Jay Shaft IV - President Bush, You Killed My Son!
"President Bush, You Killed My Son! I dare you to tell me the Iraq war was justified!"
An interview with Sue Niederer, Military Families Speak Out member, whose son Lt. Seth Dvorin was killed in Iraq on February 3rd, 2004
By Jay Shaft- Coalition For Free Thought In Media
Note: This interview is longer than any other one I have put out in the past, but its impact would have been diminished if it was cut or shortened in any way. The dedication of this brave mother is quite touching and the power of her words needs to be considered by anyone who is supporting the occupation of Iraq without question.
Sue Niederer is from Hopewell Township, New Jersey. She has been very vocal and active in the anti-war movement and has participated in numerous peace marches and actions. While she has been interviewed on many occasions, I have tried to let this interview develop over the last two months. I have spent countless hours talking to her on the phone, and she has impressed me with her strength, conviction and dedication to her cause.
There is a price that the families and loved ones pay when a soldier dies, and their pain is an ongoing and ever present wound that refuses to heal. Many families now feel that as long as there are still troops dying and being wounded in Iraq they cannot fully come to grips with their grief.
Sue is very strong and outspoken, but as you will see in the interview, even seven months later, she is hurting and very angry. Her protesting and speaking out have become therapy, and a way of helping to diminish the pain, a little bit at a time.
She feel she is the voice of many people who might not be able to speak, or know how to overcome the conflict of the death of a loved on in a war that has so many problems and is based on so many falsehoods.
Her mission is to speak for all the people who just don’t want to, and she is dedicating herself to saving the lives of every soldier in Iraq. Her life has now completely changed and not in a way she could ever imagine.
The simple fact of that more soldiers die every week enrages and hurts her and makes her all the more focused on bringing the troops home before another one loses their life or is permanently maimed.
Her son Seth Dvorin was a 24 year old lieutenant assigned to Battery B, 3rd Battalion, 62nd Air Defense Artillery Regiment, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, New York. He had finished his officer training at the end of July, and then was sent to Fort Drum and shipped out for Iraq in September of 2003.
On February 3rd, 2004, an improvised explosive device killed him while he was leading his men on patrol south of Baghdad. He had been back in Iraq a little more than two weeks, and altogether had served just over five months in combat.
Seth was married in September just five days before he left for Iraq. He has left behind a devastated, grieving wife Kelly, who never got to enjoy being married to him, or to settle into any type of home life.
JS: What I want to really try to tell people about is your pain, how it keeps going on and doesn’t diminish, or is that incorrect? How has it been for you?
SN: The pain doesn’t diminish, it just gets more excruciating each and every day. The reason for that is simple, just very simple. We are seeing more and more get killed every single day. We’re not getting answers to questions that we as families are asking.
Questions we all are asking, even if we don’t go public or speak out. What happened? Why didn’t our family member have the proper equipment? Why were they doing the missions they were going on? There’s been no answer to these questions, they won’t give us any. There’s just more lies, deceptions, and run around, and I continue to believe they will keep ignoring us.
JS: What type of response have you gotten from the government, if any?
SN: Let me give you a perfect example. I got a letter sitting right here from the government. I had my attorney take a look at it, actually I have two attorneys. I think I already told you this, but basically there is a congressional investigation into my son’s death. As there is in instances of two other ones also.
The letter I received basically is saying to us that if there is an investigation and we’re not going to tell you how long it will take, and once they (the government) get the answers they are going to look that paper over. They are going to take it through their review department and make mincemeat out of it. They are only going to give us the parts they want us to see. That’s really what this letter is saying.
JS: You brought up a big issue when your son came back through Dover. You said that they made you stand outside the gates and refused to let you in. President Bush has really emphasized a ban on the press being able to show coffins returning to Dover, where the bodies are processed before being released to the families. You were not able to meet your son’s coffin when it came off the plane?
SN: That’s correct. That’s absolutely correct. They would not allow us to meet the coffin, which is now permitted. That was due to all of the protesting I have done, obviously. The denial they gave me was a very simple one. I officially got denied for health reasons. But they kept giving me all kinds of other excuses. I got told many things. We can’t deal with crying families, we don’t know what plane he’s coming in on, and we don’t know what time he’s coming in. They gave us a complete and total run around.
What they don’t want is very simple. They don’t want anyone to see the grief and the pain behind the coffins. They don’t want the families to be seen. When you don’t see the families, when you don’t see the coffins or funerals, you don’t really see the true picture of grief and loss.
