Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The IVAW Bus Arson That Wasn't

At about 9:30 pm on Friday, January 11, the IVAW’s bus caught fire at a truck stop in southern New Jersey. Nicknamed “The Yellow Rose of Texas”, the vehicle was a total loss. Fortunately the driver, Vietnam Veteran and anti-war activist Jim Goodnow was not hurt, though he was on the bus attempting to take a nap when the fire started. While the bus is often referred to on the Net as IVAW’s bus, there are also statements that Mr. Goodnow himself is the owner-operator. Whichever the case may be, Mr. Goodnow and IVAW have my condolences for what must be a substantial loss, especially Mr. Goodnow. He lost personal possessions along with his livelihood, at least temporarily.

Over the days following the fire the story had “been posted all over the place” in the words of our IVAW friend ‘army sergeant’ writing at Active Duty Patriot.

However, what was written about the bus fire was light on what could be important details. This post from OpEd News.com was reposted in many places and is a good example. The site of the fire is identified only as a South Jersey truck stop. No town or city was identified. It speculates that the fire could have “been anything from ARSON, to ATTEMPTED MURDER.” [Caps theirs] There is nothing about what fire department was on site and whether they were investigating an arson or recommending that such be done. It ends by stating that Mr. Goodnow was planning to contact the ATF Arson Squad the next day, and that readers should “Stay tuned”.

I have stayed tuned, for over two weeks, but there has been nothing to tune in to. However, the seeds were planted for what followed. That this bus was festooned with overtly political signs and slogans, from “Impeach Bush-Cheney” to “Don’t Invade Iran” makes it at least within the realm of reason to speculate that it was possible that someone torched the vehicle out of a political motivation. What was and is not reasonable was to conclude, without evidence, that it must have been arson, an intentional attack and that folks could be sure of the ‘type’ of party responsible. What follows opens me up to a charge of nut-picking, but is done here for another reason: as a guage of the intense reactions the story, as given, fueled.

From the Democratic Underground, a sampling:

“They'd have killed Jim just for sh*ts and giggles. We need to treat the rethug bastards the way we dealt with the Confederates and the Nazis, with rifles and soldiers. Welcome to the Second American Civil War!”

And...

“BUSINESS AS USUAL in USAmerika. Just ask anyone who worked for Civil Rights in this f**ked up country...Or anybody who was active against the last Vietnam war...USAmerika is a f**ked-up, violent, racist outfit. That ain't gonna change soon...”

And...

“I live in south Jersey and I don't know what is more troubling to me:
1. The very real possibility that some fanatical Bushites attempted to harm a peace lover; or
2. The fact that not one single local news station or newspaper has even mentioned this incident.”

And...

“If I was a betting man, I'd wager my life savings it was a Freeper Nazi who did this. We know it was a pro-war thug who did it. The government needs to watch these people like a hawk.”

And...

“Paranoia, proud and unafraid, here on DU! Many of these posts assume that George Bush himself gave orders for his black ops team to destroy the bus. How about a Bartcop Chinaco tequila shot of reality here? He was at a FREAKING TRUCK STOP! Truck stops are full of right-wingers, usually working 48 hour shifts, high on coke or ecstasy to stay awake and complete their runs, listening to Rush Limbaugh and Faux News, out of their minds. Isn't it more likely that some of these truck drivin' zombies freaked out and decided to torch the hippie liberal bus?

And someone answering that last post:

“I read through them all and I hadn't seen that ["Many of these posts assume that George Bush himself gave orders"]. Seems like most people are thinking that if it was arson, it was probably a right-wing nutjob, like you suggest. Comments like that set up a strawman argument where people feel they have to say, "Oh no, I wasn't implying George Bush did it. Golly." When instead we should be noting that the Bush-sponsored fascism has created a**holes who think this is a reasonable response to people who protest their government's illegal wars. So while he probably had not done it, the subtext to all this is that he might as well have done it.

And...

“I wonder if the Justice Dept will treat this as an act of terrorism?..I'm sure the FBI will now bring its vast resources to bear on this new threat to national security, the bus-burning branch of Al Quaeda.”

DailyKos was, of course, similar:

“Burning peace buses? Someone remind me what freaking time we're living in.”

And...

“It keeps astounding me that the self righteous, hyper religious folks in our nation are the ones that resort to violence in the face of someone else's opinion.”

And...

“It doesn't astound me a bit, unfortunately Those who feel that they have righteousness on their side, or feel that they are "standing up for God" will always believe that the ends justify the means for if the end result is that God's will (as they see it) is done, then they may, and in fact must do anything and everything to make it so.”

