San Diego Union Tribune

October 26, 2006

Active-duty group to press Congress to bring troops home

COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON – In a movement not seen since the depths of the Vietnam War, active-duty service members are organizing an effort to send a flood of appeals to Congress to get U.S. troops out of Iraq.

The movement, initiated by a Norfolk-based sailor and a Quantico-based Marine, has 219 participants so far. But that is twice what it had two days ago, the leaders said in a telephone conference call yesterday.

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The effort is being conducted under the federal Military Whistle Blower Protection Act, which allows service personnel to communicate their concerns directly to their congressional representatives.

Although they have an obligation to follow orders, “many of us have reservations about the orders,” said Seaman Jonathan Hutto, who recently returned from a deployment to the Persian Gulf on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt. “At this point, some of us feel compelled to let our reservations be known.

“We do serve our country faithfully, we are patriotic; if told to go to Iraq right now, we would go,” Hutto said. “At the same time, we feel this occupation should come to an end right now. We feel the need to tell our political leaders.”

Sgt. Liam Madden said he opposes the war in Iraq because no weapons of mass destruction or direct links to the terrorist group al-Qaeda were found when those were the reasons the Bush administration cited for the invasion of Iraq.

“If democracy is our goal, I believe we're going about it all wrong. The occupation is perpetuating more violence. It's costing us way too many humans – Iraqi civilians and American service members – their lives, for no benefit,” said Madden, who served seven months in volatile Anbar province.

Army Maj. Steward Upton, a Pentagon spokesman, said service members “are free to communicate with Congress in a lawful manner that doesn't violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice.”

The code bans derogatory comments about the military leadership, including the president, and political action while in uniform, during duty hours or that claims to represent the views of the military.

A female soldier recently returned from a year in Iraq joined the call, but declined to give her name because she said she feared informal reprisals. “Soldiers see all this ethnic fighting around them, and, to some extent, are caught in the crossfire, but there's nothing they can do to stop it,” the soldier said. “It's very frustrating to go out on convoys and literally risk their lives on a daily basis and not really seeing any tangible results.”

The protesting service personnel, including members of the National Guard and reserves, are supported by several organizations opposing the war.

They have created a Web site that allows service members to join the protest and to send a message to their members of Congress.

The message says:

“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 American military forces and bases in Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”

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