Grounds for Anti-War Bias

Michelle York plugs an upstate New York anti-war "coffeehouse" in Sunday's "This Café's Menu Is Slight But Its Mission Is Ambitious."

"On Veterans Day, John Hartlaub wandered into the newest cafe in Watertown, N.Y.

"It was sparsely furnished, with three Internet stations, a black sofa and an offering of hot or cold cider. A customer who actually wanted coffee would have to buy it a few doors away.

"Mr. Hartlaub stayed most of the afternoon anyway. He browsed a few dozen military books for sale, then pulled up a folding chair to watch 'Poison Dust,' a documentary about the health effects of depleted uranium weapons on soldiers returning from Iraq.

"He left with mostly positive feelings. 'It could end up being very informative and helpful,' said Mr. Hartlaub, 41, who has served in the military on and off since 1985.

"The organizers of the cafe were hoping for such a reaction. But, being not far from the largest military installation in the Northeast, they are prepared for backlash, too."

Notice how the Times accepts as fact the description of "Poison Dust" and the health effects of "depleted uranium," a meme popular among groups like the hard-left International Action Center (a supporter of the North Korean dictatorship), which promoted the "Poison Dust" documentary.

"The idea is that the two can meet, learn about movements against the war and talk about the contradictions of what the public hears versus what soldiers have witnessed, he said. In the past, coffeehouse patrons were sometimes subjected to arrests and intimidation. A cafe in Mountain Home, Idaho, was firebombed, and another near Camp Pendleton, Calif., was shot up.

"But the main organizer of Watertown's new coffeehouse, called Different Drummer Internet Cafe, said he did not expect such confrontations this time around. 'The military today is very different, and we have to adapt to that,' said Tod Ensign, the organizer, who is also a lawyer and director of Citizen Soldier, a veterans advocacy group in New York City. 'The soldiers are all volunteers. The Vietnam protests were driven very much by the draft.'

"After Mr. Ensign decided this year to open the coffeehouse, he sent out a few dozen letters asking for financing, including one to the Ben & Jerry's Foundation."

That's Tod Ensign of Citizen Soldier, which the Times benignly characterizes as "a veterans advocacy group in New York City."

And what's on the front page of the Citizen Soldier website today? A picture of Pat Tillman with this quote from his anti-war brother Kevin ("Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated") and a link to his vitriolic anti-Bush essay. Ensign also supports GIs and officers who refuse to serve in Iraq because they think it's an illegal war. Hardly a nonpartisan "advocacy group."

"Mr. Ensign has three goals for the cafe. They are to allow the free exchange of ideas, to provide accurate information and to be an enjoyable gathering place, with live bands and karaoke. He and his supporters have not decided whether they will serve coffee."

Support for the "free exchange of ideas" and "accurate information" don't exactly make a tight fit with screeningly solely left-wing anti-war propaganda.

York ends by emphasizing the harmlessness of the little cafe:

"Most in the community do not seem to know what to make of the cafe, several people said. Watertown's mayor, Jeffrey E. Graham, said he did not attend its ribbon cutting on Oct. 27. In part, because it was inconvenient and in part because he was not sure of the cafe's purpose. 'I don't think people want to be openly antiwar for fear of dissing the families that make that sacrifice,' he said. 'On the other hand, I don't see any harm.'

"In the cafe's first three weeks, foot traffic has been minimal. Its manager, Cinthia Mercante, who served for eight years in the military before the Persian Gulf war started, recently found herself calling out to a few soldiers hovering near the entrance: 'Folks, you can come in. We won't bite.'

"Paul Foley, a volunteer who works in highway design, said he hoped the community would warm up to the cafe. 'There's been a little talk,' he said. 'But the people who come will see that we're not dangerous rabble-rousers. We're just giving people a place to talk.'"