Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Active duty troops speak out against Iraq war

Troops read a statement against operations in Iraq during an
Appeal for Redress press event January 15, 2007, in Norfolk, Va.
The petition will be delivered to Congress on Tuesday.

On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a group of approximately 80 active duty troops from various branches of service gathered in a church in Norfolk Virginia to speak out against the war in Iraq.
“It is time for U.S. troops to come home,” said Marine Corps Sgt. Liam Madden. He said active-duty troops have the right to speak out, and he said his opposition to the war is not driven by politics.

“It’s not political when people heed the call of their conscience,” said Madden, 22, who is stationed at Quantico Marine Corps Base and who served in Iraq with Okinawa’s 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit as a communications specialist. “Not one more of my brothers should die for a lie. This is my generation’s call to conscience.” The remarks drew cheers and a standing ovation.

“We’re not anti-war,” said Navy Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Hutto, 29, who enlisted in 2004 and is assigned to the Norfolk-based carrier Theodore Roosevelt, which deployed to the Persian Gulf in 2005-06. “We’re not pacifists. We’re anti-Iraq war.”

The group’s message, he said: “There is an organized, constructive level of dissent with the ranks on this war.”(emphasis mine)

Members of the active duty military can engage in protected communications with their congressional representatives and they can participate in anti-war activities, so long as they do not wear their uniform while protesting, and they do not criticize their commanders. They are also prohibited from speaking out on base or during duty hours.
Madden, Hutto and the other active-duty members who came to Monday’s rally are signatories to an online petition to Congress sponsored by Appeal for Redress, a group for active-duty, Reserve and Guard personnel started last fall by Hutto and Madden that calls for an end to the war and the “prompt” withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq.

Hutto said they’ve gathered about 1,000 signatures, mostly from enlisted service members and nearly half from the Army, in ranks ranging from E-1 to O-6.
The group planned to present the Appeal for Redress on the steps of the Capitol today. Dennis Kucinich was to be on hand to accept the petition for presentation to the House.

What we are seeing here is unprecedented in an all-volunteer service. The president pays them no heed at the peril of his presidency, not just his legacy.

Update: The following is from the speech made by Sgt. Liam Madden as the Appeal for Redress was presented:
"We will not tolerate the rhetoric that we must support the troops by funding a war that puts them in harm's way," Madden said. "If you are funding a war that puts them in harm's way, you are not supporting them. You are endangering their lives for a war that cannot be justified, has not been justified and will not work."

The actual text of the Appeal for Redress reads, "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."