JS: So by hiding the coffins and not showing news coverage of the funerals and the families grieving they hide it?
SN: Yes they are hiding it, yes they are, no question. It’s just a number; it’s just one more number in a long line of easily forgotten dead. We don’t want to see our own casualties, because that might make people believe it is real, it is going on every day. Oh God forbid the American people have to see our pain, they might be offended or upset. We might make someone unhappy if they have to think about the price of war.
It’s bullshit, absolute bullshit, and that’s what really makes me mad. This is my pain damn it, our pain, the families pain. How dare you try to hide it, not if I want it to be seen. Many families don’t, but a lot of us do.
To say that we must move on and not question it is just so arrogant. They just have become so arrogant.
JS: So you think the leadership of the US is being arrogant? How so?
SN: The arrogance of the leadership is a very simple fact. As long as we allow them to get away with it, and not protest against it, then they’re going to be more and more arrogant. They’re going to continue to try to line their pockets at the expense of our own children. In order to get rid of it, we have to get rid of them.
If George Bush is elected again he’s going to take this country on an even bigger downward spiral into the tubes. If we re-elect him now we give him a license to do whatever he wants. He already has, that should be clear to everyone, that he just does what he wants then deceives us about it. He lies all the time when he gets caught and still keeps doing the same thing the next week.
JS: Do you think the American people are giving him a free license by turning their back on all the deceptions and lies?
SN: It’s called blinders, they just are too afraid to admit that it happens all the time. Or they don’t want to know or care. That or they just can’t because of the cost to their beliefs and ideals. I’ll give you a good example of that with some of my friends who have had children killed or injured in Iraq.
I ask them all the time, "Why don’t you come out and protest? Why don’t you come out and speak your thoughts and feeling?" Unfortunately some of them don’t do it for a very simple reason. They need something to cling to, something to hold on to. They need to believe that their family member did not either die in vain, or get wounded for a worthless cause. They need something to cling to, that’s how they accept it, that they have lost a loved one for a good cause.
JS: It seems like whenever I see it in the press, where a family has spoken out against the war, it’s very quickly covered and almost immediately forgotten about. It seems whatever comments are published are kept to a minimum, and there is a story behind it that doesn’t seem to be properly covered right now.
SN: I don’t know if anything has really changed about how a family is allowed to meet their loved ones coming back. Are they still giving everyone the run around? That I don’t know, but I think it is probably still the same old hassle and stalling. They just don’t want it to be on the news. It’s that simple.
JS: What about Nadia Mccaffrey letting the press photograph her son’s coffin when it was transferred from a private flight? She was only able to do that because of chartering a private flight and the government seemed to be very unhappy with her actions. How do you feel about that?
Full Details of Nadia’s Defiance of Bush’s Coffin Picture Ban
Interview with Nadia: http://www.motherspeak.org/intervs/nadiamc.html
SN: Yep, I know about that. I say good for her, she did something we all can be proud of. You would think that then press would scream about it, whenever they can’t show how awful this war is. Who controls the press? Ask yourself that, and why don’t they force this issue? It is almost like they will back off a story unless you really hit them hard and force them to come out because they get scared that some other news agency will get it and they will look like fools.
Look at what happened when Ted Koppel read the names of all the fallen over Memorial Day weekend. Look at how many of the ABC stations said, "No, we’re not going to allow it to be viewed. We’re gonna cut em off." At least Ted Koppel got it done, and I thank him for that.
I know people who saw it who were really affected by it, who might have never known or heard the truth. It was so moving to me, it was so terrific, and it did have an impact, it had to if it caused that much conflict.
See: 'Nightline' airs war dead amid controversy
Owner ordered affiliates not to broadcast program http://www.cnn.com/2004/SHOWBIZ/TV/05/01/abc.nightline
JS: Now let me ask you something that might be painful. You have asked to receive your son’s helmet and his equipment. Did you ever get a response? Anything been done yet?
SN: Okay, here’s the answer to that one. Uh, I am not permitted to receive his helmet because it is government issued, and the government is going to reissue it. There’s only one problem with that. In his particular instance, I don’t think his helmet is reusable, because of there is supposed to be a hole in it.
JS: I have seen some of your letters and interviews, and I know the way it happened was a horrible way to die. They have told you at least three or four versions of how he died, but it is still the same in the end, and you are still mourning.
SN: Well, uh, at least it was quick, he didn’t suffer. That is the only thing my family is thankful for, at least he didn’t feel any pain. I can thank God there was no pain; he went right away.
