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"When I wave my white flag, that means you surrender."

In Waterville, Maine, a group of veterans have been arrested for defending their territory.

A group of peace activists from the Waterville Valley Bridges to Peace decided to reach out to the Veterans of Foreign Wars to see if they would be interested in some sort of joint action to honor those American service members who have fallen in Iraq. Not surprisingly, the VFW didn't bother to answer; those most inclined to join such organizations have very little truck with those who "oppose war."

So, rebuffed by the vets, the BoP people received permits from the town to set up a display in the local veteran's memorial park cemetery to commemorate the fallen. And armed with that, they set up their display. They stuck up signs that say "War Is Not The Answer," ''2000 Soldiers Killed in Iraq How Many More?" and ''100,000 Iraqis Died as a Result of This War How Many More?"

And around the signs, they planted 2,000 little white flags.

White flags. The international symbol of defeat, of surrender.

The veterans from the VFW saw what was being done in THEIR cemetery, dedicated in THEIR honor, and were outraged. They protested vehemently, and the BoP took down the sign about the Iraqis. The veterans still seethed at the perceived insult, but held their peace. They noted that the permit the BoP had obtained covered "until the first snowfall."

Last week, Waterville received a dusting of snow, but the flags remained. And Thursday night, mere hours before the day when we are all called to give them some small measure of the honor they are due, five veterans decided to enforce the law themselves and remove the flags. They couldn't stand the thought of those obscene symbols of defeat and surrender desecrating their cemetery.

They were arrested.

A representative from BoP, when asked to comment on the story, said he felt sorry for the poor, stupid, ignorant veterans. Bill Lord, himself a veteran as well as a leader of BoP, told a reporter ''I wish they could understand that what we are doing is an attempt to reduce casualties among our brothers and sisters fighting in wars overseas."

They do understand what you are doing, Mr. Lord. And just like when their allies in Code Pink decide to hold their protests outside military hospitals, telling the wounded within just how stupid they are and how pointless their sacrifices were, they know the difference between a solemn memorial and a calculated slap in the face. It's the new version of the spits and the cries of "baby killers" that greeted returning veterans from Viet Nam.

They really do support the troops -- as long as those troops are properly ashamed of what they have done. Any who have the nerve to believe in their mission or take pride in their achievements are simply "ignorant" and need to be properly "educated" by their betters.

By any means necessary.

Update: A couple of readers have questioned the discrepancy between my account and the Boston Glob's, which I linked to. I heard a radio story on the same event, and several veterans said the terms of the permit said "first snowfall," not "significant snowfall." I put more faith in the words of the veterans than I do of the Boston Glob, which has a long history of shading the facts to suit their agenda.

But prompted by those readers, I did a bit more research -- which I should have done in the first place. This story by the AP also says "first snowfall," so I feel pretty comfortable that the Glob simply took the spin of the BoP mouthpiece, as is their tendency.

I'm taking a lesson from this: in the future, when I use the Glob as a source, I should use Google News to doublecheck the Glob. And my thanks to Rick and Nicholas for nudging me to back up what I'm saying a bit better.


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference "When I wave my white flag, that means you surrender.":

» basil's blog linked with Brunch: 11/12/2003

» LeatherPenguin linked with Scream or Spit?

» In the Bullpen linked with Round the Reader

Comments (26)

Not to get too picky on thi... (Below threshold)

Not to get too picky on this, but at least the article you linked to said that the display was allowed until after the first heavy snow of the season.

So while I find what the BoP was doing despicable, it sounds as if the police in Waterville did the right thing... which is enforcing the law.

I'm also wondering why the ... (Below threshold)

I'm also wondering why the article said "until the first heavy snow" while you have quoted "until the first snowfall."

The article you linked to didn't mention that there was any snowing going on at all. I wonder if that's because they're trying to add some "spin" to the piece. This discrepancy makes it all the more worrying.

How much would it cost to m... (Below threshold)

How much would it cost to move and operate a snow-making machine from a ski resort?

This is one of the few times I truly wish I were rich.

Who in the world would spen... (Below threshold)
Old Soldier:

Who in the world would spend very much time trying to figure out Maine-iacs? Where were the minds of these town officials that granted a permit for a peace movement to demonstrate in a park dedicated to veterans? When the signs and flags went up, why in the world didn't the town officials revoke the permit. Obviously it was a slap in the face of the veterans; no matter what Bill Lord's background was. (The vast majority of Vietnam veterans don't agree with John Kerry's policy of appeasement, either. In fact most of us still condemn his VVAW [Vietnam Veterans Against War] activities.)

The town leadership (or lack thereof) is troubling in this matter. They should certainly be taken to task over this insulting affront to veterans.

As for the police doing the right thing, that's a nice way of overlooking their complicity. How many times have police let speeders off or selectively not enforced many other laws, based upon their own judgement? Using the law as a shield is no excuse for using common sense. When the police are sympathetic, they can overlook all kinds of "infractions." Obviously, they just weren't sympathetic this time. I wonder why?

