Bush’s war and occupation of Iraq is facing increasing questioning and
resistance within the US. More and more people, including many US
soldiers, are concluding we need to “Bring the Troops Home Now!” Patrick
Ayers from Justice recently sat down with Charley Robinson, one of the
founding members of Military Families Speak Out, an organization that
has quickly moved to the forefront of the anti-war movement.
Picture: Mariane Brown of South Haven holds pictures of her sons, soldier Michael Shepard and Robert Brown, in protest against the war in Iraq. Area residents gather weekly at the post office in South Haven to show their feelings in a peace vigil. Herald-Palladium, South Haven.
Bush Lies. Who Dies?
JUSTICE: How did Military Families Speak Out come about?
CR: Our son Joe was deployed in August of 2002, and we could see already that war was developing. We realized that as a military family we had an important need to speak out and also a voice that had a significant impact on others. In October 2002, we ran into another father of a pilot in the army. We talked on the phone, and we decided that with those two families we were going to start Military Families Speak Out. We have over 1,000 families now, spread out across the country and even in other countries as well.
JUSTICE: Is there any indication of growing support for an end to the occupation among U.S. troops in Iraq?
CR: You can see surveys in Stars and Stripes and other places that say morale is low; that there is a large number of troops who are both questioning war and also I think upset with the way the administration has used the troops and treated the troops. They sent them over based on lies, which is of course the big thing, and then they didn’t provide them with proper equipment. Then you have the things like the extensions, the stop losses, the redeployments - all these things that are just misuse and overuse of these troops have led to both morale problems and troops speaking out against the war itself.
JUSTICE: Military Families Speak Out is campaigning around the slogan “Bring Them Home Now!” There is a lot of debate in the anti-war movement about what slogans should be at the forefront of the anti-war movement. What was the thinking behind this slogan?
CR: In some ways, it’s very simple: the U.S. occupation of Iraq is the problem, not the solution. As long as there are 130,000 U.S. troops with guns over there, the process of rebuilding Iraqi society can’t take place. We believe very strongly that a decision to bring the troops home now is the critical one.
On a practical note, people say, “Well, you can’t bring the troops home now.” Well, the reality is that the decision to bring the troops home now doesn’t mean the Iraqi people are tomorrow going to wake up and wonder where the U.S. military went. It will take several months to get U.S. troops out of there, and that is the time in which the Iraqi people can discuss their needs and ask for help if they need it, but help from somebody other than the occupying force of the United States.
JUSTICE: What activities does Military Families Speak Out have planned for the near future?
CR: Well, we’re involved in both small and large events all over the country. We’re involved in the “Dover to DC” event, which will include a demonstration outside Dover Air Force base, where the bodies of troops killed in Iraq are returned to the United States. The press has been denied access to Dover. The families have been denied access to Dover. It’s part of the Administration’s effort to hide the true costs of this war.
We are also going to be involved in the events on March 20, the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Iraq. We’re going to be involved in events that are being planned in small towns and large cities across the nation. We’re hearing from Des Moines, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan - all over the place - that people are planning events, and we’re hoping that military families will be involved.
JUSTICE: How can Justice readers help the “Bring Them Home Now!” campaign?
CR: People should do everything they can to work against this war, against this occupation. I think we have an opportunity to bring the people into a movement saying “you know, this war was too much before it started, but now we have over 500 American lives and untold Iraqi lives sacrificed in this invasion and war, and it’s time to bring it to an end.”