Socialist Worker

US military families in 'surge' against war

by Simon Assaf
Issue No. 2061

Nancy Lessing of Military Families Speak Out

Nancy Lessing of Military Families Speak Out


There is tide of change against the war among the families of US soldiers serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Families have inundated Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), an anti-war organisation set up in 2003, with requests to join. Since George Bush announced his 'surge' of troops in January, over 500 new families have signed up.

Nancy Lessing, one of the founders, the military families' campaign, spoke to Socialist Worker about the growing anti-war sentiment among soldiers and their families.

'In 2002, when the drumbeat for war was loudest, over 70 percent of those polled supported an invasion of Iraq. Now over 70 percent say the war is wrong.

'We now have 3,500 families in our campaign. In a three day period, earlier this month, 60 new families joined us.

'When Bush announced his escalation of the war, military families understood that this meant multiple deployments, extended service and more soldiers being held under 'stop-loss' – a law that allows the government to keep soldiers under contract, even after they have completed their eight years of service.

'In April the Bush administration announced that all tours of duty would be extended to 15 months.

Stress

'Many soldiers are now on their third deployment. Many of those returning from the wars have post traumatic stress disorder, a condition brought about by constant fear and witnessing the horrors of war.

'Many families are finding that the soldiers returning from the wars are not the same people as the ones who left.'

Lessing said many of these soldiers whose health had suffered are being drugged up and sent back to the conflict.

'The reality of this 'kill or be killed situation' is having an enormous impact on soldiers. Many of them have witnessed children being shot and their friends being gunned down.

'Each day three to four soldiers are being killed. And the longer they stay there, the greater are the odds of dying or being badly wounded.'

Since the invasion over 4,000 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. In each month following the 'surge' in Iraq, over 100 soldiers have been killed.

Trauma

Tens of thousands have been injured, creating an army of wounded and traumatised soldiers who, on their return, are left to the mercy of a crumbling health system.

'The growing feeling among the troops and the families is 'Why are we there?'

'When the campaign started out it was composed mainly of soldiers' parents, cousins, grandparents and other relatives.

'Now we have an influx of the wives of troops. Many of them live on military bases, where it can be very difficult to speak out.

'We are also getting notes from the wives of officers, starting with the line 'me and my husband are opposed to this war'.

'There was a code of silence among soldiers' wives. Now they are beginning to realise that not speaking out is more dangerous than speaking out.

'We are putting these wives in contact with one another, and building networks in military bases.'

The military families' campaign is one of a variety of organisations that are springing up among soldiers and former soldiers.

Returning soldiers have launched Iraq Veterans Against the War, and serving soldiers have been signing up to the Appeal For Redress campaign.

These campaigns have now become powerful vehicles for the growing anger at 'the war based on lies'.

According to Nancy, the watershed came with the congressional elections in November last year when the opposition Democrats swept the polls on a wave of anger against Bush.

'Even though many of the Democratic candidates did not campaign on the war, the elections shifted the debate from 'Should we bring the troops home?' to 'When shall we bring the troops home?'

'Congress has the power to cut the funding for the war. Bush says that if you cut the funding, you put the troops in danger.

'We say that if you fund the war, you are funding the deaths of our troops.'

For more on Military Families Speak Out go to » www.mfso.org


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Tue 24 Jul 2007, 18:14 BST
Issue No. 2061
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