The anti-war left mouthing ... (Below threshold)

The anti-war left mouthing their pseudo-support for veterans while simultaneously underming their support and encouraging the enemy is like a spouse/child abuser telling their victims how much they love them while they beat them senseless....and then blaming the victim for "making" them beat them.

argh. PIMF. "undermining"</... (Below threshold)

argh. PIMF. "undermining"

Perhaps I'm alone in this s... (Below threshold)

Perhaps I'm alone in this sentiment, but I can't agree with what the vets did here. Enforcing the law is the business of the courts and the police department, not of private citizens.


PW, is it not at the sacrif... (Below threshold)
Old Soldier:

PW, is it not at the sacrifice of veterans that we have the freedom to rule ourselves by law? Doesn’t it seem more reasonable to you for the town officials to deny a permit that would most likely cause a contentious situation? Come on, a peace movement in a park dedicated to veterans? I am a Vietnam veteran (as well as the first Gulf War) and I still harbor very ill feelings toward Jane Fonda, John Kerry and the liberal peacenik anti-war protestors who spat upon me and called me a baby killed upon my return from Vietnam. Laws don’t mean a whole lot where passions run high; and from experience, veterans don’t tolerate anti-war activists very well. (There are a few exceptions; like John Kerry and BoP’s Bill Lord.) If the town leadership was truly about peace, they would have done the smart thing and either denied the permit, or at least ended it about a week before Veteran’s Day.

What would have been proper... (Below threshold)

What would have been proper was for those who granted the permit to have recognized that a CEMETERY was not a proper place for an activist display. I'm not sure (Mark, you may be of assistance here), that an unmanned display even falls under the "peaceful protest" protections which normally protects rallies, marches, and the like.

That point notwithstanding, it is customary for a city to deny a requested location for a demonstration, in favor of one that doesn't cause problems. The failure to do so in Toledo was called into question lately, though that was admittedly a reprimand from the opposite side that would have opposed this display.

But, if the city leaders in Toledo were obviously negligent about what allowing that protest in that location would certainly bring about, why wouldn't the same standard apply here? Again, they could put up their display, just not upon the grounds designated a memorial for our fallen war heroes.

Mark, I must agree with you on pure principles, but I do find fault with the authorities not holding up their obligation to enforce the provisions of the permit, then springing to action to arrest the Vets.

While I support the veteran... (Below threshold)

While I support the veterans and their commendable desire to be honest-law-obeying citizens, this just seems to be another example of, what I consider, the pussification or courtification of the community. Everything must be a legal dispute. When I was a younger fellow, we had a saying: 'He's a few whippin's short of wisdom.' meaning that when you affront someone, in their house, you should expect an ass-whuppin'. Protest on the street or at the courthouse, don't piss on someone's grave with his brothers standing right there.


You know Jay, if the anti-w... (Below threshold)

You know Jay, if the anti-war protestors were as careful as you to make sure they only relay facts...we wouldn't have to put up with their insults to the veterans.

All of their talking points would vanish. I appreciate your integrity.

Old Soldier:Yes, p... (Below threshold)

Old Soldier:

Yes, perhaps the permit should have been denied. But the proper course was not to attack the duly authorized display, but to protest to the law-enforcement authorities regarding the display.

I can certainly sympathize with the insult that the veterans feel, and I can certainly understand why the veterans felt they had to act ... but that doesn't mean that their act was lawful.


I guess the one thing I con... (Below threshold)

I guess the one thing I consider soemwhat sacred in our otherwise religious-averse society are those grounds dedicated to our veterans and war dead. I have never been in the military but I sure as all get out appreciate what the service of these folks means to my way of life. I can never, ever be cynical about that. Each and every one of them has potentially placed their life in danger for the way of life I have. I am fine with the message of the BoP group, but I think it is absolutely reprehensible that these folks feel their demonstartion has to be on land dedicated to war veterans. I could see it all now. Once the town government saw what the intention of BoP was, any efforts at revoking the permit would have been met with a complaint of interfering with freedom of expression. These types like the BoP picking a Veterans' memorial ground to stage a protest are like a trouble making classmate that sits behind you in school and keeps kicking your chair. When you finally turn around and slug the smarmy little instigator your the one who gets in trouble for resorting to violence.

DaveD:If you slug ... (Below threshold)


If you slug the smarmy instigator, do you win because you slugged him, or did he win because he caused you to take an action you wouldn't otherwise have committed?

In the case of the classroom instigator, you clearly should do something about him, as he's committing what amounts to a physical assault on your person.

But the white flags, etc. in the graveyard are quite another. Leave them standing, and they testify to how an antiwar group is willing to sink to any low for its protests.

Take the initiative to move those flags, and you've just given them the "you're suppressing our dissent" card to play. Not a winning strategy, if you ask me.


Yes, the Boston GLobe. Let... (Below threshold)
capt joe:

Yes, the Boston GLobe. Let's not forget the breathless reporting about American servicemen raping Iraqi women.

