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Military families build for March 20 protest
"We won't buy into their lies"

March 5, 2004 | Page 5

ERIC RUDER reports on the determination of a growing number of military families to take a stand against the U.S. occupation of Iraq.

THE BUSH administration has pursued the occupation of Iraq with brutal determination--and at an enormous human cost. In addition to the tens of thousands of dead and injured Iraqis, thousands of U.S. soldiers have been killed, wounded or evacuated from the Gulf region.

But not if you listen to the Pentagon. According to military officials, only 2,604 soldiers have been wounded in action and 408 wounded in non-hostile situations.

The Army's own figures tell a different story--that about 8,000 more soldiers have been evacuated from Iraq for medical reasons. The discrepancy arises because official Pentagon statistics don't count as "wounded" soldiers with brain injuries, psychiatric disorders, those injured by friendly fire, or those hurt in crashes in their military vehicles.

Staff Sgt. Maurice Craft lost his leg when a roadside bomb in Baghdad went off next to his caravan in November. "A lot of people are getting hit," said Craft. "They have a death toll, but they're not showing the number of people being hit and [having limbs] amputated because of their injuries."

Meanwhile, the price tag on the U.S. occupation is growing by leaps and bounds. Emergency budget requests last year alone amounted to $166 billion. These resources that could be devoted to social programs, education and health care are instead funding a foreign occupation to benefit oil companies.

Across the country and around the world, activists are organizing for an international day of action against the occupation on March 20, the one-year anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion. In New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Chicago and other cities, student groups, antiwar activists, unionists and others will march together against war and occupation.

In Fayetteville, N.C., however, the mobilization will have a special purpose--bringing together veterans and family members of soldiers in Iraq in a demonstration outside one of the largest military bases in the country: Fort Bragg. "I firmly believe that this will be the largest demonstration in Fayetteville since the Vietnam War," Lou Plummer, a veteran and an organizer with Military Families Speak Out, told Socialist Worker. "We're hoping we can get a couple of thousand people out to it, although I wouldn't be surprised if we get more than that.

"There is a growing core of military families and veterans who are not buying into the administration's lies. That core has been growing since the day the war started. This demonstration will help us build the movement among military families and veterans and among the soldiers themselves."

Given the risks that active duty soldiers face when they publicly oppose U.S. war plans, the level of participation among soldiers about to be deployed or recently returned from Iraq may not be high. But it's already obvious that there's interest.

"Here in Asheville, we hold weekly vigils, and we'd seen this guy walk by a couple of times without saying anything," Tim Pluta, the local chapter president of Veterans for Peace, told Socialist Worker. "The third time he walked by, he asked us, 'So are you guys for what we're doing over there or against it?' We told him that we were against it."

"Then he told us, 'I'm a Marine, and I've been stationed over there. I'm just home for a couple of weeks. I want you to know that I think what we're doing over there is a worthless mission.' He shared with us that many of the colleagues, other soldiers and even some in the leadership feel the same way. That's the kind of information that isn't getting out."

People everywhere should join the March 20 demonstrations. Help spread the word far and wide: End the occupation, and bring the troops home--now!

U.S. and Britain taped UN chief

TRUTH IS the first casualty of war. Then comes the spying.

After the U.S. government lied about Iraq's supposed arsenal of weapons of mass destruction, it began a full-court press to get United Nations (UN) approval for its invasion. Seeking to maximize their advantage, the U.S. and Britain bugged the offices of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, as well as several diplomats representing other countries.

The story hit the mainstream press in Europe about a year ago, but it was largely dismissed in the U.S. But with Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's lies about Iraq's weapons exposed, the confirmation of spying at the UN by a former member of Blair's cabinet has driven the scandal to a new level.

"I have seen transcripts of Kofi Annan's conversations," former Secretary of International Development Clare Short told BBC Radio. "In fact, I have had conversations with Kofi in the run-up to war, thinking, 'Oh dear, there will be a transcript of this, and people will see what he and I are saying.'"

Former chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix also came forward, saying that both his mobile phone and New York home had been bugged in the run-up to the war. Richard Butler, Blix's predecessor and a zealous supporter of the war on Iraq, tried to defuse the scandal by dismissing Blix's allegations as "naïve."

But Butler's dismissive attitude only increased the media frenzy. For the U.S., lies, cover-ups and spying to achieve its imperial goals are standard operating procedure.

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