JS: While he was stationed in Iraq did you discuss your feelings on the war? How did he feel about the protesting and everything?
SN: Uh, I didn’t protest before he was killed.
JS: So you started after he was killed?
SN: That’s correct.
JS: Sorry to be so harsh, but what brought you around to that point, was it his death? What really caused it, when you started getting really vocal? Sorry if that’s too harsh, I don’t mean to be hurtful.
SN: No, no, that’s all right, no need to apologize. I was never for the war to begin with, okay, that’s number one. Number two is that the day after my son was killed the Senate came out with the statement "There are no weapons of mass destruction." That was the reason for starting the war, and now I hear it’s false. You know building up to that and everything, we didn’t felt that there were any, I thought that was a hoax.
Then the day after my son was killed, for this to come out in the public and be admitted to, well what uh, what the hell? I went over the brink, with a vengeance. The night that my son was killed we had Senators on the phone, this one, that one, who really knows how many called.
My request was that I want to meet my son’s coffin, not knowing what the policy was obviously. The rhetoric and the run around all helped me to realize how much cover up they were doing. I realized how much lying this government is doing, how much they are hiding.
JS: So it hit you pretty hard on top of everything else?
SN: Oh yes, oh yes it really did. Let me tell you something that I realized.
These soldiers are dying for nothing! Absolutely nothing! It’s just a waste of good lives!
I had to come out, I had to bring it out in the open. It’s sickening how they let them die! It’s so bad, not having the proper equipment, no training, not being prepared, and everything. It has to come out; I had to let the American people take their blinders off. I seem to be getting through but it is a hard fight to get there.
JS: I have spoken to officers who are living with the fact that their men died. I have had men tell me that they keep the deaths in their head, they won’t or can’t let go of it. They think it’s their fault because they didn’t try harder to get the needed equipment. I spoke to one officer at Christmas time who was walking around having a conversation in his head with his dead platoon members.
SN: I’ll give you one better than that, it’s pretty much the same. Are you ready for this, are you ready?
My son comes home in January for his two weeks, and he was extremely upset. He was yelling on the phone, just about screaming at his commander. You have to understand Seth, he was mild mannered, basically never got angry. HE NEVER RAISED HIS VOICE, NEVER! He takes after my grandmother, soft, cuddly, and warm. He’s was a peacemaker, always made sure everyone else was okay, and never cared about himself, he just was so perfect.
So I’m upstairs and I’m listening to a conversation. He’s talking to Fort Drum, speaking with his commander. He was speaking very clearly and he said "I need computers and GPS’s (Global Positioning Systems)" and then he said it again a little louder. "I need computers and GPS systems, my men need these or they’re going to be dead!"
You hear how my voice is getting higher? That’s how he sounded as he talked. Okay, the third time he said in a very loud voice, "I’m not asking you, I am demanding that before I take my troops out I have theses computers and GPS systems! You’re putting me in danger!" Then he slammed the phone down, and that’s not my son.
JS: That was his commander at Fort Drum he was talking to?
SN: Yes, he yelled at him on the phone. Not my son, that’s just not my son. My son had never raised his voice before that, and then he realized I was there. He just shot me a look like shut up, don’t ask me about it. So I just backed off and I walked down the staircase. Cause I knew, don’t even go near the subject right now, back off.
JS: Oh, that’s got to be hard for a mother to hear. I have heard horror stories from troops who saw someone killed because they didn’t have properly armored Humvees, or else they got killed because they maybe had their bullet proof vests covering the panel on the door, and didn’t have time to put it on.
SN: What about all of them who didn’t even have a vest, what about them? They died because of it, and who’s to blame? It’s the government and Bush, he’s really to blame, he pushed them to send all of them to war, and he didn’t care about giving them equipment.
JS: So you have found some very good reasons for going to the protests. You seem to be addressing things at protests we all need to hear about.
SN: Let me tell you about the vests and what I’ve seen. The first protest I went out on was against Colin Powell by the way. I met a woman there whose son was being sent over. They were actually taking up a collection for her son’s unit to get the vests with the shock plates in it. It was costing $600 apiece for these vests.
Aren’t our loved ones lives worth $600 dollars apiece? Obviously not!
I told you I went to the screening of Fahrenheit 9/11 with Michael Moore. He made a statement before the show went on that he had been in contact with some men, and this particular unit, I think it was a battalion, well over 600 men. Anyway they called Michael and said we don’t have the vests.
