Set the date! Time to bring the troops home

WASHINGTON — Citing soaring costs in lives and tax dollars, lawmakers, peace leaders and military families demanded this week that President George W. Bush bring the troops home from Iraq.

They rejected Bush’s boast in his State of the Union address that the Jan. 30 election in Iraq vindicates his war policy.

Bush is asking for another $80 billion for the Iraq war on top of $151 billion appropriated earlier, even though nearly $9 billion cannot be accounted for. He plans to build 14 permanent military bases in Iraq. To pay for war and tax cuts for the rich, Bush would slash funds for health care, education, and other domestic needs. The privatization scheme Bush laid out in the State of the Union speech would force cuts of 30 percent or more in Social Security benefits.

“Yes, the Iraqi people desired to vote but they were not voting for the continued presence and dominance of the U.S.,” said the Rev. Graylan Hagler, pastor of Plymouth Congregational Church here, and a leader of the peace movement. “What the people were voting for is control of their own country. The presence of U.S. troops does not solve that problem, it exacerbates it. It’s time to bring the troops home.” Hagler said he plans to join in nationwide “The World Says No to War” protests against the Iraq occupation set for March 19. Millions are expected to demonstrate throughout the world.

Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) and 24 other lawmakers introduced a resolution Jan. 26, calling on Bush to begin the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Jan. 26 was the bloodiest day of the war for U.S. soldiers, with 30 Marines and one sailor dying in the crash of a helicopter and six troops killed by insurgents.“We got ourselves into this mess. Now it’s time to support American troops by bringing them home,” said a letter to Bush last month signed by Woolsey and 15 other lawmakers.

Kevin Lucey of Belchertown, Mass., an active member of Military Families Speak Out (MFSO), said it is time to end the bloodletting that so far has taken the lives of more than 1,400 American GIs and wounded tens of thousands more in body and spirit. All the reasons Bush gave to justify war on Iraq — weapons of mass destruction, Saddam’s ties to al Qaeda, and the “imminent danger” of an Iraqi attack on the U.S. — have been proven false, he said.

Lucey’s only son, Jeffrey — a Marine — returned from Iraq plagued with nightmares, flashbacks, paranoia and alcoholism. Despite appeals to the Veterans Administration, he succumbed to his despair and hanged himself.

“We think of all the innocent Iraqis who have died, their houses destroyed, their livelihoods disrupted,” Lucey said. “Now the Administration is asking another $80 billion to continue the war. And they are seeking a cutback in veterans’ benefits, closing VA medical centers just at a time of greatest need.”

He pointed out that the Pentagon’s “stop loss” policy is forcing soldiers to extend their service or face a second deployment. “Jeffrey himself was facing deployment again in Iraq,” he said. “The federal government is morally bound to fulfill its obligations to these soldiers. But they did not answer my son’s pleas for help. The Veterans Administration told our son he would have to deal with post traumatic stress disorder ‘on his own.’ They told him, ‘Suck it up.’ But you don’t tell a 23-year old youth to ‘Suck it up.’”

Jeffrey Lucey was enrolled at Holyoke Community College studying nursing when he was deployed to Iraq. The college held a deeply moving memorial for him when he died.

“At least 33 Iraqi veterans have committed suicide,” Lucey said. “How many more are uncounted and unknown? We don’t know how we are going to live without Jeffrey. That is why we are so active in the movement to end this war. Jeffrey wanted to help other people, so we are working in his memory to save the lives of others like him.”

The Woolsey resolution calls on Bush to “develop and implement a plan to begin the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq” and develop a plan to reconstruct Iraq’s civil and economic infrastructure. Two years after the invasion, millions are without clean water, electricity, or health care. Unemployment is at catastrophic levels.

The resolution urges the convening of Iraq’s leadership, Iraq’s neighbors, the United Nations and the Arab League “to create an international peacekeeping force in Iraq and to replace U.S. military forces with Iraqi police and National Guard forces to ensure Iraq’s security.”

Finally, the resolution calls for “all necessary steps to provide the Iraqi people the opportunity to completely control their internal affairs.” Signers include Reps. Xavier Becerra (Calif.), John Conyers (Mich.), Danny Davis (Ill.), Lane Evans (Ill.), Sam Farr (Calif.), Raul Grijalva (Ariz.), Maurice Hinchey (N.Y.), Carolyn Kilpatrick (Mich.), Dennis Kucinich (Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas), Barbara Lee (Calif.), John Lewis (Ga.), Jim McDermott (Wash.), Cynthia McKinney (Ga.), Gwen Moore (Wis.), Grace Napolitano (Calif.), Major Owens (N.Y.), Ed Pastor (Ariz.), Charlie Rangel (N.Y.), Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), Jose Serrano (N.Y.), Pete Stark (Calif.), Maxine Waters (Calif.), and Diane Watson (Calif.).