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Father of a U.S. soldier killed in Iraq:
"They're cannon fodder"

July 4, 2003 | Page 5

FERNANDO SUAREZ DEL SOLAR lost his son to George W. Bush's war on Iraq. Jesús was one of the first U.S. casualties of the invasion. Since then, Fernando has spoken out against the war--and organized Foundation Guerrero Azteca to help Latinos whose family members have died in the assault. Here, Fernando explained to Socialist Worker why he has spoken out.

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WHAT IS your foundation, and why did you organize it?

IT'S CALLED the Foundation Guerrero Azteca. There are various points, but the most important idea of the foundation is to help Hispanics whose family members have died in the war--to help them with burial expenses, cemetery costs, etc., and to help them psychologically. And also to help military families whose family members haven't returned yet.

The help is with formal therapy groups--to show them how to treat the soldiers when they return. Because 99 percent are going to return with mental problems. Because of the horrors and killings that they've seen and done, sometimes involving their friends, they could end up like the lost generation of Vietnam--many of whom are now homeless and without help from the government.

The idea of the foundation is to give families the tools to know how to deal with their returning children, spouses and siblings. And also, the veterans themselves will attend counseling groups, because although the government gives them psychological treatment, it's military treatment, which is not the same. The young people don't have the confidence in military treatment to say: "I'm afraid, I was afraid, I want to cry"--because the rules don't permit this.

The other point of the foundation is to promote peace in the world. We speak to young people--preferably middle school students through high school and university students. Why? Because they are the coming generation--they are the future soldiers for the Army to recruit. Therefore, if they understand that war and militarism are bad, we can do something valuable for peace right now.

Disgracefully, 90 percent of Hispanic enlistees join the military because of the lack of civilian educational options. Recruiters don't tell them the whole truth. They trick them, and they recruit them. They enter the army to fulfill their educational dreams, and even these aren't fulfilled. They end up being soldiers, and besides that, they're discriminated against inside the military structure. It's unjust. Therefore, the idea of the foundation is to look for non-military opportunities for these youths--with scholarships, because they do actually exist.

WHY SHOULD people oppose the war and the occupation of Iraq?

WHEN THE war started, because of the attitude of President Bush, I said, "This is a war for oil." They made the same mistake with Saddam Hussein as with Manuel Noriega of Panama. They gave a command to Noriega, and he refused to follow it, so the U.S. Army invaded Panama in 1989 and killed a lot of people--made rivers of blood. What is different about Iraq?

The American Army has the most advanced technology. But what does it do with it? The Middle East is the world's richest oil region. But the U.S. doesn't have access. They can't impose the prices. And because of this, the U.S. is subjugated to Mexico, to Venezuela and to OPEC, which controls the oil.

I felt that this was the basic reason for the war. Bush gave the excuse of chemical weapons, the excuse of liberating people from tyranny. So far, I haven't seen the weapons of mass destruction that Bush said Iraq had. I can't believe in the liberation of Iraq either.

I see the images of a happy people, pulling down statues of Saddam Hussein, but I also see a country saying, "Okay, leave now. We don't want you here." There are also images of people crying--of children burned by American bombs, children mutilated, children who have lost their mothers.

And the death of my son and of all the boys who died--I don't like to think that it was for the hypocritical reasons that Bush put forward, or for the economic gifts that resulted. Because who is going to reconstruct Iraq? Bush's Republican friends. They are going to be millionaires with the reconstruction of Iraq. The oil companies are going to come, because even though they said the oil is for the Iraqi people, who is going to administer it?

History will show who was right and who was wrong. Bush created so much hate against the American people because of his awful decision to go to war and to send our children to their deaths. That is my opinion of the war.

HOW DO you think the Mexican-American population in the U.S. views the war and occupation differently?

WITH ALL of the soldiers' families that I've contacted, all of them are against the war. No family has told me, "Yes, the war is necessary". All of them say that their son died, or their brother died, or their husband died, but it wasn't necessary. I understood this to mean opposition to the war. Yes--they're against terrorism, but they think that the war wasn't necessary.

What is going to happen? In Germany and in Puerto Rico, many people are against the presence of American military bases. The U.S. said that they were going to help the new government implement democracy. But why occupy the country?

Germany started the Second World War, and today--60 or 70 years later--they still have American military bases. Is the same thing going to happen in Iraq? They say that they're going to liberate the people, so why are they going to keep an American police force there as a constant threat?

The immense majority of the youths in the armed forces were recruited with deceptions. They are the ones in the line of fire. They are the first ones that go to battle. They are the cannon fodder. Therefore, for the Hispanic community to support the antiwar position is to protect their children. They are protecting their loved ones from going to die in absurd wars.

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