Michael Moore told them that he would personally buy them for whatever it would cost. Do you know the government decided to send them the proper vests the next day? They did not want Michael Moore to send them, they didn’t want it known that he was personally going to do it, because they hadn’t done what they were supposed to do.
JS: You are a mother who can personally tell about how her son didn’t have the right equipment. So you know and you are dedicated to exposing that fact to the public. How are you doing it besides protesting?
SN: Here’s a perfect example. The reason I raised so much of a deal about getting my son’s helmet, you know why? I want to know if there was a proper helmet for my son. That’s why I wanted the helmet. It’s not cause I want to sue the helmet company, like I was accused of wanting to do. Even if I did have thoughts like that, if I received anything it would go to my daughter in law.
JS: Now let’s get into that. He left behind a wife right? Any kids?
SN: No. He was married five days before he deployed. He never had time to have a life with her, it was over before it had even begun. That’s the tragedy, they would have had such a good life, it’s just not fair. It’s not fair, I can’t even go on with that, no, I have to stop.
JS: I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to make you feel any more pain.
SN: That’s okay, just some things, I can’t always talk about it. I’ll let you know if it happens. I do this because I need to, I get through it like this. I have to be the one, because so many other families won’t.
JS: Okay that brings up a very good question I have. I have had a mother confront me because I was at protest. She said there was no way she could believe George Bush had ever lied, and that the government did provide everything the troops needed. She told me that if she had doubts it would make her son’s death meaningless, and that was the worst thing she could think of.
She said that if she ever found out Bush lied or the government didn’t give them equipment she would lose everything she believed in.
How do you address the parents that feel that way? Do you run into that at protests?
SN: It’s hard to talk to someone who is desperately holding on to their blind faith. You know what you say to a mother like that? I’ve had to do it, so I know what to say.
You have to say unfortunately we cannot bring your children home, not any time, not ever. But we need to save the rest so that someone else doesn’t have to go through what you are going through. That’s why we have to speak out against it. It will give you piece of mind that you are now trying to save the life of others.
It will keep another parent from feeling the awful conflict, the pain of knowing it might have been for nothing. For them to even be able to have that thought means this war is wrong, just a sick draining of our youngest and brightest, and what about all the older reservists, they aren’t ready for this.
How can you send a fifty-year-old with grandkids off to die? That’s something that you have to plan out and have no conscience, no compassion, you’re not even a human being if you do that.
JS: Well that’s your reason, and that’s the stated mission of Military Families Speak Out, that they want to save lives. This seems to be your main goal. You told me it is to save the life of even one more person if you can.
SN: That’s all my son was trying to do. He said was trying to bring his men home safely, that’s why he went back. He said this to my husband, I did not see this happen, I have to tell you that.
He said, "I don’t want to go back." He told me it was worth it and all of that. But the crying I did not see. He said, "I am the leader of eighteen men, and I must bring my men home." He said, "I am responsible, I have to go back." Well the eighteen are now twelve, three are dead, and three might as well be, as bad as they got hurt, they are permanently disabled, they’ll never be the same.
I cannot even bring those men home safely because now they are hurt or else gone. I can’t even do that, and that’s why I do the protests, I speak out because of that. I have to live with the loss even after he died, then his men died or got hurt too. That’s why this is so important to me, and I will keep on trying, for all the other men and women.
JS: That is so powerful, I guess people might understand the protesting and speaking if they see it like that.
SN: Jay, I say this to you for a reason. The brainwashing that the government does on these young kids, and this camaraderie they instill upon these troops, is nothing but mind control. When it comes down to it, this is the bottom line, oh I really hate saying this. But if it comes down to two people, you and somebody else, instinct is going to take over. They’re going to try and protect themselves. Camaraderie is wonderful, but it is killing many, many, many of our troops.
There are a lot of these kids that don’t want to go back, but it’s instilled and ingrained in them. They say "I’ve got to go back because I can’t let my buddy die" and I know because Seth said it. It made my son go back, he tried to keep his men safe, and he’s dead now. For what? His men are still dead, more of them will die, and he had to go back because it was his duty.
This is what’s really happening and good men are dying for it. They are torn in the middle of coming home from combat and they won’t know what to really do.
JS: Thank you for addressing that, because I have heard it both from the families, and the soldiers that are home on leave. I have spoken to officers who said they didn’t want to even take leave because they knew they would lose men while they were gone.
SN: Yes, yes, that’s it, you have to really get the men to open up, but I have heard it from some of them. My son spent his entire leave worrying, he wouldn’t talk to me about it, but I knew. Oh did I know, he’s my son and a mother just feels these things. Going back was the only way in his mind to save his men, and it didn’t.
