Anti-war groups arrange Baghdad trip for families of servicemembers
November 29, 2003
ARLINGTON, Va. — A 10-member delegation, made up mostly of U.S. military families, leaves the United States on Saturday for a eight-day tour of Baghdad organized by two antiwar groups to see first-hand what their loved ones face daily.
Their mission is to arm themselves with first-hand knowledge in hopes of enacting change when they come home, said Medea Benjamin, founding director of Global Exchange, an international human rights organization.
“God bless the troops, but bring them home,” Benjamin said. “The delegation is behind their loved ones, but we feel the best thing we can do is get them out of Iraq as quickly as possible.”
Benjamin has been to Iraq three times in the past six months, and made a similar trip Afghanistan with relatives of those killed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
This is the first time she is bringing families of servicemembers.
“We’ve talked to troops on the ground who are confused about why they’re there, who feel it’s not the right role for the U.S. … and the occupation has turned into something of a potential for a real quagmire,” Benjamin said.
The group hopes to meet with chief U.S. administrator L. Paul Bremer and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top military commander, and with Iraqi governing council members, other human rights organizations, women’s organizations, and to visit hospitals and schools.
The delegation needs no U.S. military permission to travel into Iraq, though officials have recommended against it.
“We don’t recommend that any private group of individuals, no matter how well-intentioned, travels into Iraq until the country is more stable and secure,” said Central Command spokesman Marine Maj. Pete Mitchell.