Since it was Memorial Day, the day on which America honors its war dead, it was natural that The Washington Post saw this as the perfect day for...a big profile of a hard-left "anti-war" activist, Stacy Bannerman of Military Families Speak Out. Reporter David Montgomery chronicled her marriage to a National Guard soldier, "the warrior and the antiwarrior," and she won. The husband, back from Iraq, asked: "Soldiers are dying for what reason again?"
The annual Memorial Day concert event on the mall (nationally televised by PBS) topped the left corner of the Style section, but much of the front Style page was devoted to Bannerman’s story, with a huge Post photographer's shot of Bannerman marching for "peace" in jeans and a T-shirt, complete with the www.mfso.org web address. The headline was: "Choose Your Battle: She's a Pacifist. He's A Warrior. But Even In the Shadow of Iraq, Their Love Soldiers On."
To demonstrate that this story is just a profile in the can, and there's not a lot new in it, Montgomery, the protester's best friend, began with Bannerman’s husband being called up to serve in Iraq – in the fall of 2003, and the "professional pace and justice activist" wasn’t happy:
Lorin's National Guard unit just got called up. And in a deep part of him that he doesn't reveal to her this instant, he's kind of looking forward to it. Stacy, on the other hand, is a professional peace and justice activist. Her emotions are much closer to the surface, and she's freaking out.
It's the fall of 2003, seven months after the war began, outside Seattle where they live. They are the warrior and the antiwarrior, and their years of living dangerously are about to begin.
She watches him drive away in his new white Kia Sorento. The planet-hugger in her never approved of his buying that SUV. Now, as her man prepares for mobilization to the land of oil and blood, she sees the manufacturer's name and thinks: "Killed in action."
Montgomery never described Bannerman as "liberal" or "leftist" or "progressive" (despite her new book being hailed by far-left stars like Howard Zinn), preferring the stale and positive "antiwar" label to describe her overall politics:
In town for a series of antiwar activities, she breaks from the march early for a debate with former Defense Policy Board chairman Richard Perle being filmed for a PBS documentary. He was one of the intellectual advocates of toppling Saddam Hussein, and he and Stacy square off against a backdrop of the thousands of boots -- a pair for each soldier killed. The next day, Mother's Day, Stacy rallies outside the White House with the women's peace group Code Pink.
If Montgomery weren’t so interested in making Bannerman sympathetic, he would ask her about Perle’s position for toppling Saddam. Does she believe that being a "justice" activist means leaving Saddam in power was the better answer for Iraq? And that Saddam’s clear rejection of a United Nations process against the creation of weapons of mass destruction was no threat at all? She isn’t forced to think for this profile, merely emote.
The story had a happy ending, at least for the Post and its reporters: the "antiwar" side is winning, what Montgomery describes as an almost scientific process – "As the death count rises, public support for the war plummets, two black lines on a neat, precise graph." Bannerman is so persuasive that her National Guard husband is going soft and Code Pink-ish, and that, to Montgomery, can be described as patriotic:
Going to Iraq probably drew Lorin closer to Stacy's position on the war. "Just some of the things I heard and saw changed my viewpoint," he says. "Soldiers are dying for what reason again?"
But he also says: "On a personal level, yes I'm glad I went over there and had that experience as a soldier. Yes, I get to wear the Combat Infantryman Badge. . . . That's something special for us."
For the warrior, the badge is an insignia that he saw action and risked his life for his country. The antiwarrior feels just as proud -- and patriotic -- when she borrows his cap and wears his badge on her long march for peace.
PS: For a stronger sense of the harshness of Bannerman's rhetoric, consult her House testimony as captured on the MFSO website:
The 1.2 million soldiers and their families who have paid for this war with their lives and limbs and loved ones don’t need medals.
We need leaders.
We need leaders who will honor the Constitution, not shred it. We need leaders that hold accountable an administration that promotes a policy of torture but penalizes the foot soldiers that are expected to carry it out. We need leaders that don’t bankrupt a nation in the interests of bankrolling their personal political agendas. We need moral leaders who are champions of truth and justice, not lapdogs to private interests and war profiteers. We need leaders willing to reclaim democracy from the iron fist of imperialistic power and greed.