He was the first in his platoon to die. He was the one up front and as an officer he never should have been up front. Never, ever, he shouldn’t have put himself in that position. That was the kind of man he was, he wouldn’t sit back and let his men be out front.
JS: So let me get this straight, he was the first one out there in front the day he died? He took the risk first?
SN: Yes, he died because he went out first, he was up front. I went back to his recruiting station, okay, and if his recruiter was still there I would have decked him. Literally! Okay? I would have really done some hurt on him. But his recruiter was not there, he’s now in Hawaii because of all the lies and deceptions that he used when he got people to sign on the dotted line. So he’s in Hawaii now, which is a good thing for him, he didn’t want to see me, bet on that.
JS: Okay, I know that you might get in trouble for saying that. Are you sure you want that on record? I just don’t want you in any trouble.
SN: I lost a son, who cares, they can’t do anything worse to me, they killed my baby! Let me finish this because there’s a point. I did speak to another gentleman who took over at that recruiting station. We sat and had a talk, and he had a good question for me. He asked, "What was your son doing up front? He was an officer right?" I said yeah, he was a lieutenant. He said, "He never should have been in that position, never."
So I said thank you, now investigate it. I called him back once. You think he’s done anything, or investigated anything?
JS: I think I can guess that he hasn’t. Right?
SN: Absolutely! Nothing was done, not one thing. Nothing was done.
JS: Now your ex husband, Seth’s father Richard Dvorin, wrote a very moving and heartrending letter to George Bush.
Seth’s father asked this question, "Why did my son and every other soldier that was killed, maimed and wounded have to suffer settling your vendetta? Now, President Bush, his life has been snuffed out in a meaningless war. Where are all the weapons of mass destruction, where are the stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons?"
See: Shaken father writes to president
Did you ever get any response at all? Did Bush write back, or even have someone else do it?
SN: Of course not. Of course not. We got a form letter, but not a personal one. Bush is too much of a coward to give us an answer. Now I was at the White House, how’s that for asking Bush directly? We stood out front with the Military Families and I had a megaphone. We were outside protesting and I challenged him to come out.
I said to him, "Alright you son of a bitch, I know your in there." He was with the Prime Minister of Israel that day, I think, I can’t really remember. I said "Come on out and talk to me, or have you become such a coward? Come out and talk to me, face me!"
Of course he’s not gonna do that. We all know that he’s not going to do it. That was in April and it was a big protest. Right there in front of the White House, and there was no show from Bush. Of course not, we didn’t expect it.
JS: So have you seen people’s attitude change as you been protesting? Have you seen a change in what people are willing to believe or accept?
SN: You know I can think of the first time I really thought American’s might be taking their blinders off. It was when President Bush declared "Mission Accomplished", and we kept seeing the deaths keep adding up, more and more every week.
Okay that was a start, it has been slowly building up, and it keeps going on as more of our kids die. And now with everything going down the tubes, it has all been adding up in people’s minds. With this one quitting, and this one resigning, and the torture and the CIA being involved, people can’t deny it anymore, they have to at least have a twinge, maybe this might be wrong.
It’s sad but it is real as nothing else is, it’s hit the fan, excuse the expression Jay, it might be shocking, but the hurt and horror might be the wakeup. It’s hit the fan, we have had so many more dead and wounded after "Mission Accomplished".
He keeps sending more troops in, and they keep dying and getting wounded. It makes people think, because you can’t hide a body or a coffin, it makes the war real to them like a list of names just can’t do.
Let me tell you something about how "Mission Accomplished" is going to come back and bite Bush in the ass. People are going to see it during the campaign and be able to think for themselves, you wait, that’s what we are here for. We won’t let them forget about it, we’re the families and you can’t take our pain any other way but as proof of the failure of Bush’s policies.
JS: So the truth and the horror of the ongoing deaths seem to be working it’s way into people’s conscience?
SN: It’s sad to have that be the way to rub it into people’s faces, but yes the deaths are a smack in the head. How can you still continue to hold on to the rightness of this war when you keep losing your kids? Anyone that can tell me they are proud of our country right now really needs a head examination.
You saw it with the people on the street. I spoke to many people who believed that we would be out of Iraq after June. They thought that we would start bringing troops home after the government was turned over to the Iraqis. Many of the families thought that they would get their loved ones back after that and this would start to have an end.
