LOS ANGELES -- October -- Award-winning film and recording artist Cher joined Mrs. Lila Lipscomb, the military mom featured in Michael Moores $100 million grossing documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, for two rousing Los Angeles public forums attended by hundreds, October 16 and 17, hosted by Tour of Duty: Americans Speak Out, a project of Win Without War, the nations largest anti-war coalition.|
Speaking at the United Methodist Churches of Venice and Hollywood, Cher was at once highly energized and appalled by conditions for Iraq veterans. Lila Lipscomb, whose nickname is Sunny, was an explosive speaker whose agenda, she said, was to understand and expose the truth about the reasons for the Iraq war. Lipscomb encouraged Americans to demand accountability for how their tax dollars are being spent, and why their children are getting shipped off to fight in the Middle East.
Cher was funny, moving and authentic as she noted that she has lived through eleven presidents, yet has never felt her current level of concern about the direction of the country. In fact, she said she was afraid, as a high-profile performing artist, to speak out, because, I saw what happened to the Dixie Chicks, they got cut off at the legs
They [the administration] wrap themselves in the flag and if you dare to disagree with them publicly, youre a traitor.
Lipscomb and Cher boldly questioned the administrations justifications for going to war and expressed dismay with the treatment of returning veterans, especially the physically and psychological wounded. Thus far, 27 soldiers have committed suicide in Iraq, and another 22 have committed suicide in the U.S. In addition to the nearly 1,100 servicemen and women killed in Iraq, another 7,500 have been wounded. As many as 20 are being killed daily.
Both forums included screenings of The Ground Truth by director Patricia Foulkrod, an eye-opening new documentary on young American war veterans who have suffered debilitating wounds or who have committed suicide as a result of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from serving in Iraq.
Cher has supported U.S. troops since her days performing in Vietnam. She recently visited wounded Iraq veterans recuperating from catastrophic injuries at Walter Reed Army Medical Hospital in Washington. Said Cher: When you hear wounded in the media, you think maybe a bullet wound in the arm or the leg. These guys are missing their legs and/or arms, theyre paralyzed, theyre often crippled for life. Two soldiers sitting together in a Humvee had both their legs blown off by a rocket that went through the vehicle. There are thousands of young amputees filling up military hospitals because of this war. We need to ask why?
Mrs. Lipscomb returned to Los Angeles for the first time in 25 years, as the Tour of Duty speakers tour makes its way across America this month. She spoke about her own experiences as a military mom with a long family military history. I supported the president, Mrs. Lipscomb said Sunday night. I believed my president when he said we had to go to war with Iraq.
A native of Inglewood who attended Moorpark High School in Simi Valley, the Flint resident lost her son, Sgt. Michael Pederson, in a downed Black Hawk helicopter in April 2003. She gained national recognition when Moore filmed her pilgrimage to the White House for his Fahrenheit 9/11 documentary, where she stood before the gates demanding to know why her son was killed in Iraq, and asked where are the weapons of mass destruction?
Jeff Norman, Tour of Duty executive producer and emcee for the Los Angeles events, criticized the scarce media coverage of war theater conditions and Iraq casualties. We are presenting rare opportunities to hear personal stories from those directly affected by the war in Iraq, mothers of soldiers like Lila and the soldiers themselves, Norman said. Several young Iraq war vets were in the audience both nights and told their stories to captive audiences.
Said Cher, We need to be able to to express dissent about this war, without fear of getting shot down by the administration or the media. Isnt this really like Vietnam d?j? vu?
The Tour events in L.A. also presented a lighter face with comedy and musical performances. On Sunday night, the two mothers were joined by Arab-American comedian Ahmed Ahmed, and Israeli flamenco guitarist Adam del Monte, cultural ambassadors of the Levantine Cultural Center in Los Angeles, bringing a message of peace and inter-ethnic tolerance.
Cher, Lipscomb and others are participating in Tour of Duty: Americans Speak Out, a national speakers tour, featuring popular performers, activists and policy experts. The Tour is exposing Americans to the truth about the Iraq war, advocating a smarter foreign policy and a safer America, and urges Americans to go to the polls on November 2.
The Tour of Duty continues tomorrow when folk music legend Joan Baez will perform and Mel Goodman, former CIA analyst, and Lila Lipscomb will speak in Cleveland, OH, October 19th. Next Tour stops are Philadelphia on October 24th, New York City on October 29th, Pittsburgh on October 30th and St. Louis, MO on October 31st.
Also lending their support to the Tour are Martin Sheen, Rickie Lee Jones, former ambassador to Iraq Edward Peck, Woody Harrelson, former assistant secretary of defense Lawrence Korb, Tim Robbins, former State Department intelligence director Greg Thielmann, comedians Greg Proops, Jimmy Tingle, and Rick Overton, and documentary director Robert Greenwald, among others.
Tour of Duty is sponsored by Win Without War, the nations largest anti-war coalition; Black Voices for Peace; the Fourth Freedom Forum; Peace Action, the nations largest grassroots peace organization; Physicians for Social Responsibility; and Womens Actions for New Directions.
Tour of Duty is an educational, strictly nonpartisan project which takes no position on the outcome of the presidential or any other political race. This project aims to enlighten the public on foreign policy and security issues, and motivate people to vote.