Soldiers Say Support the Troops by Bringing Them Home - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News


Soldiers Say Support the Troops by Bringing Them Home

They are not pacifists.

They don't represent a political party, and you won't see them at an anti-war rally.

Most say they are proud Americans. They are proud to serve and wear the uniform of the U.S. military.

But they are against the war in Iraq, and they are speaking out about it.

Organizers say it's the first anti-war movement of its kind in the active military since the Vietnam conflict.

"An Appeal for Redress From the War in Iraq" is an Internet initiative to get active-duty military to send this message to political leaders:

As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.

It is a legal way for soldiers, Marines and sailors to protest the war.

Active-duty military cannot publicly express its personal views.

"We are not urging any form of civil disobedience or any thing that would be illegal," said Navy Seaman Jonathan Hutto, speaking on the phone, off duty and out of uniform. "We are saying to our active-duty family that you have a right to send an appeal to a Congress member without reprisal."

The "Redress" initiative does not require a membership, and comments are not made public.

"Anyone who has been in the military knows there are informal means for punitive actions," said one soldier, who was reluctant to give a name. "We do have a voice and we pay attention and we want people to listen to what we say."

One activist said that despite the restrictions, "anytime intelligence is mixed with bravery you'll have someone who is going to speak out."

The response to the movement has been "amazing," one organizer said. The group had 65 messages to political leaders a few days days ago. Now the group has more than 10 times that number.

"If people want to support the troops, then they should support us coming home," said Marine Sgt. Liam Madden, one of the organizers of the movement.

He cites the absence of weapons of mass destruction and the lack of a link between Iraq and al Qaeda for his opposition to the war.

One soldier, who feared reprisal and would not disclose a name, believed in the war at the beginning: "We were taking out an oppressive regime."

But it is different now.

"I don't think that the America public realizes just how many soldiers and service members in general really do have reservations about what is the actions going on over there... it's very hard, these soldiers seeing all this tribal fighting, ethnic fighting going on around them... there is not really anything you can do to stop this," the soldier said. "You are talking about thousands and thousands of years of history here and it's very frustrating for them to go... risking their lives on a daily basis and not seeing any tangible results for their actions."

A few hundred notes of protest represent a small percentage of the 1 million men and women in uniform. Organizers say it's just the beginning.

"It's the snowball effect and eventually that ball's going to get rolling," says one soldier who ran security on convoys in Iraq. "Once they start seeing momentum going forward and more and more service members coming out, they will be much more inclined to come out as well."

"Redress" founder Hutto says that during the Vietnam conflict more than 250,000 soldiers, sailors and airmen wrote political leaders to oppose the war. But the troops in Vietnam had mostly been drafted, and it's unclear whether there is the same sort of broad-based opposition to the Iraq war among today's all-volunteer Army.

Hutto says it remains to be seen whether there is opposition to the war among active soldiers at a level comparable to that of the Vietnam era, because the movement has just gotten started.

"We aren't supposed to organize groups," says Hutto. "It's a culture that you don't get engaged in the process... you are given orders. What we are doing is untraditional, unorthodox and unprecedented."

There are formal organizations of Iraq veterans that oppose the war. "Iraq Veterans Against the War" has chapters in nine cities, an elected board of directors and an outreach program. There are 300 members nationwide.

According to organizer Michael Blake, it is difficult for active military to come out against the war.

"There's a need to justify the loss of friends or the people they've killed," he said.

Blake also believes the culture of the military prevents soldiers from questioning what they are called up to do.

"If you don't support everything they tell you, then you're considered a traitor or terrorist and you're against your brothers that are still there - but this is just not true," he said.

Several former generals have come out against the war, and a dozen or so servicemen and women have refused to serve in Iraq, but "Redress" is the first national movement organized by active military that oppose the war.

The protest notes will be taken to Congress on Martin Luther King Day early next year.

One soldier sees no conflict in her opposition to the Iraq war.

"We are very proud to be serving our country," the soldier said. "I wouldn't take back my service for anything. I'm very proud to wear this uniform and to do my part to help this country that I'm a citizen of. ... And that's something I take pride in and don't want to tarnish or diminish."

"It's everybody's duty to support democracy," Madden said. "We do it much more effectively when we exercise these rights than we do in Iraq."


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