End Iraq war, service members tell Congress

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Wednesday Jan 17, 2007 9:33:29 EST

A letter from about 1,000 active-duty, Guard and reserve members calling for Congress to end the war in Iraq was delivered to Capitol Hill on Tuesday.

Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., who accepted what in legal terms is known as an appeal for redress — because service members are prohibited from petitioning Congress — said the call for an immediate end to U.S. military operations in Iraq will be turned over to the clerk of the House of Representatives and published in the Congressional Record so it can be read by all members of Congress.

The letter contains just three sentences: “As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”

“We urge Congress to listen to its active-duty troops and veterans,” said Marine Sgt. Liam Madden, one of the organizers, who urged Congress to stop funding the war because troops “are dying while our politicians are squabbling.”

California Army National Guard Sgt. Jabbar Magruder, who also came to Washington to deliver the letter, said the drawn-out conflict is taking its toll on troops, their families and the employers of mobilized Guard and reserve members. “Families take the brunt of it,” Magruder said, complaining that the new plan announced Jan. 10 by President Bush does away with the previous promise that reservists would be mobilized just once every five years. “That has gone up in smoke,” he said.

Magruder said he wanted a response from Congress by Jan. 20, but offered no clear reason for why he picked that date.

Organizers said the letter is signed by about 1,000 people, mostly enlisted members and mostly from the Army. The appeal-for-redress campaign began in the Norfolk, Va., area, but has spread to other regions.

McGovern said the service members are using their right under the law to write to members of Congress — but the step they are taking, considered unprecedented, deserves attention from lawmakers. “These troops are risking their careers,” McGovern said.

“I am grateful for your courage,” he said to the service members and crowd of family, friends and peace activists who were present at a Capitol Hill press conference.

The effort by the service members did grab attention. Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., issued a statement saying he has deep respect for service members willing to stand up for what they believe. “They have exercised their constitutional right to free speech, and they have questioned an unjust war,” he said.