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Tuesday, January 16, 2007

1,028 US Military Personnel Sign "Simply Unprecedented" Appeal to Exit Iraq War by Stacy Bannerman

t r u t h o u t Monday 15 January 2007

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 US troops to come home.
- Appeal for Redress

[A U.S. Marine cries during the memorial service for 31 killed U.S. servicemen at Camp Korean Village, near Rutbah, western Iraq, on Feb. 2, 2005. Thirty Marines and one sailor died on Jan. 26, 2005 when their helicopter crashed near Rutbah while conducting security operations.]

An anti-war organization launched by a 22-year-old Marine and a 29-year-old sailor has accumulated 1,028 signatures from active-duty and Reserve troops calling for an end to the war in Iraq, which has lasted nearly four years. The signatures will be delivered to lawmakers on January 16th.

"There is a distinct difference between the people who make policies and the people who carry them out," says Seaman Jonathan Hutto, co-founder of the Appeal for Redress. If Hutto has his way, that line will begin to blur over the next twenty-four hours. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, more than 50 active-duty members of the Armed Forces will hold a press conference at the Unitarian Church in Norfolk, Virginia, to discuss why they are among the more than 1,000 military personnel - mostly active-duty, and veterans of at least one tour in Iraq - who have signed the Appeal. The troops will be joined by representatives from Iraq Vets Against the War, Military Families Speak Out, Veterans for Peace, GI Rights Hotline and the Military Project.

The following morning, Mr. Hutto and Appeal for Redress co-founder Sergeant Liam Madden (USMC), joined by sailors, Marines and airmen, soldiers and supporters, will deliver a copy of the signed document to Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and other members of the Out of Iraq Caucus on Capitol Hill. Of the dozens of Iraq options being circulated among Democrats, Congressman Kucinich's 12-point plan for US withdrawal is most closely aligned with the Appeal for Redress.

Congressman Kucinich recently said, "The American people voted for new direction. That direction is out of Iraq. Let us rescue our troops. Let us rescue a domestic agenda. Let us reverse policies that created chaos, massive civilian casualties and destruction in Iraq."

The historic Appeal for Redress is "the most significant movement of organized and dissident GIs seen in America since 1969, when 1,366 active-duty service members signed a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for an end to the Vietnam War," according to The Nation ("About Face," January 8, 2007). Eugene Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military Justice, calls it "simply unprecedented."

Marine Sergeant Madden calls it "completely legal." The Military Whistle-Blower Protection Act (DOD directive 7050.6) allows active-duty military, National Guard and Reservists, while out of uniform and off duty, to file and send a protected communication to a member of Congress regarding any subject without reprisal. Although their communication to Congress is shielded by law, public opposition to the war in Iraq is still a risky step for these active-duty troops, including high-ranking officers and many who still hope to make the military their lifetime career.

Sgt. Madden, who "braced for a command that wouldn't be happy," feels that working for an end to the war is part of his duty as an American citizen. "The 'surge' is a day late, and a dollar short. No one is happy about it."

"With recent calls for an escalation of troops in Iraq, Congress should listen to those of us who have been there and who will be directly affected by this policy change," states Seaman Hutto, an E4 assigned to mass communications who spent six months on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, stationed "somewhere in the Iraq theater."

Hutto "didn't grow up in a place where the military was highly regarded," and he opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. He didn't reveal his anti-war stance to the Navy when he enlisted in January of 2004, because he needed "the structure, and to pay off student loans." He's almost half-way through his six-year contract, and "hope[s] that the appeal can shift the policy to withdrawal."

"This president is doing this for a legacy and not the good of the American people or the military ... or the people of Iraq," says Sgt. Madden, who is stationed at Quantico, Virginia. Madden's active-duty time in the Marine Corps will end in a matter of days, but he will still be eligible for mobilization and deployment for another four years. The military's standard contract requires eight years of service, which can be fulfilled through a combination of active-duty, Guard, or Reserve service. With the Pentagon's recent decision to lift the cumulative limit that constrained Guard and Reservists to serving no more than 24 months in the Iraq or Afghan wars, it's possible that Sgt. Madden could be called up again.

He spent seven months in the thick of it in Haditha, time that he initially refused to talk about, claiming "it has nothing to do with the Appeal for Redress." But then he said that he was one of the "lucky ones, I didn't come home with any physical or mental problems." When asked what his plans are for the future, Sgt. Madden replies, "To keep on with this struggle until this illegal, immoral war is over."

Stacy Bannerman is the author of When the War Came Home: The Inside Story of Reservists and the Families They Leave Behind, (Continuum Publishing, 2006). She is a member of Military Families Speak Out, and can be contacted at her web site.

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