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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Bring Our Boys Back: Military Families Speak Out

Several activist groups opposing the invasion and occupation of Iraq, spearheaded by Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), addressed the UMass community on Monday. Along with the Socialist Alternative, Global Exchange and other groups, MFSO condemned the policies of the Bush administration and demanded an end to what they termed “a reckless military misadventure.”

Military Families Speak Out was founded by Nancy Lessin and Charley Richardson, whose son, Joe, was deployed to Iraq last year. The group was formed to give a voice to military families protesting the American-led invasion of Iraq. Currently the group consists of about one thousand families and continues its opposition to the occupation of Iraq.

Reoccurring themes brought up by panelists were the perceived dishonesty of the Bush administration and the possibility of ulterior motives for the war.

Paul Camacho from the William Joiner Center at UMass commented, “There is no doubt about this, this is a full-scale assault on the Muslim world. There is no other way to describe this.” Nancy Lessin of MFSO claimed, “We were all betrayed by an administration that put loved ones as occupiers securing safety for Halliburton.” The panel argued that the war in Iraq was really about oil and empire building.

UMass student Patrick Ayers, a member of the Socialist Alternative, criticized the cost of the war and plugged the March 20 protest rally organized by United for Peace and Justice. He urged students to become politically active, asking them “not to treat this discussion today as just another academic exercise.”

Ayers also condemned the workings of the two-party system and placed blame on both Republicans and Democrats.

The featured speaker of the event was Fernando Suarez of MFSO. His son Jesus was killed while on duty in Iraq. Suarez questioned the motives of the Bush administration and declared, “The young men who went off to this war…were deceived.” He also claimed that the military lied to him about the circumstances surrounding his son’s death.

After learning of the death of his son, Suarez visited Iraq. There he found mixed sentiment on the part of the Iraqis. While some thanked him for the removal of Hussein, others vowed to take revenge on American soldiers who they blamed for casualties sustained by family members. “I am going to try and kill the Americans,” an Iraqi told him.

Suarez urged audience members to remember that the Iraqi people are not the enemy. He also encouraged students make the most of their educational opportunities at UMass saying, “You…have the power to make change. You’re the new leaders.”

The speakers also discussed the guerilla war in Iraq. Paul Camacho credited Donald Rumsfeld with a good job in toppling the regime. However, he critiqued the military for being unprepared for a paramilitary insurgency, noting, “They [the Bush administration] should have realized…that the suicide bomber was going to be absolute fact.” Camacho commended the professionalism of the troops but insisted that military commanders “don’t have the consolidation and control” to be effective in a post-Saddam Iraq.

While the panelists criticized the Bush administration’s failure to develop a plan to secure the peace after the Hussein regime was toppled, they offered no solutions as to how the international community should deal with or solve the anarchic situation in an Iraq where American troops have been brought home.

Several panelists saw moral equivalence between President Bush, Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers. Nancy Lessin of MFSO recited a letter from an unnamed member of the marine reserves that read, “I did not sign up to give my life for a personal grudge between two dictators.”

Charley Richardson opined, “First we were terrorized by 9/11. But secondly and more importantly we were terrorized by George Bush,” adding, “George Bush has…used fear as a weapon against the American people.”

After the panel finished speaking they took questions and were challenged by audience members, including a Vietnam veteran.