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June 16 Rally Statement by Stephen Cleghorn
Remarks for After Downing Street Rally at White House
Military Families Speak Out
June 16, 2005
Good afternoon. I am Stephen Cleghorn, a member of Military Families Speak Out. My remarks will be brief because I have come simply to provide a little perspective from inside the world of military families. I am also here to stand in support of the call that Congressman Conyers and 88 other Representatives are making to investigate the revelations of the Downing Street Minutes and the British Briefing Papers. I believe that, if the press, the Congress and the courts have the courage to follow up on the leads given by these papers, we will see the case made for impeaching the President for lying to Congress to take us to war in Iraq.
Before this war began, with John Bonifaz as our able attorney, I was proud to join with four soldiers, other parents of soldiers, Congressman Conyers and other Congresspersons in a law suit against the President. We tried to void the blank check for war that the majority of Congress had shamefully given President Bush in October, 2002. We knew at the time that the evidence was being fixed, and we hoped that forcing the issue back to Congress for a declaration of war -- as called for in our Constitution -- would allow the facts to emerge that Iraq was no threat to our nation-s security. Sadly that was not meant to be as the courts, the press and Congress failed us in a time of national fear.
Military Families Speak Out is comprised of over 2,200 military families in every state who have loved ones on active duty with the United States Armed Forces. Many have been to Iraq, some for more than one tour. Sixty of our member families have suffered the wrenching agony of losing their loved one to this damnable war based on lies. We are not anti-military. We get up every day and think about what we can do to support our loved ones, support our troops.
Every day the answer is the same: Bring them home now! End this damnable war.
My stepson John is a Lieutenant Colonel in the US Army. He was awarded the Bronze Star for exemplary service during the 15 months he spent in Kuwait and Iraq. Thankfully he is home, for now, and safe. Because he is a career military officer, he did his duty in a war to which the Commander in Chief ordered him, even though he believed the cause of war had not been established. Once he was there, he worked tirelessly to protect his soldiers. I honor him for that. As much as we hate this war, we love our soldiers. I am the son of a career military officer. My dad also detests this war, yet he and my stepson share a love for the men and women with whom they have served in the Army.
Our soldiers dedicate themselves to protecting our country on the trust that they will be led by just and responsible leaders. Our soldiers are willing to go into harm's way, if necessary, but instead they have been thrust into an unnecessary war in Iraq and turned into harm's ministers. The President abused my son's dedication to protecting his country. He abused John's military service by thrusting him into a war of choice, not necessity, that we know was planned by "fixing" the intelligence about weapons of mass destruction to make the President's grudge match with Saddam Hussein possible and to prepare Iraq for American oil extraction. We are now into the third year of a war that has killed 1,709 American soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians; and a war that has included -- among others -- the shameful war crimes of Abu Ghraib and the killing of innocent civilians in their homes in Fallujah.
There is nothing more serious than sending men and women to kill and to die on a pack of lies. Fabricating the case for war is a "high crime" far more serious than having sex with an intern or even abusing government institutions to cover up your tracks as Nixon did after the Watergate break-in.
Let me end by saying that today is a hard day in a long line of hard days. Imagine being a military family and wanting nothing more than to have a good reason for your loved one's sacrifice, only to find that there was no just cause of war. How hard would it be to take in that information? Or imagine being one of our mothers who discovers that her son was killed while searching for weapons of mass destruction, and coming to know that the President who sent him on that search knew damn well there were no such weapons to be found. We understand why so many of our military families must for the life of them cling to some hope that this war was just, yet we know just as surely that it is not. So please be kind to our military families who say they support this war that killed their loved one.
All we can do then is wake up every day and do what we can to end this tragedy. So I am proud to speak for military families and to stand once again with Congressman Conyers and his colleagues to deliver this letter to the White House with one-half million people seeking the truth. We honor those who have died and we honor the Constitution they swore to defend by appealing to the public and press to demand a full accounting of why we are in Iraq, and we support our troops by saying � bring them home now!