Now Playing: Look Back at the previous anniversaries
March 20, 2006
Speech by MFSO Member Jenny Keesey in Port Angeles, Washington
Good Afternoon. My name is Jenny Keesey. I represent Military Families Speak Out.
Tomorrow we enter our fourth year in Iraq. Today we gather to raise our collective voice in opposition to a war that was based on lies and to oppose the policies that sent our troops into harms way for motives we will never fully know. We gather to voice our outrage at a government that casts a blind eye and deaf ear toward the citizens of this country. All across the nation, people are gathering – just as we are – to demand that our government bring our troops home now. Not over the course of several years, not over the course of 12 months, but NOW.
For as long as I can remember, my son’s dream has been to be a soldier. He announced this to me when he was five years old. A few years later, he and his two best friends made a sacred pact that only nine-year-old boys can make. They pledged that they would all join the military and be soldiers as soon as they were old enough.
Through the years, and sometimes across many miles, these three boys held fast to their pledge and their friendship to each other. Our families have grown close because of the bond between these men. Two of us are single Moms that wondered if we would ever survive raising teenage boys. We shared in their joys, their not-so-wonderful moments, and now we (all three families) share the unease of the times.
In 2002, two boys joined the Army and the other joined the Marines. Today, one is in Fallujah, one is at Ft Hood, Texas awaiting deployment early next month to Baghdad, and one is scheduled to deploy early next year. They have not second-guessed their decision to join the military. They do not regret it. All are proud to wear the uniform, and all understand much better than our leaders do the responsibilities that go along with wearing the uniform.
They carry the pride of their accomplishments and their newfound self-respect like a badge of honor. Before he left for his duty station, I asked my son just what it was that made him want to join the military. He assured me that he didn’t join for the college money, he didn’t join for the medical benefits, and he didn’t join to see the world, although seeing the world, he said, was a great bonus. He simply said it was what he was meant to do. It was that clear-cut.
I respect my son. I respect all three of these boys. But, I do not respect this war or the people who took us there.
The arrogance of our leaders resulted in the squandering of any goodwill the world felt for us before the war began. When I speak of leaders, I mean all of our leaders, from the Oval Office to the Senate to the House of Representatives. Where we - as a nation and as a people - are at this moment, is a result of a meltdown that spans political parties and all branches of government. While we were lied to by one branch of the government, the other branch stood silently by while our troops were sent into harms way without a plan to succeed and without the equipment they needed to be safe.
For those of us at home who questioned or criticized our government, we were labeled as unpatriotic – un-American. Over the course of the past three years, it has been drummed into our heads, through hate radio and special interest TV media, that this is a fearful time to be an American. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of living in fear. I’m tired of being told how I am supposed to think and what I’m supposed to fear. I can tell you that it is not the fear of terrorists that keeps me up at night. It is the fear of knowing my boys are fighting for a lie and that my government is in a horrible downward spiral.
We cannot demand the freedoms of our Constitution if we are not willing to stand up and voice our opposition when our leaders take us down the wrong path. I would like to read to you a statement made by conservative Ohio Senator Robert Taft. He said, “ As a matter of general principle, I believe there can be no doubt that criticism in time of war is essential to the maintenance of any kind of democratic government. Too many people desire to suppress criticism simply because they think that it will give some comfort to the enemy to know that there is such criticism. If that comfort makes the enemy feel better for a few moments, they are welcome to it as far as I am concerned, because the maintenance of the right of criticism in the long run will do the country maintaining it a great deal more good than it will do the enemy, and will prevent mistakes which might otherwise occur.” Senator Taft made this statement just a few short days after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
A recent survey revealed that 72% of military personnel believe that it is time to leave Iraq.
A recent Gallup Poll survey has revealed that 51% of Americans now believe that we were lied to about weapons of mass destruction.
67% are now convinced that there is not a clear plan for Iraq.
When asked how Americans felt it was going in Iraq 60% of those polled stated that it is going badly.
Finally, when asked if going into Iraq was a mistake 57% of those surveyed said that it was.
It is our duty to hold our elected officials accountable. More importantly it is our responsibility – no, it’s our obligation - to our soldiers. They need us to do that now more than ever. They need us to stand up for them as they would stand up for us. We must get them home now and take care of them when they get here. Not one more dime should be spent for the sake of killing. Not one more life should be lost. The cost of losing a loved one is too much to ask of our families. Putting their lives on the line for a cause that has been nothing more than a lie is too much to ask of our soldiers.
It’s time to bring them home.
It’s time for our country to heal.
M. ALEXANDER OTTO; The News Tribune
Published: March 20th, 2006 01:00 AM
About 1,000 people rallied Sunday in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood to protest the Iraq war on the third anniversary of its beginning.
Church leaders, labor groups, soldiers, longshoreman, veterans, military families, politicians, professors, and others joined in opposition to the war with a march from People’s Park to People’s Center.
With speeches, signs, and discussions, they made their points: The Bush Administration misled the country into a needless war with false data about Iraq being a terrorist threat; the conflict is being funded by cutting essential education, housing and health care programs; and the war is unwinnable and should end as soon as possible.
Signs and buttons carried slogans like “think outside the Fox, impeach Bush,” “ignorance isn’t patriotic” and “support our troops … bring ’em home.” No one was there to argue the other side of the issue.
The demonstrators held several moments of silence for U.S. soldiers and others killed in the conflict.
