Some U.S. troops campaigning to withdraw forces from Iraq
WASHINGTON — More than 200 servicemembers have signed on to a campaign asking Congress to pull all U.S. forces out of Iraq, saying military efforts there “will not work.”
The request is scheduled to be delivered to Capitol Hill in January, after the new session of Congress begins. Organizers say they hope to collect nearly 2,000 more names of servicemembers who oppose the war by then.
“We’ve taken an oath and we have to follow orders, but many of us have reservations about those orders,” said Seaman Jonathan Hutto, one of the organizers of the effort. “While we are serving our country faithfully, we do feel this occupation needs to come to an end.”
Organizers are working with anti-war groups such as Iraq Veterans Against the War and Military Families Speak Out on the effort. The opposition group outlined its plans on Wednesday just minutes after President Bush held a news conference on progress in Iraq, saying that “the only way we lose in Iraq is if we leave before the job is done.”
The request — available online at www.appealforredress.org — asks for the “prompt withdrawal” of troops from Iraq.
“Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price,” the statement says. “It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”
Troops involved in the appeal are proceeding cautiously, working on the effort and speaking to press while off-duty, off-base and out of uniform. Legal experts for the group insist the servicemembers are permitted to appeal to Congress for any reason without fear of retaliation from senior commanders.
During a news conference announcing the appeal, Hutto, who has served in the Persian Gulf in support of Iraq operations, deflected questions about military leadership and the president, citing legal concerns.
He also noted that “we’re not pacifists” and the group is not advocating any troops disobey their orders. But he said many of the troops have firsthand experience in Iraq and believe they need to speak out against current operations there.
Marine Sgt. Liam Madden, who served Iraq in late 2004, said he believes the U.S. presence in Iraq is causing more violence than it prevents, and that troops no longer have a clear reason to be there.
“I feel it’s my duty to speak out, not as a Marine but as an informed citizen,” he said.
Currently about 144,000 troops are serving in Iraq. More than 700,000 active and retired servicemembers have been deployed there since the start of military operations in 2003.