Military Families Call for End to Iraq Occupation
From the radio newsmagazine
Between The Lines
Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Aug. 25, 2003
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Interview with Susan Schuman, Military Families Speak Out, conducted by Scott Harris
Listen in RealAudio: http://www.btlonline.org/schuman082903.ram
Even as President Bush and Paul Bremer, the U.S administrator in Baghdad, talk optimistically about the progress being made in stabilizing Iraq, new guerrilla attacks on American forces and other targets there have escalated. A truck bomb driven into Baghdad's Canal Hotel on Aug. 19 destroyed the United Nation's headquarters, killing the top U.N. diplomat in Iraq. Another truck bomb destroyed the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad earlier in the month.
These attacks, along with a string of other assaults on Iraq's oil, water and electric power infrastructure, point to a new pattern of economic sabotage and strikes at civilian targets. Meanwhile, guerrilla forces, thought to be remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime or Islamic nationalists, continue to attack U.S. troops, with the death toll exceeding more than 260 soldiers since president Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq on March 20. The deepening conflict has also claimed the lives of increasing numbers of Iraqi civilians and other noncombatants. An award-winning cameraman for Reuters, Mazen Dana, was shot and killed by U.S. troops Aug. 18 in what the Pentagon described as "another tragic incident."
With the danger growing for U.S. troops in Iraq, some family members of military personnel stationed there have begun publicly calling for an end to the occupation and a speedy return of American forces. Susan Schuman of the group Military Families Speak Out has a son in the Massachusetts National guard deployed in northern Iraq. She recently helped launch a national campaign with a coalition of veterans and peace groups called "Bring Them Home Now." She spoke with Between The Lines' Scott Harris about the goals of the campaign and the hardships and demoralization she believes are plaguing American troops serving in Iraq.
Susan Schuman: My son is a Massachusetts National Guardsman, so he's not regular Army and he's stationed in Samara in northern Iraq. Unfortunately, I haven't heard from him for about two-and-a-half weeks. Communication is really difficult, which is hard for me. In our last conversation, one of the things he said to me was that the United States just doesn't understand what's going on here. He said there are 30 to 40 major incidents a day. His office took a direct mortar attack. Living conditions are very difficult, he doesn't complain about that at all. Obviously, as his mom, I'm very concerned about that. He's lost 30 pounds. They're rationed to two liters of water a day. It's 120 degrees, two liters of water is a pretty skimpy ration.
I think what is of greatest concern, however, is that where he is stationed, they are under constant ambush. There are ambushes all the time. They're engaged in guerrilla warfare on a daily basis. Of course, he's in the National Guard and these guys and gals are all signed up and are perfectly willing to do the job. But they find themselves in a situation where it wasn't what they bargained for. I think even more seriously, some of the things that I'm hearing from him and from other people in his unit is that they don't have equipment, they don't have supplies, they don't have the kind of support that they need to be able to do the job. One of the things he said to me is that they don't even have radios. People go out on patrol and they can't radio back. I think it's a very poignant description of the cynicism of the Bush administration and (Secretary of Defense Donald) Rumsfeld in the way they have approached the aftermath of the supposed shock-and-awe bombing with no planning. Essentially, there was no preparation for the follow-up of the bombing of the country of Iraq.
Between The Lines: Tell us a little bit about what's behind the campaign of "Bring Them Home Now," the groups that are involved in it and what the immediate goals are.
Susan Schuman: "Bring Them Home Now" is a campaign that has been started by Military Families Speak Out in conjunction with a number of veterans' organizations, Veterans for Peace, and other organizations that concern military personnel. The campaign is pretty simple, it's just common sense. Our troops want to come home, their families want them home, the people of Iraq want them to go home, so we need to bring them home. The military presence in Iraq, the presence of U.S. military personnel in Iraq is not really solving any kind of problem whatsoever. As long as there are troops in Iraq, the Iraqi people are going to resist them. They are also proud people. As long as there is a military presence in Iraq, we're not going to solve this problem of this continual daily insurgency and resistance, it's not going to make it any safer, we're not going to pass it by the Iraqi people.
We've got to bring the troops home and then move into the reconstruction of and the healing of a shattered nation. We have to undertake a political process that will rebuild the Iraqi nation. Of course, Bush and Rumsfeld aren't the slightest bit interested in doing that. Bush and Rumsfeld are interested in guarding their oil reserves, guarding their oil interests and in empire building.
Between The Lines: The Bush administration of course, says the U.S. troops have to remain to keep things stable in Iraq, so that the people of that country can build their own democracy and to prevent remnants of the old regime, Saddam Hussein's regime from coming back in power and terrorizing the Iraqi people another round. How do you respond to that, that whole idea that U.S. troops must remain in Iraq to create stability and help the Iraqi people?
Susan Schuman: The American troops, they are being misused as an occupying force, as police, a job they're not trained for, they're not prepared to do. Iraq clearly needs policing to prevent the kind of anarchy that's making the Iraqi people suffer as well as the American troops. But that is not the role of the American military. We need to get in an international police force, we need to deal with the political issues in Iraq of dealing with the Baathist party and remnants of the Baathist party. It requires a political solution. These things are not the job of an occupying military force, which is perceived as hostile by the Iraqi people.
All of the justification leading up to the war, none of that has been proven true. Our troops are there, illegally and completely unjustified. There was no threat to the people of the United States. There were no weapons of mass destruction, no nuclear program, no chemical or biological shells ready to fire at 45 minutes notice, and no ties with al Qaeda.
Related links on our website at http://www.btlonline.org/btl082903#2hed:
- "Opponents of Iraq Policy Bring Message to Crawford," by David Jackson, The Dallas Morning News, Aug. 23, 2003
- "U.S. Recruiting Hussein's Spies," by Anthony Shadid and Daniel Williams, Washington Post, Aug. 24 2003
- "U.N. Members Push Back on Call to Share More of Iraq Burden," The Associated Press, Aug. 22, 2003
- "Massive Explosion at U.N. Headquarters in Iraq," www.truthout.org, Aug. 18, 2003, CBS video in RealVideo (needs RealOne Player), and "At Least 14 Are Killed in Bombing of U.N. Headquarters in Baghdad, " by Dexter Filkins and Richard A. Oppel Jr., The New York Times, Aug. 19, 2003
- "Campaign Wants U.S. Troops Home From Iraq," by Elizabeth Wolfe, The Associated Press, Aug. 13, 2003
- "Allegations of War Profiteering Leveled Against Halliburton and Other Companies With Close Ties to White House," Charlie Cray, corporate reform campaigner at Citizen Works, Week Ending 5/23/03
- "War Profiteering," by The Nation editors, April 24, 2003
Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines ( http://www.btlonline.org), for the week ending Aug. 29, 2003. Between The Lines Q&A compiled by Anna Manzo and Scott Harris.
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