By Jeff Norman, Director, U.S. Tour of Duty
As popular opinion increasingly turns against the war, Iraq veterans and military family members are criticizing the Bush administration more frankly than ever before. Their message is impossible to dismiss, because it is obviously not motivated by political bias, but by a patriotic commitment to holding our leaders accountable for illegal and immoral behavior.
At a U.S. Tour of Duty event in Venice, California last night, Iraq veteran Jeff Key explained the obligation of U.S. service members to fight "domestic enemies," and why the American masters of war should be categorized as such. Gold Star mom Nadia McCaffrey, whose son Patrick was killed in Iraq, flatly stated that President Bush does not represent her, and would turn her back to him if he were in her presence.
Nadia is half-way through four Southern California speaking engagements at which a documentary of her recent trip to Jordan is being screened. She went there to meet with Iraqi mothers whose loved ones have also been killed as a result of American military might. Filmmaker Mark Manning, who documented Nadia's journey, also managed to become "embedded" with the people of Falluja. His exclusive footage of the U.S. bombardment of Falluja, and its aftermath, reveals the horrors of war as it is seldom ever seen. Not even most peace activists realize that virtually the entire city was completely devastated. Last night's Venice audience was brought to tears when they saw this documentary evidence of massive disregard for humanity.
Former Air Force veteran Tim Goodrich, who served in the Middle East under Ret. General Tommy Franks, also addressed the crowd. Tim was introduced with a U.S. Tour of Duty news video that captured a dramatic confrontation he had with Franks after the general spoke to elementary school students in Los Angles. Tim was outraged that his former commander in chief was apparently seducing such young children with a sugarcoated image of the military, and that the school assembly had taken place without the knowledge or consent of parents. Tim, who is the co-founder of Iraq Veterans Against the War, was denied access to the event, just as his previous attempts to meet with members of the Bush administration have been rejected or ignored. In a classic example of civil disobedience, Tim waited outside the school (along with Gold Star dad Bill Mitchell) and put his body in front of Franks' vehicle as the general was being driven away.
On Saturday night in Anaheim, California, during the premiere event of Nadia's Southern California swing, the audience erupted in anger when it saw the Franks encounter projected on a large screen at a Unitarian church. In response to a complaint about the fact that the press rarely covers the issue of militarism in our schools, Nadia pointed out how U.S. Tour of Duty is doing the job of reporters for them. "We are the media," she said.
Independent journalist Dahr Jamail, who spent eight months reporting from occupied Iraq, will speak at the next two U.S. Tour of Duty events, tonight in San Pedro, and Wednesday in West Hills. He will be joined tonight by Mark Manning, thus giving the public a rare chance to hear not one but two important truth-tellers give first-hand accounts of the war being fought in America's name. More information about both presentations is available at www.ustourofduty.org , as is a video clip of the encounter with Tommy Franks.