You are hereBlogs / War Criminals Watch's blog / The Story of My Arrest at David Petraeus' Speaking Engagement

The Story of My Arrest at David Petraeus' Speaking Engagement


By War Criminals Watch - Posted on 15 February 2014

By  Deb Vanpoolen 

The Essential Facts:

As I sat in that room, I decided my action would be designed to send a fissure through David Petraeus’ edifice of lies with the intent to reach someone with the truth who desperately needed to hear it like I once did.

While Petraeus was talking about Iraq, I stood up and yelled, “David Petraeus, you are a war criminal!  You are responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children!” At some point during those sentences my arm was grabbed and I was told to stop speaking and leave the room.  I stood in place and kept talking. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I had intended to talk about the escalation of the drone wars under Petraeus and the hundreds of children that were killed.

After they escorted me out of the room they asked to see my ID, and then told me I was under arrest for trespassing at a private event. They said I was charged with trespassing for two reasons:  because I did not have a ticket to the event and because I continued speaking after they asked me to leave.  They put handcuffs on me while in the lobby and then escorted me to the police car waiting out front.

 

David PetraeusThe Details:

 

 

This past Wednesday, on January 29 I found out  that David Petraeus, the former commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and former CIA Director under the Obama Administration, was scheduled to speak at a West Michigan World Affairs Council luncheon in Grand Rapids, Michigan just two days later.  Since I am now living in Grand Rapids for a very stable duration of three months, I began imagining the opportunities I might have to highlight Petraeus’ history of horrible war crimes. (To learn more about Petraeus, please refer to the information at the end of this essay.)

In the 48-hour period I had to plan an action, my first move was to find out if any other activists were planning anything around Petraeus’ visit.  With no information forthcoming about any other actions, I decided on Friday that I had to at least check out the scene of the luncheon which was just over one mile from my house.  As I walked downtown, I fantasized about actually being heard by Petraeus and the assembly, but I did not think I would be admitted into the Steelcase Ballroom  for the luncheon.  However, when I arrived at the DeVos Place, I was surprised to be allowed entry into the ballroom after saying that I registered late for the luncheon and simply filled out a nametag.  While I waited for the mediated discussion with Petreaus to begin, I contemplated how to capitalize on this opportunity, since capitalism was in the air. Here is the  description of the luncheon with Petraeus.

As Petreaus was asked various questions by the moderator, he responded to each of them with simplistic statements.  For example, he said there is no debate in his mind about Snowden:  the damage he did was “colossal”.  He mentioned “cyber theft” and “Islamic extremism” as major concerns for the US government.  He also said the United States is best positioned to be the world leader in fracking because US mining companies have superior “technical expertise”.  As he discussed Israel, Iran and Syria with racist overtones, I resisted the intense cloud of brainwashing in preference to focus on my next steps.  His talk about fracking had triggered an idea:  I decided my action would be a humble effort to frack the thick fog of doublespeak overwhelming in the room.

You see, I was raised in a similar bubble of ignorant righteousness.  Attending the luncheon, as often happens when I return to GR, I was transferred back to my days as a member of College Republicans at Calvin College.  While a student at that private liberal arts school (where Bush junior gave the commencement address a few years back), I attended a Ronald Reagan birthday party and a Bush senior campaign rally.  Two of my best friends were big fans of Ollie North (who I didn’t understand anything about) and I thought all environmentalists were “wackos”.  Oh, those were the days!

Back to the frack idea:  As I sat in that room, I decided my action would be designed to send a fissure through David Petraeus’ edifice of lies with the intent to reach someone with the truth who desperately needed to hear it like I once did.

While Petraeus was talking about Iraq, I stood up and yelled, “David Petraeus, you are a war criminal!  You are responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children!”  At some point during those sentences my arm was grabbed and I was told to stop speaking and leave the room.  I stood in place and kept talking. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but I had intended to talk about the escalation of the drone wars under Petraeus and the hundreds of children that were killed.

After they escorted me out of the room they asked to see my ID, and then told me I was under arrest for trespassing at a private event. They said I was charged with trespassing for two reasons:  because I did not have a ticket to the event and because I continued speaking after they asked me to leave.  They put handcuffs on me while in the lobby and then escorted me to the police car waiting out front.  As I was processed at the Kent County Jail, I learned that  if a friend did not post the $100 bail for me immediately, I would spend the weekend alone in jail, until Monday morning when the judge would appear to give me a court date.  My wonderful brother (whose family is the main reason I am currently living in Grand Rapids) paid the bond and picked me up.  After a total of a five hours since the ordeal began, I was back home with a story to tell and a court date of Friday, February 7 at 8:30am.

