Les Degonfles (The Deflated) launched an urban guerilla campaign in the capital a few months back. They go around finding parked SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles), and then let down the tyres and smear mud on the windscreens. They especially like to do this with posh 4X4s parked in otherwise picturesque Parisian neighbourhoods.

The activists' reasoning is simple: if the owners won't take their four-wheel-drive monstrosities to the countryside, then they will bring the countryside to them.

The idea is that it would be hard to prosecute the activists for a serious offence, since they only let down the tyres, they don't slash them. After all, they say, air doesn't cost anything. They consider themselves part of the country's burlesque tradition.

But the head of the association of French SUV owners doesn't see the joke, describing it as discrimination and incitement to hatred.

Apparently, the activists' rules include never running from the police - but always running from the owners.

Topics: War and peace, Green
See more of: The Molehill