There were many others, including:

Peace Bus, The Yellow Rose Torched

IVAW Bus Torched

IVAW bus, nicknamed "Yellow Rose," burned by arsonists in NJ

IVAW Bus Firebombed

'YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS' Peace Bus Destroyed In Deliberate Arson Fire


Attempted murder and arson in order to stop the advancement of peace!

IVAW Bus Firebombed - Author: Veterans For Peace

Even though our IVAW friend Army Sergeant at Active Duty Patriot made some attempt at tamping things down, he also simply concluded that it had to have been a deliberate fire:

“... I suspect that the culprits, if in fact my theory is correct, likely didn't give a thought to his presence either way…it was most likely a cruel and violent act, perpetrated on the spur of the moment by ignorant people…Whether these people had devious and dastardly plans or not, they still deserve to be found and charged.”

On January 20th, in the comments at this very site with VVAW's Bill “Watermelon Slim” Homans, I called Mr. Homans on it when he claimed that “IVAW's bus was torched in New Jersey this week. SOMEBODY is trying to intimidate IVAW...”. He admitted there was no proof of that.

In nearly three weeks there has been no follow up and nothing to confirm that this was indeed arson. To be fair, in the discussions at DU and Kos, there were folks asking if there was any confirmation that this was arson and an attack, yet those voices were frankly driven over by the mob. Reasonableness need not apply for many.

In a 2000 report on arson investigations, the DOJ reported that there were nearly 400,000 vehicle fires in 1997 alone. The overwhelming majority were not arson. The report states that almost 16 percent of fires were considered actual or potential arson, and that includes ‘suspicion’ of arson. Even though the report states that that figure is likely conservative, due to the potential destruction of evidence of arson by the fire itself, that would still leave hundreds of thousands of vehicle fires that were not arson. I pointed out to Mr. Homans that almost coincidental with the IVAW bus fire, there were others that were not arson, including a school bus, a city transit bus and a college sports team bus.

With that lack of follow-up and no regular media reporting on what would be a significant story if it indeed were a politically motivated arson, I tried to find out on my own. Photos of the bus being towed showed that the tow truck belonged to Riehl's Towing & Maintenance, which I found out was in Clarksboro, NJ. Riehl’s told me that the responders were members of the Carney’s Point Fire Department. When I contacted them, the Deputy Chief told me that there was no arson investigation and would not be. The fire began in the closed engine department and burned outward, and was believed to have been caused by an equipment malfunction or failure. There was no indication of, much less evidence of arson.

They knew that weeks ago. The day after the fire Riehl’s towed the truck to a salvage yard, not a facility where criminal evidence would be kept.

So why has IVAW and others let the story and assumption of an intentional crime linger, when they could have cleared it up?

Most of the sites that tell of the fire also give information on how to make contributions to replace the bus. There is nothing wrong in that. Yet charitable giving and contributions are often motivated by appealing to emotions, and the greater the emotion - the greater the giving.

This over-the-top screed comes from Virginians for Peace and Accountability – Larry’s World:

“During the evening hours of Jan. 11, 2008, another event destined to enter Amerika's Political Hall of Shame occurred at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike. There, the venerable Yellow Rose of Texas Peace Bus, owned and driven by Vietnam veteran Jim Goodnow, was set ablaze by perpetrators yet to be apprehended...it suddenly had become too much of a threat to those cowards who have no means of discourse other than abject violence...they chose to kill our messenger of Truth-and-Hope as expressed by Goodnow and his fellow members of Veterans for Peace...Those of us who value that message now have the opportunity to help Goodnow resurrect the Peace Bus -- by sending a donation...In this world of political unrest, there's only one thing worse than assassinating a patriot activist: assassinating the IDEA that motivates his commitment and spirit.”]

This similar rant appeared on OpEd News.com on 1/16:

“Who's Afriad of the Yellow Rose Peace Bus?

Jim was headed to South Carolina to hook up with some peace activists there...Jim pulled into a rest area...and decided to take a short nap. While he was preparing for his nap, he saw a man walk by the bus, to the edge of the parking lot, look carefully all around him, and walk back towards the bus. When he went around the back of the bus, the man was out of sight and Jim didn’t give it much thought. He had turned off the engine and was ready to settle down for his nap when the back of the bus was quickly engulfed in flames. Jim escaped unharmed, but the bus is almost certainly a total loss and he lost most of his clothing and bedding which were near the engine compartment. Jim has received lots of threats over the years as he has boldly staked his claim of free speech, and while investigators have not yet determined if this was an act of arson or not, it only fits in with the new atmosphere of brown shirt style intimidation that the Bush/Cheney regime has engendered with vile rhetoric and criminal actions.

