"Coffee with the Troops" at Yearly Kos Fuels Debate About the Netroots and the War

IVAW Coffee with the TroopsYou can watch some powerful video of our August 5th Coffee with the Troops online at AfterDowning Street, Alternetand on YouTube. We filmed the entire event, which was attended by more than one hundred people at the Yearly Kos Convention Sunday in Chicago.

Leaders of the Iraq Veterans Against the War spoke at Coffee with the Troops hosted by the Center for Media and Democracy and moderated by yours truly John Stauber. Speaking for IVAW were Garett Reppenhagen, Aaron Hughes, Josh Lansdale and Geoffrey Millard who then answered questions about the growing resistance to the war among active duty troops. IVAW members believe that the war on Iraq is illegal and that soldiers have the right to refuse an illegal war.

The event has begun to stir what can only be a healthy discussion and debate about the Netroots, its relationship to the Democratic Party, and the horrific quagmire that is the U.S. occupation of Iraq. Author and filmmaker Stephen Marshall of GNN TV has posted a challenging critique titled Bad Cop, bad cop... in which he concludes:

If the progressive blogosphere is going to play a meaningful role in the future of American democracy, it is going to have to wean itself from celebrity nipple of the Democratic party. If that doesn't happen then we are going to zoom into 08 with the most influential leftist bloc on the net acting as a de facto adjunct of the establishment Democrats. In that capacity, MoveOn and DailyKos will simply limit the parameters of the debate and push for the most winnable candidates in a game of lesser evils that can only drive us further into the war-torn destiny of a declining empire.

I've been asked how exactly this event came to be organized. A few weeks ago when I examined the schedule for Yearly Kos it was clear that there would be no meaningful strategy session on the war in Iraq. I decided to create that session, and I arranged through the convention hotel for a Sunday morning event that would feature leaders of the Iraq Veterans Against the War.

The Yearly Kos refused to put our event Coffee with the Troops onto their convention schedule despite the fact that no other event was scheduled at the time. Not to be deterred, I arrived at Yearly Kos with 800 flyers that I personally distributed to attendees, and I blogged about the event during the conference.

The event was a tremendous success and one of the best-attended sessions of the Yearly Kos, demonstrating the hunger of the Netroots' grassroots to address this issue.


Why am I not surprised. They have their own agenda and everyone else's be damned. Several of the bloggers at Bring It On! were in attendance and they too were upset there wasn't anything on the war in Iraq. They did attend your event and were very glad they did. One of our bloggers will writeup a piece about the whole event for those of us that didn't get to attend.

let's not omit Alexander Cockburn's piece for Alternet, "How the Democrats Blew It in Only Eight Months." It features a nice little tip of his hat to John, among other goodies. http://www.alternet.org/story/59367/ BTW, where can I get one of those cool coffee stirrers like the one in the picture? :-)

Thank you Mutternich. Indeed, the Cockburn piece is important and I was glad to see Alternet put it on page one where it has attracted a ton of spirited comments. Regarding the graphic, CMD's Sari Williams created the ghostly peace sign coffee stirred, but it only exists in one dimension, not in the real world. Sort of like peace itself! Finally, next week we will be put up some additional video from the Coffee with the Troops. We're working on it over the weekend and eventually the entire session will be up on line.

But you're wrong about one thing. <blockquote> <strong>A few weeks ago when I examined the schedule for Yearly Kos</strong> it was clear that there would be no meaningful strategy session on the war in Iraq. I decided to create that session ... The Yearly Kos refused to put our event Coffee with the Troops onto their convention schedule despite the fact that no other event was scheduled at the time.</blockquote> The reason your event didn't make the schedule was because the organizers had to set a deadline for taking any additional event suggestions sometime in May due to printing and scheduling demands (which the McCormick management exacerbated by switching rooms around up to two weeks prior to the event itself). Your admission that you only noticed the lack of such an event just "a few weeks ago" (as I emphasized above) just serves to confirm this fact. The conference has exactly 1.5 paid staffers. It was (and is) volunteer driven, from concept to legwork. I was a volunteer, so I know this firsthand. There were complaints about the lack of a vets' panel on several DailyKos diaries just before the conference, and each time it was pointed out that the ones who made panels and roundtables happen were <em>the folks who wanted them</em>, not some shadowy decisionmakers of "The YearlyKos." Yet you and others persist in repeating this meme. There was no panel on reproductive rights this year, either. And guess what? A group of us are already working to organize one for next year. We're not going to wait until three or four weeks prior to the event, and then allege that the organizers are "refusing" to honor our requests -- and then repeat that misrepresentation the way you do whenever you talk about your event -- which, by the way, leaves a sour taste in the mouths of those who would otherwise applaud the savvy and proactive way you organized, staged and promoted it in so short a time! I don't get it, John. I don't get it at all. Why assume malice or neglect where there was none? Especially since your event was even better attended and far more powerful than some that <em>were</em> on the printed schedule?

As I have said, we approached Yearly Kos and asked them if they would simply add the event to their schedule since no other event was scheduled in that time slot, 9:30am Sunday, and we had already taken on all the costs for the event (a thousand dollars for room rental, setup, pastries and coffee). They declined. We weren't asking them to make it an official event, we were simply asking them to make attendees aware by putting it up on the online schedule, a simply online edit that takes two seconds. It would have been very easy for them to do this, but for whatever reason they declined.