As to the effects of my actions on David Petraeus or others in that fancy ballroom, I may never know. I do know that I had a number of fabulous conversations about Petraeus, my actions of civil disobedience, and US history with various police officers throughout my processing.  In addition, I sat in a holding cell for about 1.5 hours with a woman who recently lived at Ft. Meade, Maryland.  (I spent most of this past summer at Ft. Meade, making court room sketches of the Chelsea Manning trial.)  Her husband and her brother-in-law are both employed in the US drone program.  Her brother-in-law operates drones at a base near Los Angeles.  Having been raised in a military family and now separated from her husband, she is questioning the system more seriously than ever before.  I gave her my version of food for thought and sent her a facebook friend request upon my return home.

If any of you reading this would like to financially support this action, please let me know via email and I will send you my address!  I am not yet certain of my court costs but I will be happy to let you know if you are interested in helping to pay them.  I wrote to an attorney in GR who works for the ACLU who might help me out but I have not heard back from him yet.

Thanks so much for your support of justice, peace and me!

Hugs and love,

Deb

Following is more information about David Petraeus and specifics about the escalation of drone killings under his term as CIA director:

From Wikipedia:

David Petraeus served as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency from September 6, 2011,[3] until his resignation on November 9, 2012.[4] Prior to his assuming the directorship of the CIA, Petraeus was a highly decorated four-star general, serving over 37 years in the United States Army. His last assignments in the Army were as commander of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Commander, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) from July 4, 2010, to July 18, 2011. His other four-star assignments include serving as the 10th Commander, U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) from October 13, 2008, to June 30, 2010, and as Commanding General, Multi-National Force – Iraq (MNF-I) from February 10, 2007, to September 16, 2008.[5] As commander of MNF-I, Petraeus oversaw all coalition forces in Iraq.[6][7]

From alternet.org:

Under Petraeus’ control, the CIA accelerated the use of drone strikes to target suspected anti-American fighters in Pakistan. But the CIA also bombed Pakistan using what is called “signature strikes”--which means the “launching [of] strikes against terrorism suspects even when it does not know the identities of those who could be killed,” as the Washington Post puts it. Those signature strikes are likely responsible for the deaths of scores of civilians, though the exact number is not known since the Obama administration categorizes dead “militants” as “all military-age males in a strike zone.”

Before Petraeus resigned, the CIA was requesting the authority to use “signature strikes” in Yemen as well.

From namingthedead.org:

Naming the Dead is a project run by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, a not-for-profit research organisation based in London.

The project aims to identify those killed in CIA drone strikes on Pakistan.

Over the past nine years, the tribal region of Pakistan’s northwest has been hit by hundreds of drone attacks as the CIA has sought to stamp out al Qaeda fighters and the militant groups that have given them shelter.

Missiles launched from these high-tech, unmanned aircraft have hit homes, cars, schools, shops and gatherings. At least 2,500 people have been killed, according to data already collected by the Bureau as part of our wider Covert Drone War research.

Senior US officials have described drones as highly precise weapons that target and kill enemies of the US. John Brennan, who oversaw the development of the drone campaign and is now director of the CIA, has called drone technology an ‘essential tool’ for its ‘surgical precision – the ability, with laser-like focus, to eliminate the cancerous tumour called an al Qaeda terrorist while limiting damage to the tissue around it.’

Those killed by drones include high-ranking militant leaders – figures such as Abu Yahya al Libi, al Qaeda’s feared second-in-command, or Baitullah Mehsud, commander of the Pakistan Taliban (TTP).

But according to credible media reports analysed by the Bureau, the dead also include at least 400 civilians. Some were unlucky enough to be nearby when militants were attacked. Others were killed alongside their husbands or fathers, who were believed to be militants. Still others were mistaken for terrorists by drone operators sitting thousands of miles away.

Deb

Debra Sweet & Deb Van Poolen, December 2013, wishing Chelsea Manning a Happy Birthday

Here is one page from the Naming the Drone project website which lists some of the drone strikes conducted during Petraeus’ term as director of the CIA.

Also see:WarCriminalsWatch.org.

Deb Vanpoolen is an artist. Her website isdebvanpoolen.com.


Tags

Support WarIsACrime



Donate.








Tweet your Congress critters here.


Advertise on this site!




Facebook      Twitter





Our Stores:























Movie Memorabilia.



The log-in box below is only for bloggers. Nobody else will be able to log in because we have not figured out how to stop voluminous spam ruining the site. If you would like us to have the resources to figure that out please donate. If you would like to receive occasional emails please sign up. If you would like to be a blogger here please send your resume.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Image CAPTCHA
Enter the characters shown in the image.