'Bring Them Home Now' speakers rip U.S. policy on Iraq
By Patrick J. Dickson, Stars and Stripes
European edition, Thursday, August 14, 2003
WASHINGTON — They wanted their message to be clear: It's possible to support the troops and not support the war they're fighting.
Several family members of U.S. troops in Iraq spoke out Wednesday against what they see as shortsighted policy on the part of the Bush administration.
They said that the Bush camp lied about the reasons for going to war, has misled the media about what's happening on the ground and has kept troops in the dark about their mission and how long they'll be there.
"Last month President Bush said [to Iraqi militants], 'Bring 'em on,'" said Nancy Lessin, a co-founder of Military Families Speak Out and one of the event's organizers. "[Bush] spoke from a secure location, surrounded by armed guards.
"There is no one who supports our troops more than the families and veterans here today. Today we say 'Bring them home.'"
Bring Them Home Now is a campaign by Military Families Speak Out, which Lessin said was started in 2002 and boasts 600 families, and Veterans For Peace, which has hundreds of chapters in America, said member Stan Goff.
Goff, a 26-year Army veteran and former special forces member, was particularly scathing of the administration and its motivations.
"These are rich men in expensive suits conducting statecraft not to protect the U.S., but to protect the profits of Halliburton and Bechtel," two contractors with a large stake in the rebuilding of Iraq.
"Then they turn around and accuse us of being unpatriotic," Goff said. "That is truly Orwellian."
Goff's son is a wheeled vehicle mechanic with the 82nd Airborne, recently sent in to replace the 3rd Infantry Division.
Fernando Suarez del Solar is the father of Marine Lance Cpl. Jesus Suarez, one of the first U.S. servicemembers killed in Iraq.
Del Solar apologized for and started in broken English. He began to cry and reverted to Spanish. Through an interpreter, he told of his son's death, and concluded:
"My question to Mr. Bush is this — how many more of our sons do you need [to die] before you bring the troops home?"
His wife was inconsolable as he left the lectern.
The group was asked whether they feared their child would suffer retaliation for them speaking out.
"Hey, my son is a brave guy," said Susan Schuman, mother of a Massachusetts National Guardsman stationed in Samarra, Iraq. "He's not afraid of me speaking out."
Goff said retaliation is probably the least of the soldiers' worries at this point.
"They were told it would be like [World War II soldiers] going into Paris. It's a lot more like Mogadishu.
"Bush and [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld care for soldiers like Tyson Foods cares for chickens."
Charlie Richardson, with Lessin a co-founder of MFSO, said he realized the group would be criticized for their actions.
"We've been called a disgrace," he said. "But someone has to ask the questions."