culture, politics, commentary, criticism

Thursday, March 11, 2004
Military Families vs. the War. Paula Span,
"Where are all the weapons of Mass Destruction?" Richard Dvorin demanded in his letter [to the president]. "Where are the stockpiles of Chemical and Biological weapons?" His son's life [Army 2nd Lt. Seth Dvorin], he wrote, "has been snuffed out in a meaningless war."

His is not the only military family to think so. In suburban Cleveland a few days later, the Rev. Tandy Sloan tuned in to the "Meet the Press" interview with President Bush and felt "disgust." His 19-year-old son, Army Pvt. Brandon Sloan, was killed when his convoy was ambushed last March. "A human being can make mistakes," the Rev. Sloan says of the president. "But if you intentionally mislead people, that's another thing."

In Fullerton, Calif., paralegal student Kimberly Huff, whose Army reservist husband recently returned from Iraq, makes a similar point with a wardrobe of homemade protest T-shirts that say things like "Support Our Troops, Impeach Bush."

The number of military families that oppose Operation Iraqi Freedom, though never measured, is probably small. But a nascent antiwar movement has begun to find a toehold among parents, spouses and other relatives of active-duty, reserve and National Guard troops.

A group called Military Families Speak Out -- which will figure prominently in marches and vigils at Dover Air Force Base, Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the White House next week -- says more than 1,000 families have signed up online and notes that new members join daily. Other outspoken family members -- Dvorin, for example -- have never heard of the group but, for a variety of reasons, share its founders' conviction that the war is a "reckless military misadventure."

Most frequently cited, when military families explain their antiwar sentiments, is the absence to date of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. "They'd have these inspections and they'd find nothing," says Jenifer Moss, 29, of Lawton, Okla. Her husband, Army Sgt. Keelan L. Moss, died in November when a missile downed his Chinook helicopter, leaving her with three children and the belief that "he was sent out there on a pretense."

They are also angry at the Bush administration's insistence that its policies are nonetheless justified. Cherice Johnson's husband, Navy Corpsman Michael Vann Johnson Jr., was killed by a rocket-propelled grenade last March. "I'd love to say I back [the president] 100 percent, but I can't," she says, weeping during a telephone interview. "How many more people are going to die because he can't say, 'I'm sorry, I made a terrible mistake'?"
The confusion and pain that these families are feeling is one of the chief reasons the current administration must not only be voted out of office, but held accountable for their policies. The noble calling that once motivated members of these families to defend our country has been violated by the crony capitalism of the oil industry and the misguided political ambitions of a handful of neoconservatives who launched this war without a justifiable or verifiable basis.

The thousand families that have signed up online so far probably include those of most of the 579 Americans killed in Iraq as of yesterday.

Military Families Speak Out is planning marches, rallies, and other events on March 14 and March 20.

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