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We remember you: participants in the Chatham Peace Iniative reading of names.

Mourning by Name
Peace activists in Chatham take a day to remember the Iraq war’s victims

In Chatham, volunteers spent most of Saturday (Jan. 15) reading in shifts the names of about 4,700 people who have died in the current conflict in Iraq. The list included soldiers and citizens, police, journalists, cameramen, aid workers, contractors, children—anyone who fell victim to the war.

Standing at a black-cloth-draped podium, volunteers read the names and ages (with rank if applicable) of victims from their lengthy list. Participants in the daylong tribute shrugged off the biting wind that made its way under the small tarp canopy.

>From the shivering readers’ position was a view of a flag at half-staff for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and a small stone memorial dedicated “in grateful memory of the services rendered by the men of Chatham, that the principles of this republic might be preserved,” dated 1932.

>From the opening speech to the many conversations among participants, there was general consensus that the Iraq war is both unjust and unnecessary, and many of those present expressed solidarity with King’s ideals of peace and justice.

The activist group Chatham Peace Initiative conducted the reading of the names. Bob Elmendorf, a leader of the organization, said one cause for him participating in the reading is to help end the war, “but the main reason is to honor the soldiers who fell and the citizens who died in Iraq.” As the name of a 6-year-old girl from Baghdad was read, Elmendorf described the war as a total debacle. He said he feels betrayed by the Bush administration, which he claims misled the people and Congress with the fear of weapons of mass destruction and a link between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist group Al Qaeda. Those who searched for the WMDs officially gave up looking over two weeks ago, and no Al Qaeda link has ever been established.

“I’d like to see the U.S. pull out of Iraq and have another entity come in, such as the U.N.,” said Elmendorf. He said the people of the war-ravaged country are worse off now than under Hussein, with the lack of security and multiple torture scandals. Having the town flag at half-staff every day for the people who are dying wouldn’t be a bad idea, he said.

Max Grieshaber, also of Chatham Peace Initiative, gave an opening speech in which he evoked King’s legacy. “Despite advances, equality remains but a dream for many,” he said. After his speech he commented, “The military is a polarizing aspect of our society,” and said economic and racial inequality has people joining the military out of need and being exploited for their lack of options. Grieshaber also views the detainment of people without formal charges to be a major equality problem right now.

Nancy Rothman, the first reader of the day, said she believes it is necessary for people to hear the names of those who were killed read aloud. “I feel responsible for these deaths,” said Rothman. “They need to be acknowledged publicly and often.” She wishes there were never names to be read. “Our elected officials need to know we can’t have this killing going on in our names anymore.”

The 4,700 names come from a list of casualties on the Iraq Body Count Web site and from the Washington Post’s Web site. About 3,100 are Iraqis and more than 1,200 are U.S. soldiers. The list only includes deaths that are confirmed with the name of the deceased. Iraq Body Count estimates that the total dead is acutally between 15,365 and 17,582, compiled from news sources and articles.

The names will be written on thousands of black cards and mailed to New York Democratic Sens. Hillary Clinton Charles Schumer and Republican Rep. John Sweeney (Clifton Park). All three voted to authorize President Bush to start the war.

—Kevin Abbott


Overheard

Overheard: “Do you guys sell candy? . . . . . . . Man, it smells good in here.”

—One of a group of kids who burst energetically into Shining Star on Lark Street, site of the “largest incense collection in the northeast,” but no candy.



What a Week

Sentence Commuted

After Guilderland Town Supervisor Kenneth Runion announced that he had heard no complaints about a plan to have residents of the town’s animal shelter killed after 90 days, animal advocates gave him an earful, and helped him work out a new, more humane policy for the town’s stray cats and dogs. Of course, in addition to the lives of the shelter’s furry residents, more than $120,000 in donations was at stake, as some contributors had begun asking for the return of their gifts—many of which had been given because of the shelter’s aversion to killing.

Coming to Closure

In 1971, a group of inmates in Attica state prison started a violent riot to protest prison conditions, taking hostages and killing one guard. When the state retook the prison by force, 10 more employees and 34 inmates were killed. In 2000, New York reached a $12 million settlement with representatives of the inmates. This week, the state reached another $12 million settlement, with Forgotten Victims of Attica, a group representing the state-worker victims, whose widows say at the time they were tricked into trading their right to sue for tiny workers compensation checks.

>From Warden to Inmate

Army Reserve Specialist Charles Graner Jr.—last seen standing over a pile of naked Iraqi prisoners with an ear-to-ear grin—was convicted of assault, indecent acts and a host of other charges for his role in the Abu Ghraib prison abuses and sentenced to 10 years in prison. During the trial, Graner’s defense argued that forced simulation of oral sex and naked human pyramids were simply the sort of frat-party antics found on any college campus in America. Sgt. Javal Davis and Pfc. Lynndie England are still awaiting trial.

Not a Paid Advertise-ment (Or Is It?)

While the White House acknowledged last week that the Education Department paid “journalist” Armstrong Williams to trumpet the virtues of the controversial No Child Left Behind Act at every possible opportunity and without any mention of the contract, the administration has been conspicuously quiet on possible repercussions. According to White House spokesman Scott McClellan, the deal was an isolated incident, but commentators on both sides of the fence—including Williams—have insinuated that such arrangements are fairly common.



Over and Not Quite Out

Officials try to avoid public turmoil over proposed emergency radio towers in the Adirondacks

A controversial plan by Sara toga County to place three new radio towers in the Adirondack Park remains in limbo this week after the Adirondack Park Agency agreed on Friday to extend the project’s permit application for 30 days while alternatives are evaluated.

The plan calls for towers to be built in the towns of Day, Edinburg and Hadley as part of a countywide emergency communications system. Critics of the project claim that more public input should be sought regarding the complex project, and that clearing the 10 acres or more of land required for the towers will violate the APA’s policy on building new radio towers, which requires that the structures be “substantially invisible.”

“Nothing is ever cast in stone with policies like that,” reasoned Greenfield town supervisor Robert Stokes, who also chairs the county’s radio committee.

According to Stokes, a stipulation in APA policy gives special consideration to structures used for providing emergency services.

“The way Saratoga County interpreted it, the tower facilities should be exempt,” said Stokes.

Yet questions remain about whether the issue will come before a public hearing, as some—including members of the APA—have recommended. In a letter to APA project review officer George Outcalt Jr., the Association for the Protection of the Adirondacks requested that the APA hold such a hearing, claiming that alternatives to the project had not been “adequately presented or assessed.”

Not everyone seemed thrilled about organizing a public hearing around the tower project, however. According to Stokes, the county will continue to work on alternatives for the access roads—one of the plan’s major sticking points—in the hopes of reaching some agreement without a public hearing.

“These public hearings, they have a tendency to go on for months,” said Stokes, “and they get very, very expensive.”

“On top of all that, they don’t seem to get much done in the end,” he added.

The county will meet with the APA again on Feb. 11.

—Rick Marshall

rmarshall@metroland.net


Loose Ends

A sharply critical federal audit released by the Albany Police Department late Friday afternoon (a common tactic to get unfavorable news in the less-read Saturday daily paper), backed up what city comptroller Thomas Nitido found last year: that over several years, the APD misspent more than $40,000 from its seized asset fund for things outside of the federal guidelines, such as artwork, automatic car starters, and community events [“Tough Questions Continue,” Newsfront, April 1, 2004]. Police Chief James Turley said that changes already had been made before the audit began, and also questioned the guidelines, which stipulate the money must be used for “law enforcement purposes,” saying they were “vague.”



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