But Jim Goodenow will not be silenced and whether repaired or replaced, The Yellow Rose will rise again. You can help by going to yellowrosepeacebus.com and contributing...”

So what do we have? If age and wisdom come to a person, they will generally come to understand that even in the little things a person or an organization will reveal how it will act in greater things, a pattern of behavior and a window into character. We had a story that was light on details, so light that it took considerable effort to follow-up. We had insinuations and claims of crime and pronouncements of the guilty parties by association, with no proof offered. That fired up the emotions in this small cause, which was to raise money to replace the bus lost due to a not terribly uncommon and not criminal event.

Is there a pattern here? Will the Winter Soldier Investigation next March be light on details, making it hard to verify charges and insinuations? Will that WSI intend to fire folks up through emotions, so as to further a cause as opposed to, say, further understanding of the truth? From the IVAW website:

"IVAW will also arrange to make available copies of the Winter Soldier transcript highlights to support the various efforts of the antiwar movement."

That's the cause.

All we had with the torched bus was - highlights!

As they say, stay tuned!

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Homans, the Ma. VVAW state chair in the 70's, who also posted on this site several time clams to have been a truck driver for quite a number of years. Wonder if he takes offense with being lumped in with the quote you posted...

"...He was at a FREAKING TRUCK STOP! Truck stops are full of right-wingers, usually working 48 hour shifts, high on coke or ecstasy to stay awake and complete their runs, listening to Rush Limbaugh and Faux News, out of their minds. Isn't it more likely that some of these truck drivin' zombies freaked out and decided to torch the hippie liberal bus?”
.
How about it Mr. Homans?

Denis Keohane said...

Considering our previous conversation he would probably say that the left was once again smearing truck drivers.....maybe.

Robin said...

Denis - absolutely great research and digging for the facts on this. Will there be an apology for the accusations against the "right wingnuts"?

Denis Keohane said...

Robin: Will there be an apology for the accusations against the "right wingnuts"?

Absolutely! Just as was done after the Randi Rhodes “mugging” and the attack on Hillary’s campaign office in New Hampshire! Scheduled for right after the next Vatican Conclave selects Rosie O’Donnell as Pope.

Mike Blake is one of the IVAW members quoted in the recent ‘military encourages war crimes’ story.
http://64.233.169.104/search?q=cache:FB4AG2FO82gJ:news10now.com/Default.aspx%3FArID%3D108826+war+crimes+encouraged&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=3&gl=us

Blake had this to say:

"The killing of innocent civilians is policy…It's unit policy and it's Army policy. It's not official policy, but it's what's happens on the ground everyday. It's what unit commanders individually encourage."

Last March (2006), the Guardian reported this:

“Just outside New Orleans, the sudden appearance of a reporter from al-Jazeera's Washington office electrifies the former soldiers. It is a chance for the vets to turn confessional and the reporter is deluged with young former soldiers keen to be interviewed. ‘We want the Iraqi people to know that we stand with them,’ says Blake, ‘and that we're sorry, so sorry. That's why it was so important for us to appear on al-Jazeera.’”
http://64.233.169.104/search?q=cache:yg0D9DNMzRoJ:www.guardian.co.uk/Iraq/Story/0,,1741942,00.html+mike+blake+ivaw&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=10&gl=us

Electrified and keen to be interviewed – by Al Jazeera! Reading the comments at DU and Kos in reaction to the ‘arson’, it is kind of hard to remember that comments like “We need to treat the rethug bastards the way we dealt with the Confederates and the Nazis, with rifles and Soldiers” are coming from the anti-war peace crowd!

If the phony arson story cranked these folks up that much, what will be the reaction to the new WSI DVD, video and “highlights” in the Muslim world, and how many soldiers and Marines will get killed because of it?

But…they are for “peace”!

talon said...

Anyone who has had the dubious pleasure of manning the barricades against the likes of ANSWER, which Christopher Hitchens described as "a front for (depending on the day of the week) fascism, Stalinism, and jihadism", knows that the "anti-war" lunatic fringe in this country is probably the most hate-filled segment of American society. As Hitchens further points out, the phony peaceniks in this country "have a record of consistent support for war and militarism, from the Red Army in Eastern Europe to the Serbian ethnic cleansers and the Taliban...It is really a disgrace that the liberal press refers to such enemies of liberalism as "antiwar" when in reality they are straight-out pro-war, but on the other side..."

http://www.slate.com/id/2126913/

"There are only two serious attempts at swamp-draining currently under way. In Afghanistan and Iraq, agonizingly difficult efforts are in train to build roads, repair hospitals, hand out ballot papers, frame constitutions, encourage newspapers and satellite dishes, and generally evolve some healthy water in which civil-society fish may swim. But in each case, from within the swamp and across the borders, the most poisonous snakes and roaches are being recruited and paid to wreck the process and plunge people back into the ooze. How nice to have a "peace" movement that is either openly on the side of the vermin, or neutral as between them and the cleanup crew, and how delightful to have a press that refers to this partisanship, or this neutrality, as "progressive.""

