WASHINGTON – Larry Syverson, father of two combat soldiers deployed in Iraq, told a National Press Club news conference Sept. 24 that George W. Bush is “playing with my sons’ lives” to secure control of Iraqi oil.

Syverson’s son Branden is attached to the 4th Infantry Division, and Bryce is with the 1st Infantry Division, with no word on when they will come home, Syverson said.

The news conference was convened by Win Without War, one of the nation’s largest antiwar coalitions, which released an open letter to Bush and Congress demanding the firing of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and transfer of authority in Iraq to the United Nations. It says Congress should reject the $87 billion requested by Bush unless these two conditions are met.

The letter has already been signed by 196,000 people through the Moveon.org and Win Without War web sites.

Syverson said he was galvanized by Bush’s July 2 speech in which the commander in chief made his “bring ‘em on” taunt. Since then, the toll of dead GIs has passed 300. “With his bravado statement, President Bush was playing with my sons’ lives,” Syverson charged. “Secretary Rumsfeld’s bad planning has left our troops poorly equipped and vulnerable, the country degenerating into chaos and the Iraqi people embittered and hostile,” Syverson added. “And now Americans are being asked for an additional $87 billion for this quagmire and no exit strategy in sight.”

An environmental scientist for the state of Virginia, Syverson said he pickets the Federal Building in Richmond, Va., several times each week holding a sign with photos of his sons and the message, “Iraqi oil is not worth my sons’ blood.”

As the occupation drags on and the roster of combat dead lengthens, he said, scores of motorists honk and wave in solidarity. “I’m proud of my sons and the honorable service they give to our nation,” he said. “But the leaders they serve have not acted honorably. They have failed them and failed all of us. It is time for them to go, starting with Donald Rumsfeld.”

Syverson was flanked by former Maine Congressman Tom Andrews, who is Win Without War’s national director, and by former Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Wilson was sent to Niger by Vice President Dick Cheney to check out the authenticity of documents purporting to show Iraqi efforts to obtain uranium from that African country. Wilson told the World that he reported back that he, as well as the U.S. ambassador to Niger and a Marine Corps general, had examined the documents. All warned the administration they were forgeries. Yet Bush used these forged documents in his State of the Union speech.

“This goes beyond spin to using fundamental inaccuracies to justify a march to war,” Wilson told the World. “Condoleezza Rice appeared on “Meet the Press” and said ‘Somebody in the bowels of the State Department may have known about this but not the White House.’ That was an out and out lie.” Wilson charged that the Bush doctrine of unilateral preemptive war has inflicted a heavy blow to “collective security” that is the only hope for peace.

Andrews called Bush’s speech to the UN General Assembly Sept. 23 “a failed opportunity – for which our soldiers in Iraq will continue to pay the highest price.”

Andrews added, “Instead of taking responsibility for this historic mistake, the president attempted to justify it by saying the United States and its allies ‘acted to defend the peace and the credibility of the United Nations.’”

“You don’t defend the United Nations by violating the will of its members and arrogantly dismissing it as irrelevant,” Andrews said.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, who also addressed the General Assembly, said Bush’s advocacy of preemptive war “represents a fundamental challenge to the principles on which, however imperfectly, world peace and stability have rested for the last 58 years.”

Speaking after Bush, French President Jacques Chirac said, “The war, launched without the authorization of the Security Council, shook the multilateral system,” and put the United Nations through “one of the most grave crises in its history. … No one can act alone in the name of all.”

Last week, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) called the administration’s case for war against Iraq a “fraud … made up in Texas” to set the stage for the 2004 elections. He also charged that money for the war is being used to “bribe” other countries to send troops.

Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) labeled Bush’s request for $87 billion for Iraq “fiscal shock and awe.”

A study released Sept. 23 by the House Budget Committee’s Democratic staff said the cost of the Iraq war and occupation could easily reach $417 billion over the next decade.

The authors can be reached atand suewebb@pww.org