[Media-watch] Military families criticize Iraq war - Honolulu Advertiser - 24/10/2004

Julie-ann Davies jadavies2004 at yahoo.co.uk
Sun Oct 24 16:27:29 BST 2004


 Posted on: Sunday, October 24, 2004
Military families criticize Iraq war

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Valencia Miller hadn't planned on speaking out publicly against the war in 
Iraq, but the emotion of the moment clearly got to her.

The 20-year-old, whose husband is in Afghanistan with the 25th Infantry 
Division (Light), had just heard from Fernando Suarez del Solar, a 
California man whose Marine son was killed in Iraq on March 27, 2003, when 
he stepped on a U.S. cluster bomb.

Suarez del Solar, a Mexican immigrant and now a vocal Iraq war opponent, 
said the military lied about how much his son would get paid and how he 
died, and tried to stiff the family on the full cost of his burial.

Miller, a student who initially attended Suarez del Solar's talk at Leeward 
Community College last week to get extra credit in a philosophy class, had 
her own terrifyingly defining moment.

She was with Jenaiece Fraise in June when a chaplain and officer knocked on 
the door and told Fraise that her husband, David, a 24-year-old Schofield 
Barracks corporal, had been killed when his Humvee hit a roadside bomb in 
Afghanistan. At that time, Jenaiece Fraise's baby was 5 months old.

After Suarez del Solar spoke and Navy wife Dietra Myers Tremblay said 
anti-Iraq war views within the military aren't being represented in the 
media, Miller told her story.

"I'm not afraid to speak out, like she's not afraid to speak out ... " 
Miller told the group of about 40 people. "I'm a patriotic person, 110 
percent. But I do not believe we are in this war (in Iraq) for any 
particular reason, especially when there are other conflicts in the world 
that we're not putting our hands into because we don't have anything to 
benefit or gain from."

Although on the rise, military family criticism of the war in Iraq - 
publicly expressed - is still relatively rare. Military culture, tradition - 
even its laws - keep it that way.

Polls taken by the Annenberg Public Policy Center find the military still 
largely Republican and supportive of President Bush and his policies.

'Military divided'

Tremblay, the Navy wife, finds it extremely frustrating that military brass 
can stifle military families' opposition to the war in Iraq or their support 
for a change in the commander-in-chief.

"I find the military and its policy on not questioning our 
commander-in-chief, President Bush, quite ironic," the 26-year-old said. 
"For instance, let's say (John) Kerry wins this election. So, up until the 
election I'm considered unpatriotic and evil for supporting Kerry. Yes, 
there are people who would consider me evil for supporting Kerry. But after 
the election, my support for Kerry would be completely acceptable. I have a 
problem with this."

She believes "our country is divided right now, and our military is 

Tremblay speaks for herself, and she's free to do so. Her husband, Petty 
Officer 1st Class Jason Tremblay, is not.

"I'm kind of prohibited from making any official statements that speak 
disparagingly against basically the federal government," said Jason 
Tremblay, 29, a former submariner who now works in the Pearl Harbor 

When it comes to criticizing U.S. military policy, "it gets kind of gray," 
he added.

The Air Force in 2002 suspended a lieutenant colonel who wrote a letter to 
The Herald in Monterey County, Calif., in which he ridiculed President Bush 
for his response to terrorism, accusing him of allowing the Sept. 11 attacks 
to happen because "his presidency was going nowhere."

Lt. Col. Steve Butler said of Bush: "His daddy had Saddam and he needed 
Osama. ... This guy is a joke."

Article 88 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice prohibits officers from 
using "contemptuous" words against the president, vice president, Congress 
and the secretary of defense, on down to the governor and legislature of a 

Personal opinions

A 2004 Defense Department directive, meanwhile, states any service member on 
active duty shall not use contemptuous words against officeholders.

A service member can express a personal opinion on political candidates and 
issues, but not as a representative of the armed forces.

Nancy Lessin, the co-founder of Military Families Speak Out, an organization 
against the war in Iraq, said that in November 2002, she started with two 
families. Now the organization has more than 1,800 military families across 
the United States, including Hawai'i.

But Lessin, whose son served as a Marine in Iraq in 2003, said military 
families still don't have complete license to speak up.

"Even though there is nothing in the law that prevents military families 
from speaking out, it's certainly in the code, or culture," she said from 
her home city of Boston. "That code basically says, in order to support the 
troops, you must support whatever activity they've been sent to engage in."

Family members sometimes have been contacted by the commanding officer of a 
service member and told they are disloyal or called "traitors" for speaking 
out against the Iraq war, Lessin said.

"We think the most patriotic thing that we can do, the most supportive thing 
that we can do, for our loved ones and all of our troops, is get them out of 
a war that should have never happened," she said.

Supporting Bush

The University of Pennsylvania's National Annenberg Election Survey shows 
that a majority of America's military men and women and their families 
believe the country is going in the right direction. The poll also found 
that military people and their families are much more likely than civilians 
to support George Bush and to support the war in Iraq.

>From Sept. 22 through Oct. 5, Annenberg polled 655 adults who were either 
recently on active duty or family members of those recently on active duty. 
Some 64 percent said the situation in Iraq had been worth going to war over; 
32 percent said it had not.

Sixty-four percent said the country is on the "right track" and 31 percent 
said we're going in the "wrong direction." Forty-three percent called 
themselves Republicans, 19 percent identified themselves as Democrats, and 
28 percent said they were independents.

Elizabeth Ventura, whose husband, Matthew, is a petty officer second class 
on the destroyer USS Chafee, believes the public was misled about the 
reasons for going to war in Iraq, and the military wasn't given an exit 

"It's not that I'm against what the military does, or the military in 
general," Ventura said. "It's just this specific war."

All the military family members strongly support the troops. Separate the 
war from the warrior, the saying goes.

Miller, the Leeward Community College student, is joining the Hawai'i Air 
National Guard and comes from a family of military service. But she 
questions somewhat U.S. involvement in Afghanistan. "I don't understand why 
we're in Afghanistan, to be honest with you, but I definitely do not believe 
in the war in Iraq," she said.

Ventura said she believes there's been a shift by military families toward 
greater opposition to the Iraq war.

"I think we're seeing a decline in the support for it - more than we did in 
the beginning," she said. "I think that comes from frustration that nothing 
is really changing."

DeAnna Mansoor, whose husband is an OH-58D helicopter pilot with the 1st 
Battalion, 25th Aviation Regiment in Iraq, disagreed. "I don't see that at 
all. All the people I know (in the military) totally support their husbands, 
the president, the war in Iraq. That's what I'm seeing," she said.

Her husband told her to consider that, just as the insurgents in Iraq 
represent a small percentage of the overall Iraqi population, the number of 
people who protest the war represent a small percentage of the U.S. 

A lot of people believe it was good to get rid of Saddam Hussein - even 
though weapons of mass destruction weren't found - because the Iraqi people 
deserve freedom, Mansoor said.

"The other day I saw a clip of a soldier (in Iraq) saying, 'I don't know why 
we're here,' and I couldn't believe that," Mansoor said. "I thought, wow, 
maybe someone should let him know."

Reach William Cole at wcole at honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5459. The 
Associated Press contributed to this report.

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