Army Sergeant said...

I note that the words "if in fact my theory is correct" show that I concede the possibility that it is not in fact correct, and that there may be another explanation.

If in fact this was an accidental vehicle fire, and buses everywhere are spontaneously catching fire, I'm more concerned that we have such shoddy vehicles on the roads. If passenger cars were spontaneously catching fire while cold in parking lots, I think we'd have a bunch of lawsuits. I wonder if the fact that these buses are usually owned by organizations rather than private individuals causes this?

Also, it's known as the IVAW bus because the owner generously has donated the use of his bus whenever IVAW has requested it, has transported and housed IVAW, and decorated his bus with IVAW material. He is not himself a member of IVAW.

Also, if you will note carefully, IVAW itself never put out ANY statement on the bus fire. That's why you never saw statements on the website. Some members, such as myself, blogged about it, but that doesn't mean the organization as a whole had an opinion. The only thing I speak for officially in regards to IVAW is the bloggers.

Speaking of which, were you wanting to do that for yourself, or just trying to get the opportunity out there for others?

Denis Keohane said...

Hi Sarge,

“I note that the words "if in fact my theory is correct" show that I concede the possibility that it is not in fact correct, and that there may be another explanation.”

I saw that, but it reads (and I read it again) as that your theory is not whether someone committed arson, but whether it was a planned thing or a spontaneous one. After that, you write as though you have no doubt whatsoever that it was arson.

“If in fact this was an accidental vehicle fire, and buses everywhere are spontaneously catching fire, I'm more concerned that we have such shoddy vehicles on the roads. If passenger cars were spontaneously catching fire while cold in parking lots, I think we'd have a bunch of lawsuits.”

Sniper actually did a pretty good job on that with his discussion with you. There are hundreds of millions of vehicles in this country.
http://hypertextbook.com/facts/2001/MarinaStasenko.shtml

400,000 or even a half million fires out of that is a tiny number, a fraction of 1% of things that use and contain highly combustible material and electrical devices. It’s not that the vehicles are necessarily shoddy. But it is also true that a bus catching fire for a reason other than arson would not be out of the ordinary for the subset of buses that have caught fire.

You also mention “while cold in parking lots”. Likely not the case with the IVAW bus, but as with the one college sport team bus I cited, that vehicle had just been shut off. Lot of folks don’t know that a vehicle’s motor will generally be at its hottest right after it is shut down, because the coolant is not longer circulating and the heat has not dissipated. On some cars, where the temp sensor isn’t shut off with the car, you can see the temp needle rise when the car is turned off. The IVAW bus was parked with the driver intending to take a nap in January in New Jersey. NJ winter temp-wise, I’d guess the engine was running to keep him warm.

“Also, if you will note carefully, IVAW itself never put out ANY statement on the bus fire.”

Er….okay if we are perhaps talking about some kind of undefined ‘formal’ statement, but, on the 13th the IVAW Action page cited and linked to the OpEd News.com story I quoted. It’s still there:
http://ivawactions.ning.com/

And the VFP folks under whom IVAW gets its 501c3 status were sure not quiet or reserved!

Simply, Sarge, folks at IVAW and VFP and others they are most certainly in contact with had to know both that arson had been ruled out, and that there was one heck of a lot of anger and hostility generated by the story and how it was being viewed. No one tried to simply get out the truth as opposed to letting raw emotion rule!

“Speaking of which [bloggers at WSI], were you wanting to do that for yourself, or just trying to get the opportunity out there for others?”

Mostly for others, with the faint and growing fainter hope I could somehow get there myself. March and April of this year have been looking extraordinarily busy for me since before we began discussing that, both with work and family. Wish it could be otherwise, and hope it may.

Army Sergeant said...

Ah. I apologize for unclear language. Yes, my theory was first whether someone committed arson at all, and then what type of arson it was. I wasn't entirely sure, I just assumed it was likely. Personally, I won't sleep in a car that's running for love nor money no matter how cold it is-but I also always set timers on my phone to wake myself up, and won't sleep for long enough that I could freeze.