Joe Colgan, of Kent, said his son, Army 2nd Lt. Benjamin J. Colgan, was killed by a roadside bomb in Baghdad in November of 2003 while serving in an artillery unit.
After what’s come out about the conflict, he said, the fact that more people aren’t protesting “drives me nuts.”
Lietta Ruger, whose son-in-law and nephew, both 28, are in the Army and facing additional time in Iraq, said she hoped her efforts would prevent other families from feeling the uncertainty and pain of having loved ones in Iraq.
An Iraq war veteran took the stage with her.
“I did nothing positive in Iraq,” said Joshua Farris, 24, who said he served as an Army cavalry scout during the war’s first six months.
Referring to the protest, he said, “This is the right side of it.”
State Rep. Jeannie Darnielle, D-Tacoma, read a litany of complaints about the Bush administration’s conduct of the war: “Convincing us Saddam was linked to 9/11 was wrong! Denying civil war is imminent is wrong!” she said to cheers.
“Every American is contributing at least $1,500 per person per year” to the war effort, said Warren Freeman, pastor at Allen African Methodist Episcopal Church in Tacoma and Associated Ministries board member. “Too much money is being spent on the war, and not enough on health care, education, and housing.”
The protest was sponsored by Associated Ministries, the Church Council of Greater Seattle and United for Peace in Pierce County.
Laura Karlin, who helps operate Tacoma Catholic Worker’s hospitality house in Hilltop, said, “this is our neighborhood, and this is where we are seeing the program cuts, especially in low-income housing, shelter, and health care.”
2nd Anniversary: 2005
Seattle Times staff reporter
As military families go, Lietta Ruger said, she is as red, white and blue as any proud mother.
But how could she reconcile her loyalty to the armed forces with her disdain for the Iraq war?
For months, she kept silent — until her son-in law faced mortar attacks every night at his Baghdad compound. That's when the Episcopal preacher in her came out.
Ruger, 53, of Bay Center, Pacific County, spoke out against the war on PBS' "The NewsHour" with Jim Lehrer last fall and to her congregation at St. John's Episcopal Church in South Bend, Pacific County.
And again yesterday: On the second anniversary of the start of the Iraq war, she gave an impassioned speech explaining why she believes the war in Iraq is unjust, before a crowd of anti-war protesters at Seattle Center. Organizers put the number of participants at 5,000.
The Seattle protest, put together by the Church Council of Greater Seattle, Washington State Jobs with Justice and Sound Nonviolent Opponents of War, was part of a worldwide movement designed to place pressure on the military and get attention from Washington, D.C.
More than 700 marches, rallies, peace vigils and protests were held in communities from California to Illinois to New York, twice the number as last year, according to national organizers.
Thousands joined similar protests in European cities — 45,000 in London, according to The Associated Press. On both sides of the Atlantic, the protests were passionate but largely peaceful. Seattle police made no arrests.
In Seattle, Ruger, whose son-in-law and nephew are about to serve their second tour in Iraq, and who herself was raised in a military family, addressed the crowd knowing that "a lot of military [families] are not very happy with my message."
But, she said, "You should not let someone else define patriotism for you."
After the rally, the crowd marched in the rain from Seattle Center to Westlake Park and back. Several groups of students and political activists who had rallied elsewhere earlier in the day joined in the 90-minute march.
Among the marchers were church groups, labor unions and campus clubs, veterans and military spouses, organizers said.
There were protesters such as retired Lt. John Oliveira, 39, of Darrington, who told the Seattle Center crowd that he resigned from the Navy last year because he didn't want to continue pitching a war he didn't believe in.
ALAN BERNER / THE SEATTLE TIMES
Lietta Ruger, who addressed the anti-war gathering yesterday at Seattle Center, places a pin on her husband, Arthur
Two years ago, Oliveira said, he looked into the cameras of several television networks and "sold this war as a war on terrorism, removing weapons of mass destruction and the Iraqi nuclear threat.
"Well, we have found out that that was the biggest lie ever perpetrated on the American people," he said.
Ruger feels more at peace now that she is expressing her displeasure over the war and what it is doing to her family, she said. While her son-in-law served 15 months in Iraq, she had to console her daughter and help out by baby-sitting her three grandchildren.
Ruger declined to give her son-in-law's name but said "He will do his mission, but his preference is to be home." He is a 25-year old Army sergeant. "If I could do it, I would go in his place," she said.
The woman who once stayed silent now lobbies Olympia lawmakers to get the Washington National Guard out of Iraq and has joined a military-family group against the war.
Ruger, who grew up on a military base in Japan and 11 years ago married a Vietnam veteran, Arthur Ruger, 57, said, "I have absolute pride in the military."
Her husband also gave the crowd some advice: "You can be against the war, you can disagree with Bush and still be a patriot."
Information in this report about other anti-war protests came from the Washington Post, The New York Times and The Associated Press.
"But the White House does care, very much, when members of the military and of military families start speaking out.
By far the most powerful speaker at Saturday's rally was a Pacific County woman, Lietta Ruger, who has a son-in-law and nephew about to serve their second tours of duty in Iraq. Hers is a military family; she is middle-aged, patriotic, and able to cast the risks and costs of Iraq in starkly personal terms.
In a word, she has credibility that those of us without personal links to the struggle in Iraq do not have."
- Geov Parrish, CommonDreams.org: Antiwar Activism: Closing the Credibility Gap