Active-duty troops petition to end withdrawal plans
WASHINGTON — A campaign by active-duty troops asking Congress to drop plans for a withdrawal from Iraq has collected more than 1,200 signatures in its first few weeks.
The “Appeal for Courage” — which reads as a response to the anti-war “Appeal for Redress” presented to Congress last month — has been circulating both at bases in Iraq and online though military blog sites.
Organizer Lt. Jason Nichols, a 33-year-old naval projects officer who has been in Baghdad since mid-January, said the goal is to keep lawmakers focused on letting the military finish its mission in Iraq, and not prematurely declare failure.
“The primary military lesson of Vietnam was that you could win a war on the battlefield, but lose it at home,” he said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “We feel that although there are still tough days ahead, we are going to win the war in Iraq as long as we are allowed to stay until our job is done.”
The appeal, available at www.appealforcourage.org, calls for Congress “to fully support our mission in Iraq and halt any calls for retreat.” It calls the war in Iraq a necessary and just cause, and asks lawmakers to actively oppose “media efforts which embolden my enemy while demoralizing American support at home.”
Nichols, who joined with Vietnam veteran Larry Vandergrif and Vets for Victory on the campaign, said not enough media attention has been paid to troops who support the fight in Iraq.
“The vast majority of fellow military members I communicate with feel we can win this war and that calls for withdrawal are premature,” he said.
Last year a group of active-duty troops collected more than 1,000 signatures calling for an end to operations in Iraq, saying that military operations “will not work.” The group said more than 60 percent of those who signed had served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
Nichols said so far around half of his signers have served downrange. Two-thirds are enlisted, and about one-quarter are E-5s and E-6s.
“I think a lot of servicemembers are greatly frustrated by how negatively they see their efforts portrayed and are relieved to have a means to communicate their support for completing the mission successfully,” he said.
Organizers of both appeals said that participating troops are protected from reprisals by commanders Defense Department regulations, which allow troops to submit any grievance directly to Congress.