Anti-war activist who told General Petraeus “You are a war criminal,” faces charges

By Tom Burke |
February 7, 2014
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Grand Rapids, MI - Deb Van Poolen appeared at the 61st District Court Feb. 7, to face charges for confronting U.S. war criminal General David Petraeus. Van Poolen was arrested for standing in the DeVos Center ballroom and asserting, “David Petraeus, you are a war criminal! You are responsible for the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children!”

Van Poolen interrupted General Petraeus as he was attempting to justify the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan at a luncheon sponsored by the West Michigan World Affairs Council. The Council is where the wealthy Republicans of West Michigan promote a reactionary, anti-union, pro-war agenda.

Deb Van Poolen was grabbed by the arm, but stood her ground as she planned to speak out against the inhumanity of U.S. drone warfare that terrorizes people throughout the Middle East. Two men then came and escorted her out to a Grand Rapids police car where she was arrested for trespass.

U.S. General David Petraeus oversaw the defeat of U.S. forces in Iraq and then the ‘surge’ strategy that is prolonging the U.S. war in Afghanistan. Petraeus was later appointed CIA director under the Obama administration, where he greatly expanded the use of U.S. killer drones in Pakistan and other countries. Petraeus is known throughout the world for war crimes. General Petraeus was responsible for setting up Iraqi death squads and torture centers. The killing and bombing that continues today in Iraq is due in part to the policies of Petraeus.

Seeing that Van Poolen was joined by a group of supporters and her lawyer in the courtroom, the judge said, “I assume you are pleading ‘not guilty.’” Van Poolen agreed. The court assigned a pre-trial conference on Feb. 25.

Alex Gebhardt of the Left Forum of Grand Rapids said, “We are planning to organize solidarity with Deb Van Poolen and her bold act of speaking truth to power. The U.S. war-makers and human rights abusers need to be confronted. We plan to hold a rally and pack the courtroom for her trial.”