July 11, 2006
Letter to the Hunger StrikersBy Vasko Kohlmayer
I was very impressed with your hunger strike protest in front of the White House on July 3. I was especially stirred to learn that a number of you have pledged to take the protest all the way and make the ultimate sacrifice if necessary. I was indeed deeply moved when reading that
But no reporter could have expressed your resolution more eloquently or powerfully than Ms. Wilson herself when she said:
While all this is very inspiring, I must confess that I am somewhat skeptical of such gestures coming from your side, since in the past you have shown a proclivity to engage in what can only be called cheap publicity ploys.
But today we are at war, and I am certain that you would agree that in these serious times any attempt to pull off empty stunts would be particularly despicable. I hope that you intend to honor your pledge fully, especially since you have gone to such lengths to attract publicity. In this you have succeeded admirably and your event was covered by most major news organizations. Reporting somberly, they told us of your extraordinary resolve and flashed into our homes images of the solemn proceedings by which it was accompanied.
The holding of hands, the pink plastic strip serving as a table, the last meal — all these images left a profound impression on many in this nation. But now when the solemn rituals are over and most of the news crews have gone home, it is time to give your gestures substance by living up to the promise you have dully made.
It may indeed be a long time before our troops are brought home and in the meantime some or all of you may pass away as you faithfully seek to fulfill the terms of your promise. Of this, however, you must have been well aware before you staged your event in the glare of television cameras.
If you honor your word and die, you will join the ranks of this nation's revered martyrs who have laid their lives for the sake of their beliefs. This should be a great source of strength to you. But you can find no better inspiration than our soldiers who every day lie down their lives for their conviction, which is that America is a great land worthy of the ultimate sacrifice. May their determination and heroism be a shining example to you. Above all, I urge you to conduct yourselves in a way that will make you worthy of these great American heroes. If you should ever feel your steadfastness beginning to falter, you will do well to reflect on the fact that they are dying for you too.
As the time progresses and the first pangs of hunger set in, you may experience a temptation to break off your fast. I emphatically urge you not to do so, and I appeal to your sense of honor, dignity and shame to persist in honoring your solemn vow. I am certain I speak for many in this nation when I say we are standing with you. You can rest assured that we will follow your progress closely and hold a vigil to help you ward off any temptation that could weaken your resolve in the days ahead.
Provided we do not withdraw our troops before then, on Columbus Day we will conduct a roll call of your corps. If by that time any or all of you are still among us, we will know that you have furtively and cynically violated the terms of your solemn pledge, since no one has ever survived a genuine hunger strike for more than seventy days.
The manner in which you conduct yourself in the weeks ahead will determine your place in history. You will either join the venerated line of American heroes who sacrificed themselves in the name of a higher cause, or you will be forever remembered with derision and scorn as a collection of posturing fools. Your choice is between the glory that belongs to martyrs or the contempt that is the rightful portion of purveyors of cheap stunts and empty gestures. The choice is stark, but the knowledge that your fate rests in your hands should give you the strength to do what is right.
We are watching you and hope that you will comport yourself with honesty and dignity befitting true Americans. May you act in a way that will commend your memory to this country's future generations so that they may remember your present effort as your finest hour.
I wish you strong will and much determination in keeping the pledge you have so solemnly and publicly taken before this nation and the world.
Vasko Kohlmayer is a frequent contributor.