Service Members Sign Appeal Calling For Troop Withdrawal




 
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Boots
 
February 28th, 2007  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Service Members Sign Appeal Calling For Troop Withdrawal


New York Times
February 28, 2007
By Lizette Alvarez
In a small but growing sign of dissent, a group of active-duty military personnel and reservists, including many who have served in Iraq, is denouncing the war and asking Congress for the prompt withdrawal of troops.
The service members, who number more than 1,600, have sent an Appeal for Redress to their Congressional representatives, a form of protest permitted by military rules. Most of those who signed the appeal, at www.appealforredress.org, are enlisted soldiers in the Army, from the lowest to the highest ranks.
“There is a sense of betrayal,” said Specialist Linsay Burnett, 26, who recently returned from Iraq with the First Brigade combat team of the 101st Airborne Division, based at Fort Campbell, on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee. The division is readying for its third deployment.
“These soldiers stand up to fight, to protect their country, but we are now on the fifth reason as to why it is we are in Iraq,” added Specialist Burnett, who has served as a public affairs specialist and as a military journalist focusing primarily on the infantry. “How many reasons are we going to come up with for keeping us over there?”
The Appeal for Redress reads: “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 U.S. troops to come home.”
The protest, which was started in October by two active-duty service members and is sponsored by three antiwar groups, initially drew 65 signatures, growing to more than 1,300 by February. This week, after the CBS News program “60 Minutes” reported on the appeal, about 300 more active-duty soldiers joined the campaign, said Petty Officer Third Class Jonathan Hutto of the Navy, a co-founder of the group behind the appeal.
While the 1,600 make up a tiny part of the armed services, the appeal is one of the first official signs of protest from people within the military. An estimated 70 percent of those who have signed it are on active duty; the rest are members of the Reserves or the National Guard, and about 100 officers have signed it.
Describing themselves as supporters of the military but critics of the Iraq war, leaders of the appeal say they believe it is their right and duty under the Constitution to question the war and its mission, a position not widely voiced in the military.
Their decision to speak out and take their opposition outside the chain of command has been criticized by some veterans’ groups that argue that soldiers are obligated to follow orders, not change policy. Critics also say that while service members cannot choose where they will be deployed, they can choose to join the military or not.
When the group sent its first letter in October, the White House spokesman, Tony Snow, said it was “not unusual for soldiers in a time of war to have some misgivings,” adding that the group constituted a small minority of service members.
In a phone call yesterday with three signatories, including Petty Officer Hutto, the service members said their decision to appeal had not been taken lightly. The military does not allow service members to organize and frowns on dissent.
“The Army has many ways to make your life very difficult,” Specialist Burnett said, adding that she had come forward largely because “there are not many voices out there for the men on the ground.”
Jeff Slocum, a chief master sergeant of the Air Force who is scheduled to deploy to Iraq next year, said his high rank was one reason he had signed the appeal. “I’m not antiwar, I’m not antimilitary,” said Chief Master Sergeant Slocum, who added that the troops were feeling “used and abused.”
That 1,600 service members have signed the appeal “shows just how much we are willing to risk,” he said. “We are trying to raise awareness that we need people to be sticking up for us, because nobody else is.”
 


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