OH NO! That’s not what happened, no way. It isn’t going away, and there is no end in sight. That has to be in many of the military families’ minds, and now it is even getting worse. So there’s your "Mission Accomplished", that is the truth, and they can’t tell us they did a damn thing.
NOTHING HAS BEEN ACCOMPLISHED! NOTHING! NOT A THING IS TRUE THAT THEY KEEP USING AS THEIR PROMISES AND CAMPAIGN ISSUES!
There are more troops going to Iraq, and even a lot that are going back. So this hasn’t changed
When we turned the country over there were even more kids that died in the next few weeks, so it wasn’t any thing that came true.
JS: So you’re saying that the war is not anywhere near being over with? Even though the official claims are that it is a victory and a success?
SN: Exactly! The reality is now beginning to set in. Here’s another perfect example, okay? I’m married to a Republican, imagine that. We never ever discussed politics before this. There was no reason to discuss politics with each other. I vote for the person I believe in, I could care less what party they’re in. My husband and I never discussed this. Our son was killed, and he was still voting Republican, he was still voting for Bush. That’s what was going on with him.
(Sue is married to a man named Greg Niederer. This was kind of a touchy subject when her ex husband, Seth’s father Richard, came up in the conversation.)
Then it came time to go to Michael Moore, and he told me you cannot go alone, you must bring somebody with you. My husband had not said one word prior to the showing of Fahrenheit 9/11, okay? He let me do whatever I needed to do, and he never said a word to me. I must have done seventy-five interviews if I did one and he would never attend, he would never say a word. Okay?
JS: Okay, yeah I hear your point.
SN: So we go to see Michael Moore and he walks out of the movie theatre and says, "I’m sorry. How could I have even thought to vote for him?" He said, "Now I see who the true person is. I will never, ever even consider voting for him."
He went to work and he told his friends what he had seen and said to them, "I can’t believe I was foolish enough to just say I’m a Republican, I’m voting for George Bush." He said, "There’s no way in hell! I’ll vote Republican at a local level, but I won’t go with Bush on the national ticket." And that’s fine by me, he can do that, it’s his choice.
JS: It’s so tragic that a death has to be that kind of a wake up call.
SN: Right, it is sad, but it’s happening all over the country, everyday. I just checked this morning and there have been 37 soldiers killed since we handed over power. Over 250 have been wounded and that’s only what we hear about. You tell me if that sounds like it’s getting better. We are going to lose more this month after we turned over power, more than the last month that’s for sure.
I looked at it and it’s adding up to two soldiers a day. Now you tell me if I have a reason for this. You tell me, and I dare someone to say this is going well, or getting any better. Come find me at a protest and try that one, you’ll see what I have to say, and it won’t be nice.
(This portion of the interview was conducted three weeks after the hand over of power. There were 54 soldiers killed in July and over 300 wounded. In August there were 66 US soldiers killed and over 425 wounded. The average death toll was 2.42 men per day in August and 1.87 a day for July.)
See Iraq Coalition Casualties for a month by month list of the dead and wounded.
JS: You said before that they are hiding the numbers on the actual casualty count. Can you explain why you feel that way?
SN: Yes, they are, it is a proven fact, and I can tell you about this one. When you are wounded in Iraq and they take you out, what happens when you die? If you die outside of Iraq there’s no statistic on you. I have no idea how many wounded are dying outside of Iraq, and I won’t even try to guess at that Jay. I can’t tell you a number, because I can’t find one.
JS: Okay, then what is the deal with hiding it?
SN: Okay, lets think about this for a minute. Let’s say in one week that there are 100 wounded, just for a number. You’re not gonna be able to tell me that at least five of them don’t ended up deceased. There have to be some of them they get out to Germany that end up dead, we know it happens, because there are more funerals going on than the death toll says there are.
JS: Yeah that is a good point. I check the funeral notices and it just doesn’t add up with the official death toll from on the ground in Iraq.
SN: Uh huh, uh huh. I’m telling you that’s my gut feeling about it. I can’t see it being any other way because I see some of the families, and they say that they lost their child after he left Iraq. Where are they counting these people? Where are they being included?
JS: I dig into this everyday and I try to release all the funeral notices and small town newspaper stories about these guys coming home severely wounded. I think it is the right of the American people to know this.
SN: You’re right, we have to know, we have that right cause it’s our kids dying and being wounded.
That’s my point about the lies, it’s at every level. They don’t want the American people to know, they can’t afford to let them know.
JS: Now you talk about the death toll and the hidden casualties. How do you feel about it when the stories are actually covered and then the public just kind of brushes it off?
