Bring ’em on. George W. Bush’s use of this indelicate phrase–which he tossed out when asked in July about the armed resistance in Iraq that was killing US troops–prompted critics to blast him for displaying a cavalier attitude concerning the dangers faced by US military personnel. It also spurred an anti-occupation effort waged by relatives of the people Bush has placed in the line of fire.
On August 13 family members of military personnel serving in Iraq gathered at the National Press Club in Washington to announce the Bring Them Home Now Campaign. “Today we want to talk about three words of false bravado…. George Bush says, ‘Bring them on.’ We say, ‘Bring them home now,'” said Nancy Lessin, co-founder of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), an organization of about 600 military families opposed to the US occupation of Iraq and the lead outfit behind the campaign.
The campaign–also sponsored by Veterans for Peace–calls for “an end to the occupation of Iraq and other misguided adventures” and “an immediate return of all US troops to their home duty stations.” These two groups contend that Bush and his aides have misled the nation about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the link between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, and the dangers faced by US military personnel in Iraq.
Since the recent launch of a website, the Bring Them Home Now Campaign has received thousands of e-mails from friends and family members of Americans stationed in Iraq. Many of the notes thank the coalition for initiating this campaign; others call the campaign “unpatriotic” and a “disgrace to this country.” Detractors counter that the servicemen and servicewomen abroad volunteered willingly and accuse the coalition of being a negative influence on the troops.
At the press conference, Susan Schuman, a mother of a sergeant in the Massachusetts National Guard, said,”My son signed up to defend the Constitution…. This war has nothing to do with the Constitution.” She maintained that the troops are not being properly supported. She noted that in letters home her son writes of having to eat nothing but MREs for 130 days, of being in constant fear, of the lack of basic supplies, and of inadequate planning. Schuman said that her son supports her antiwar activities. Stan Goff, a Special Forces veteran who has a son in Iraq, blasted Bush officials for “conducting state [business] like gangsters.” He quipped, “Rumsfeld and Bush care about the troops the same way that Tyson Foods cares about chickens.”
During an angry speech addressed to Bush through a translator, Fernando Suarez del Solar, the father of a Marine who died in the first days of the war, asked, “How many more of our sons do you need to bring our children home?” He added, “You are destroying the American people. I hope God will forgive you.” He left the podium in tears and joined his wife, who was sobbing.
At this point, the Bring Them Home Now Campaign is based more on a demand than on an organizing strategy. It is not currently engaging in any lobbying. Instead, it is urging those who back its aims to contact their elected representatives. Charley Richardson, the other co-founder of MFSO, encouraged supporters of the campaign to speak out in their communities and make contact with military families. To press their concerns, the Bring Them Home Now Campaign plans to hold a demonstration in Crawford, Texas–the site of Bush’s vacation home–on August 23.
Larry Syverson, a environmental engineer for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality who has two sons in Iraq, told of how he spends three days a week in Richmond, Virginia, holding up signs in front of the federal courthouse that say “Iraqi Oil Isn’t Worth My Son’s Blood” and “Honk for Peace.” Around the time of Bush’s May 1 declaration that major combat operations in Iraq had ended, Syverson noted, he was hearing few car horns. In recent weeks, as casualties have mounted in Iraq, he said, “the honks have been increasing.”