Thursday, June 22, 2006
TO: VETERANS FOR PEACE DIRECTORS
FROM: MICHELLE J. KINNUCAN
SUBJECT: COMPLAINT OF MISCONDUCT AGAINST ROBERT A. KRZEWINSKI
CC: VETERANS FOR PEACE EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
This misconduct complaint is filed pursuant to Article III, Section 6 of the Veterans for Peace (VFP) bylaws and the "ADDITIONAL RULES" to that section provided to me by VFP President David Cline. Robert A. Krzewinski is an officer of Veterans for Peace chapter 93.
On April 11, 2006, the Ann Arbor News published on page A6 a letter to the editor from Krzewinski entitled "Some use a cause to gain attention for themselves." The text of the letter
Years ago, who would have thought someone would have the audacity to protest at a soldier's funeral, and in a totally offensive way? Along came Fred Phelps and his followers, who now routinely appear at military funerals with messages of hate and intolerance.On April 30, 2006, I sent a lengthy critique of Krzewinski's letter to VFP's Executive Director and the Board of Directors, individually. Receiving no response, I made an inquiry to the Executive Director regarding "procedures for investigating and hearing claims of misconduct" established under Section 6. After a lengthy delay, I received the "ADDITIONAL RULES" referenced above on May 20, 2006, for President David Cline. As of this writing, none of the officers or Directors of Veterans for Peace has responded to my follow-up inquiries on May 20 and May 28 concerning misconduct procedures and, specifically, my request for contact information for the Membership Committee. Consequently, I am sending this to the entire Board for appropriate action.
The sad thing about people like Fred Phelps is that they thrive on attention, and their message and antics almost guarantee press coverage wherever they travel. Unfortunately, our area has its share of people who also seem to have a great need of attention and perform outrageous acts to bring attention to themselves. A recent example was the March 19 Iraq war anniversary event on the University of Michigan Diag.
Part of the event was a nonpolitical display by Veterans For Peace of crosses, one for each Michigan soldier killed in the Iraq war. Most people treated this display with respect, reading the information about each soldier provided and keeping in mind the sacrifices these individuals made.
During the course of the Diag event, a person with a "Victory to the Iraqi resistance" showed up right next to the display of the crosses, apparently thinking nothing of the fact that the crude and insensitive sign was the equivalent of spitting on dead soldiers.
If readers can take anything from recent stories about people at peace events carrying signs urging violence, it is that such events also draw individuals who care more about bringing attention to themselves and could care less about creating a more peaceful world.
Robert A. Krzewinski, Ypsilanti
The writer is coordinator of Veterans For Peace Chapter 93
If Krzewinski had not identified himself as an officer in Veterans for Peace or if he had kept his criticism private then I would not be writing you today. However, Krzewinski did identify himself as a VFP officer and his letter was published in Ann Arbor's main newspaper, which in the most recent report of the Audit Bureau of Circulations, had a circulation of 65,018. Furthermore, if the national leadership of VFP had taken appropriate action regarding Krzewinski's letter I would not be writing you today. However, apparently, the national leadership has taken no action and, so, I am making this formal complaint.
I believe Krzewinski has engaged in "public advocacy or actions contrary to the VFP Statement of Purpose" (Additional Rule 3) and/or "malfeasance while serving in an official VFP capacity at the chapter ... level" (Additional Rule 4). Specifically, Krzewinski publicly defamed a fellow peace activist* on the basis of nothing more than his own speculative explanation of her internal emotional state and motives and his own subjective interpretation of the sign the activist was carrying. As far as I know, Krzewinski possesses no special powers to discern other people's motives and, thus, he had no way of knowing with any certainty what the activist's motives were. Even assuming, for the sake of argument only, that the activist was motivated by a "great need of attention" to "perform outrageous acts" then Krzewinski's derision was, arguably, more, not less, inappropriate. People who have an overwhelming psychological need for attention should be helped or, at least, not ridiculed.
Krzewinski interpreted the slogan—"Victory to the Iraqi Resistance"—the activist was holding as "urging violence." On this particular point, Krzewinski's interpretation of the slogan and his outrage over it place him squarely in agreement with the pro-war camp. To verify this, simply do a Google search on the phrase "victory to the Iraqi resistance" or, better yet, search on the phrase in the freerepublic.com archives. It is, perhaps, understandable that Krzewinski would have such a knee-jerk reaction but it was inexcusable for him to publicly press his interpretation.
In fact, there are other valid interpretations of this sign. Consider the following remarks:
" 'Traitors' is the nicest thing KVI's macho jingoists have called us," said [Freedom Socialist Party] organizer Luma Nichol. "We are being vilified for standing with the Iraqi victims of U.S. aggression in a war that Congress never declared and millions of people tried to stop. We don't want the lives of U.S. soldiers destroyed any more than those of Iraqis. The way to stop the bloodshed is for the U.S. government and all its contractors to pull out of Iraq." ...The above are excerpts are from a 2004 report of a protest outside the offices of the Freedom Socialist Party in Seattle after the FSP posted a "Victory to the Iraqi Resistance" sign in their from window. My point is not that the slogan is above criticism—I do not believe that and, personally, I would never carry such a sign. My point is that Krzewinski's criticism was a cheap smear based on his personal interpretation and was inappropriate as a public statement coming from a VFP officer.
"But the sign is staying," [Chris] Smith says." We have an obligation to those who are dying in Fallujah to speak out. For us, the Iraqi resistance is composed of striking workers, women who are fighting imposition of Sharia laws, the unemployed fighting for jobs, and people in Baghdad sending food to those under siege in Fallujah. The resistance is not just military, it's many, many ordinary Iraqis."
Finally, it was unconscionable for Krzewinski to assert that the "sign was the equivalent of spitting on dead soldiers." Again, this is the kind of talk I expect from the saber-rattling Right and from the Chicken Hawks but not from a Veteran for Peace. What actually occurred is far from the "equivalent of spitting on dead soldiers." Krzewinski, however, has invoked one of the most notorious slanders ever directed against peace activists—spitting on soldiers.
The myth of the spat upon soldier has been soundly debunked by Jerry Lembke in his book, The Spitting Image. As Air Force veteran H. Bruce Franklin writes in Vietnam and Other American Fantasies, "There is no contemporaneous evidence of any antiwar activists spitting on veterans. The first allegations of such behavior did not appear until the late 1970s. The spat-upon veteran then became a mythic figure used to build support for military fervor and, later on, the Gulf War." Krzewinski's public letter as a VFP officer gratuitously reinforces this pernicious myth.
For the reasons set forth above, Krzewinski's public letter of defamation against a fellow peace activist presented VFP in a negative light. His conduct was contrary to "the cause of world peace," it was detrimental to "work[ing] with others," and was not in the "best interests" of VFP, all as provided for in the VFP Statement of Purpose. Krzewinski engaged in "public advocacy or actions contrary to the VFP Statement of Purpose" (Additional Rule 3) and/or "malfeasance while serving in an official VFP capacity at the chapter … level" (Additional Rule 4) Therefore, I urge the VFP Board of Directors to publicly reprimand Krzewinski for the letter in question.
* In the event that VFP conducts a proper inquiry into the matters presented in this complaint, the apparent subject of Krzewinski's letter has agreed to disclose her name and provide testimony.
See also: "Response to Krzewinski"