SN: You mean the blinders? That’s what I call it, the blinders.
JS: What I mean is, for a good example, talking about yesterday’s news. There were three US soldiers killed and at least forty Iraqis, and it was almost like just another day in the life, a light news day.
SN: Yes, yes you got it, that’s Bush and the administration, they put it on the back burner. They don’t want it shown anymore because now it’s election time. The media doesn’t put this on the front burner anymore, it used to be on the front burner. You used to hear about it every single day. You used to hear about the deaths every single day, and the wounded.
But not in the last few months, oh no, absolutely not. It’s on the back burner, because the more people hear about this, the more people think twice about Bush. Somebody put me on to the Iraq casualties site, or else I might not even know all the time.
JS: So you make it a point to stay informed?
SN: What’s going on and what we don’t see as a nation, I do see. I saw it and I know now because of my involvement with this. It amazes me, it’s mind blowing, totally mind blowing what I know now.
JS: That’s what I keep finding as I talk to more families who have lost loved ones. I have uncovered all kinds of stuff that is very important to these families. Like every body has said about the pain and grief. It’s ongoing even a year or year and a half later. They say it’s still there, it’s still raw and fresh, and it hasn’t been dealt with very easily. They still keep grieving and mourning on a daily basis.
SN: For me it’s been over five months and it’s still hard. When I went to see Fahrenheit 9/11 I broke up. You’re never going to forget that Bush is not doing his job. You can’t do that, okay? You don’t do that. Uh, for me in my particular instance I can’t do that, it’s in my life everyday. I can’t just go on.
My son and my daughter-in law had such a wonderful future ahead of them, totally planned out. To lose someone as bright as this young man who had a future ahead of him through lies and deceptions of a recruiter hurts. The worst is the lies of our President, which really hurts. Every day I say good morning to him and I say goodnight to him.
I tell him to look out over his wife, and I think that oh God do we need you, we need you my son.
JS: You do that everyday?
SN: Yes I do, he’s always with me in my heart and mind. You know I can say this, and other families say it too. When you go certain places and see young people, like at the mall, you see kids around your own sons age. You just know what you lost, it’s so hard.
(At this point Sue broke down and sobbed. It was really touching because the strength she showed was not as strong as it first appeared.)
JS: Tell me, would it be easier if the war ended right now and we brought the people back?
SN: Yes, yes, for me it would be. Because no more lives are being lost and that’s the end. For me it would be.
JS: Right now you are one of the families, fewer than a thousand still, who really knows what this feels like. I have heard this from at least twenty people, that they can’t give up their belief that their child died for a good cause.
How hard is that, to know the pain and loss on that deep a level? What do you feel?
SN: I use the words, "My son has died in vain." It’s funny because right after I used those words, Bush started using them.
JS: You mean the phrase ‘They have not died in vain’?
SN: Yeah, okay, that was right after I started saying it. It was uh, well I’m sure it was coincidental, but I pointed it out to a few people. I asked them, "Does that sound like he’s mimicking me?" He said that, "The troops are not dying in vain." Well guess what, those are the words I used to say my son DID die in vain!
JS: Here it is, I found it earlier after I talked to you. "We believe that the price of war was worth it. Our young soldiers have not died in vain, their sacrifice brings freedom for Iraqis and for the world."
SN: OH NO! That’s ain’t me!
JS: No, sorry, that’s George Bush’s quote. He has several that are very similar to that, he made several very similar quotes in the last few months to justify the war. He was just on TV the other night making some of the some statements like that about the war being worth it.
SN: Oh god, you just want to throw up when you hear it. You want to literally go into the TV and take his neck, wring it and twist it. You want to know what I would do if I had Bush in front of me? I’ll tell you what I would do. I would take a gun and shoot him in several places, like his stomach, his eyes, his arms and legs, I would really make him suffer. I would make it slow and really painful, really make it last a long time. I would love it!
JS: Wow, I don’t know what to say about that. Oh, man, you just didn’t say that. No way! You know you can get arrested just for saying that? I want to make sure you know what you are saying. Are you really sure you want that publicly available?
SN: Oh, Yeah! It’s the truth, I feel that way, so what if they come after me. So what. Let them, I don’t care. I know what I just said, so be it, it’s my pain and loss. Let them arrest me, see how that goes over with the public. What they really would want to arrest a mother who lost her son? Right now, during the campaigns? I dare them to stop me from saying this!
JS: Well I’m sure some people who lost children would at least fantasize about that. You are saying that in theory, right?