I later turned out that the "evidence' was porn site that dressed up their porn stars and never even attempted to pretend what they were doing was real. The Globe never even checked out the story and then were forced to print a pseudo retraction, never even admitting that the story was patently false.

Ah yes, the globe, that bastion of truth. We know how they stand with veterans. i.e. with a knife and false stories planted at their back.

I would love to be on the j... (Below threshold)
A Veteran:

I would love to be on the jury if this one goes to trial. The Vets would win.

WP, and if we had fought th... (Below threshold)
Old Soldier:

WP, and if we had fought the British in the courts of today, we'd still be taxed without representation and subjects of the crown. I'm not saying that violence and confrontation is the first or best course of action. The veterans did protest the BoP demonstration; to no avail. What was their recourse, the court system and years of expensive litigation? in courts that favor the anti-war groups?

To old soldiers there are a few things that have very significant meaning and the resting places of our fallen comrades is one of them. For those BoP idiots to defile that place with flags of surrender and signs of gross lies (the number of Iraqi deaths; as if attributable to the US action) was more than I could have withstood too, especially after the town failed to act upon their protest.

I think the town leadership was "stuck on stupid." And so were the BoP to think their veterans cemetary demonstration would be "welcomed" by the Veterans of the area.

As far as I'm concerned a v... (Below threshold)

As far as I'm concerned a veteran's cemetery is sacred ground. This was a deliberate and calculated attempt to despoil that ground and whoever it was that thought it was just fine to give these ingrates permission to do so, whether complicit or just plain incompetent, should be promptly and unceremoniously canned.

Old Soldier,

While I heartily endorse your sentiments about this officially endorsed act of vandalism, I am a Mainer born and bred, and I take umbrage at the term Maine-iac.

I wouldn't have waited for ... (Below threshold)

I wouldn't have waited for a snowfall to remove white flags, and would have chained myself outside the fence if they came to take me away.

Cemeteries [inside] are not appropriate places to protest.

Speaking of decency, what do you think of that JReid?

Also checked out the wapbj ... (Below threshold)

Also checked out the wapbj website - looks like they've been so busy planting white flags they haven't updated it in a while. Amongst their Labor proclamations are a few socialist kernals of doctrine. No big surprise there.

Feel free to leave comments at:


Re: pennywit's comment @ 11... (Below threshold)

Re: pennywit's comment @ 11:41 AM, 11/12/2005:

The veterans' actions may not have been legal, but they were right.

Pennywit, just checked in a... (Below threshold)

Pennywit, just checked in and I cannot disagree with anything you addressed to me yesterday. You are correct that retaliation in the form I described would not be a slam dunk winning strategy. I guess my problem stems from the number of "current antiwar" folks I know whose distain for the President carries over to a level of condescension and lack of respect of those individuals who have answered his call. I have a hard time tolerating their reasoning on that matter.

It's really interesting how... (Below threshold)

It's really interesting how the defending side of an issue is the one who incorporates "nuance" as part of the defense. And those on the offense almost always see things as black and white. We all do it.

It appears to me though, after reading two of the articles on this (Boston.com and SFGate.com), that there has been no love lost between the two groups for some time. I understand the VFW group's anger, but if the other group had a permit, they were thechnically within the law.

However, I also took into account the signs that were erected along with the flags and the comments made by the peace group to the press. (They eventually took down one sign.) After a long period of confrontation between the two groups, they particularly chose the "Veteran's" park? Then they made the condescending remarks that they were "simply" trying to commemorate the deaths and really, honestly and truly didn't think they would hurt anyone's feelings? I believe they are sincere in their sorrow for the deaths, but their comments regarding the VFW group were completely disingenuous given their history.

It's really a matter of philosophical differences whereby one group used the rule of law to get their digs in against the other. And therein, I believe, lies the rub.

I don't fault the policemen. This particular situation is one of many that are so publicized they really didn't have a choice. I'd go out on a limb and say they were probably sympathetic to the Veterans.

TheRealSwede,My hu... (Below threshold)
Old Soldier:


My humble apologies that you took umbrage with my use of the term Maine-iacs. I assure you no offense was meant. I hale originally from down-country along the eastern coast of CT. My dad hunted deer many years in Maine and I accompanied him to New Hampshire once. I first heard the term Maine-iac from him many years ago. It was a term of endearment; indicating not some deranged mental disorder but a Yankee independence associated with most New Englanders. Again, my apologies if I offended you in any manner.

Old Soldier,I appr... (Below threshold)

Old Soldier,

I appreciate very much your kind words of explanation regarding the term "Maine-iac". My own experience with the term was not as endearing. As a boy, my family and I spent three years exile in Massachusetts, where I was often taunted by my schoolmates for being a Maine-iac and a hick. Even school officials routinely betrayed their prejudices, taking credit for re-educating me when I did well in my studies. Interesting to have such different experiences with the same term. Anyway, thank you again for your response. It is much appreciated.

actually, this place was NO... (Below threshold)

actually, this place was NOT a cemetery, but a Memorial Park, run by the City of Waterville, ME






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