Service members speak out against war
By Stephanie Heinatz
October 25, 2006, 2:11 PM EDT
More than 200 U.S. troops have come forward, asking their Congressional representatives to end the occupation of Iraq and promptly bring American service members home.
Their coming out marks the first time since the U.S. invaded Iraq in 2003 that men and women still in uniform have publicly spoken out against operations there, organizers of the effort said.
They are doing so under the Military Whistle-Blower Protection Act, which says active-duty, National Guard and Reserve forces can communicate with their legislators without fear of reprisal.
In a conference call with reporters this afternoon, three of the troops pointed out that they are doing this off-duty, out of uniform and in no way as a representative of the military.
"While we do serve our country, we feel this occupation should come to an end," said Jonathan Hutto, a Navy seaman stationed in Norfolk.
If sent to Iraq tomorrow, Hutto said, he wouldn't disobey an order.
"We're not pacifists. We are not conscientious objectors. We are not encouraging anything illegal," Hutto said.
They're just encouraging any service members who feel the same way to go to www.appealforredress.org.
"The way the Web page is set up is the service member sends a letter directly to their Congress member," said J.E. McNeil, an attorney advising the effort and the executive director for the Washington-based Center on Conscience & War, a group that helps protect the rights of conscientious objectors.
It's not a petition, McNeil said, as that wouldn't be allowed under the military rules.
"When men and women join the military and put on the uniform they don't give up their rights as U.S. citizens," she added. "Participating as fully as possible in their government - that's what these men and women are doing."
The grass-roots effort began early this year with Hutto as one of the organizers.
"The idea … originated when I was deployed ... off the coast of Iraq," said Hutto, who was on the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier.
An old professor had sent him a copy of "Soldiers in Revolt," David Cortright's book documenting the U.S. soldiers who opposed the Vietnam War.
"By 1971," Hutto said, "more than 250,000 of these active-duty service people appealed to Congress" advocating an end to that war.
Hutto and Liam Madden, a Marine Corps sergeant from Vermont, then brought Cortright to Norfolk to talk about the Vietnam-era G.I. movement.
"Why do I support this appeal for redress?" Madden said. "It's as simple as I oppose the war in Iraq. I feel it is my duty, not as a Marine, but as an informed citizen, to inform people there is a tool for them."
"The occupation is perpetuating more violence," Madden added. "It's costing way too many human, Iraqi civilian and American service members, lives."