This IVAW actions site looks dubious. For one, I've never heard of it, no BS there. Secondly, I just took a quick peek at the membership, and there's a lot of people I know for damn sure aren't IVAW members. I'll go more in depth later to search it out.

I'll look into it myself, and if I was wrong, I'll do a mea culpa for being so.

As for Winter Soldier, if you can, you can, if you can't, I'll try and see if I can get you some tapes if you want to do things that way. Not highlights. Just drop me an email and let me know.

the^prophet said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Denis Keohane said...

"This IVAW actions site looks dubious. For one, I've never heard of it, no BS there. Secondly, I just took a quick peek at the membership, and there's a lot of people I know for damn sure aren't IVAW members. I'll go more in depth later to search it out. I'll look into it myself, and if I was wrong, I'll do a mea culpa for being so."

Sarge, there is a good amount of too cute going on from either side, so I am with you on that. If it is not IVAW, but someone using the name or members posting who aren't IVAW, I will also make that plain and retract.

And speaking of too cute, I just deleted the prophet!

Army Sergeant said...

Yeah, no kidding. Honestly, that kind of stuff is just frustrating to those of us who aren't in it for a scorched earth policy but just happen to have an idea.

Further investigation of the site reveals even more sketchy. There are only three people out of thirty-seven listed as members who could be actual members, one being Adam Kokesh, who mysteriously doesn't have a photo associated with his profile. If you look at his website, it's pretty clear that Adam does not shun the camera or hide his face-and why would he hide his face but not his full name? Even those three possible members, however, have not posted anything, and only one's profile is filled out.

I would really, really, not take it as anything close to IVAW speaking. It looks like it's this guy Gordon Soderberg's attempt at making something, but it never went anywhere. That's just my guess.

Also, if the prophet is any example of the kind of comments you've been getting, I now understand why half that other thread was deleted.

I will say, though, it's people like that that cause both sides to be defensive.

streetsweeper95B said...

About the bus fire, I'm glad the driver didn't poersish in teh ensuing fire. I've never wished death or harm to anyone. Moving on, the three items I can come up with that would cause it to burn at the engine compartment are.....

1-Oil/fuel leak or spraying onto a hot exhaust manifold/surface. Thats a no brainer....

2- A rear brake assembly was not fully released, which is a very high probalility with an airbrake system not properly maintained allowing the brake shoes to drag on the brake drum for Lord knows how many miles....Once bearing grease/ differential oil is superheated, it burns like mo bear & you'll darn sure use up more than a few 5 lb fire extinguishers trying to extinguish it.

3- Electrical system, if the wiring harness is bad or has a high amp short/draw in it somewehere & most likely here at a connector on one end or the other...that could possibily explain fire up in the front.

4- The major source of all mechanical/electric problems with any vehicle? LACK of proper maintainence....If as someone pointed out this bus is registered in Texas, it has to withstand a rigorous annual inspection. Rest assured the Texas DPS doesn't put with shody inspection stations or inspectors.

DPS CMVE officers receive the same training as CHP CMVE officers along with annual classes to maintain their CVSA certifications.

They don't usually miss a lick inspecting any vehicle they pull over to inspect. Also, duly authorized state inspection stations are pretty cottonpicking thorough too....

Thanks sorry for the long post.

Anonymous said...

The demagoguery continues...

Anonymous said...

As a clarification to Army Sergeants claim that it was a 'cold' bus. In fact in the video of the fire the firemen can be plainly heard commenting that the engine is still running and one makes a crack that it muct be a 'cummins' referring to a diesel engine type.

In fact the bus was left running and probably sprang a fuel leak which ignited on the manifold which resulted in the ensuing fire. Shoddy maintenance or old age is the culprit, or even an act of God!

Sorry moonbats, find another story to harp on.

DanNY

Anonymous said...

Take a look at the Yellow Rose peace Bus site and in the right margin, there are two videos.

The first shows Goodie starting the bus with STARTER FLUID.

Note how much he leans back, as if he's had some kind of fireball come back at him, perhaps the same kind of fireball he described as happening that night at the truck stop in video made after the fire.

Anonymous said...

BTW, Goodie has insurance on the bus, so take that into consideration when and if you contribute to a replacement.

He's angling for a $150,000 bus on his site. At least let people know that he doesn't need all of the $150,000 cost, deduct the value of the insurance.

Anonymous said...

Also notice that there's a starter switch back in the engine compartment.

Plus the "fireball" Goodie described was on the right side of the compartment, and that's also the side you se him spraying the starter fluid.