SN: No, I wouldn’t fantasize, I would do it. One of our MFSO members, Jane Bright, got to meet Bush. I couldn’t have controlled myself. I would have spit in his face. Hah! You want to honor me by meeting you? No! No! No! You should honor me, and come to me, and kiss my rear end.
My son enlisted. Bush didn’t even pay his respects. My son was wonderful enough to enlist and serve for our country, and you put him into a false and pretentious war? Bush, you should kiss my rear end. You think it’s an honor to meet you?
Sorry Charlie, unh uh, wrong person, not me. He should kiss everybody’s rear, all of us who lost a kid.
JS: Now you’ve called on Bush to apologize to all the families?
SN: Absolutely. Did he respond? Nope! The fact that he hasn’t even shown up at a funeral is cowardliness. Someone flat out asked him in April, "Why can’t you apologize to the deceased and the families of the deceased?" What was his answer? Evasiveness, the panicked look. I told you he’s a coward, a flat out coward.
I think it’s despicable, he is completely despicable.
JS: Okay well I can’t think of anything else right now. Anything you want to add?
SN: The only thing I would like to add is this. Bring Our Troops Home, Now, ALIVE!
Face me you coward! Talk to me one on one! Tell me my son’s death was justified and I’ll slug you. Tell me it was worth it and I’ll deck you! Face me and tell me you are a real leader! Come on I dare you, you chicken!
JS: Well as long as you know what the consequences could be. I just want it to be clear I didn’t trick you into saying it, or that you didn’t want me to print it.
Anything you might want to say to the families that have or will lose a loved one? Anything you want to say to those who are still conflicted about their feelings?
SN: By all means please get in touch with me. They can reach me through MFSO. I would like to talk with them and allow them to make up their own minds. Even if they just want to share the way they feel. Let me hear from you if you have questions, even if you feel it was all justified. I am not trying to convince anybody of anything, it just helps to share the pain sometimes. We are together in the fact that we lost a child. That’s it.
Listen to everything, and listen to what your children would have wanted, or your family member. Let’s figure out what they really wanted. Did they really want to be there? Did they really feel that they were making a necessary sacrifice, and was it up to Bush to decide that they should?
JS: So what about the families who say you are disgracing their loved ones memory? What about accusations of being unpatriotic and that you do not support the troops?
SN: Glad you brought that one up. That is a big misconception. I am totally for the troops, I am 1000% behind the troops. I used to send packages and things over to Iraq. I’m 100% patriotic, 100% behind our troops.
I’m against the war and the reason we got into the war. It’s a totally different thing. I want these troops home to get the counseling they need to be able to start their lives again. Not to lose their lives out of deceit and deception! There’s a total difference here. You’re right, people doing this, and protesting get called unpatriotic, communistic.
Hell No! That’s not right! My kid lost his life, so how unpatriotic could I possibly be? What do they think? I’m the most patriotic person, I have the American flag hanging outside. Before my son was killed we had the Army flag hung outside too. So tell me how unpatriotic I am! Tell me I don’t support the troops, that’s just crap! I love the troops so much I want them home, I want them alive.
No one can know what we are going through unless you are in our shoes. You have to have lost a child, then you will know. I watched my son go off to war, I supported him and now he’s dead. Unless you have that happen don’t tell me not to speak out. Don’t you dare even try to say I am unpatriotic. We, the families have made the ultimate sacrifice, after our children did, we still do every day.
No one can dare call our loyalty into question, it’s an issue that is already decided. We want everyone else’s child to live, tell me that’s not the ultimate loyalty and dedication. That’s true patriotism, that’s the right we’ve earned, and we’ll make sure it isn’t forgotten.
For more info or to contact Military Families Speak Out: http://www.mfso.org
Please see related articles:
8/29 RNC/NYC Anti-War Protest Interview With Sue Niederer
For Families of Some Killed in Iraq: Grief, Outrage and Protest
The first interview in this series was with MFSO member Celeste Zappala:
"The pain of my son's death does not get any better, it just gets worse as time goes on." http://weholdthesetruths.org/Social%20Commentary/Articles/zappala-interview.htm
Jay Shaft is a freelance writer and the editor for the independent news group Coalition For Free Thought In Media.
He has conducted many interviews with soldiers who have served in Iraq, in which service members exposed the issues of the military's failure to provide proper equipment and training to US troops, and he has been on the forefront of investigating the price that soldiers are paying as a result.
He has also published many letters and interviews from parents speaking out against the death or injury of their children serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Jay Shaft: email@example.com