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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.presse.fr/journ...

by Anne Roy

The Bush Administration Confronts the Anguish of Military Families

Translated Wednesday 30 August 2006, by Allen G Harris Jr.

United States

Demands for the return of troops deployed in Iraq are increasing. Donald Rumsfeld meets the loved ones of GIs whose mission has been extended.

"I am totally frustrated, disappointed and heartbroken. Just when I thought we were going to be able to resume a ‘normal’ life. Just when I thought the nightmare was over, it was extended.” (1) Jennifer Davis lives in Anchorage, Alaska. Her husband, a member of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, had just finished a year-long mission in Mosul, Iraq. At least that’s what she thought until U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld announced that members of her husband’s unit were going to remain in Iraq another four months, if not longer. Among them are more than 300 who had already returned to Alaska, where their base is located. They must go back, to the despair of families who on Saturday met the secretary of defense at a closed-door question-and-answer session.

Jennifer Davis videotaped what she called a “show” put on by Rumsfeld and showed it to the press at the Alaska Center for Peace, thus fuelling the rage of a growing number in the United States who criticize Bush’s policy in Iraq and call for the return of the 138,000 soldiers deployed there. Amid escalating violence, American officials and experts are clashing, some pleading for extra reinforcements and others for a significant withdrawal of troops.

“We want the troops to come home, we want democracy restored, we want you to stop trampling on civil liberties,” was the demand of several hundred war protesters gathered on Saturday at George W. Bush’s vacation home in Kennebunkport, Maine, where some of the demonstrators called on him to “send his two daughters over there.” According to some sources, Bush decided against taking this year’s usual vacation at his Texas ranch, fearing a repeat of the demonstrations led in 2005 by pacifist Cindy Sheehan.

“We demand action from our elected representatives and (…) we call on them to stop playing politics with the lives of our loved ones. We call on them to immediately bring them back and take care of those who are here,” said other protesters belonging to Military Families Speak Out in Washington. The group was founded in 2002 and is composed of soldiers’ families. Two and a half months from the mid-term Congressional election which polls and pundits believe is a long way from being won by the president’s party, the political campaign is likely to be dominated by debate over the U.S. military commitment in Iraq. George W. Bush’s popularity rating has gone below the 40 percent level while the Republican Party’s popularity is around 29 percent.

Whatever strategy is chosen, the U.S. armed forces are increasingly having trouble getting recruits for their volunteer services. The Pentagon, meanwhile, announced last week that it was going to call up – for the second time since the invasion of Iraq – its Marine Corps reservists “to support the worldwide war against terrorism.” After three and a half years, the Iraq conflict has cost the lives of 2,609 American soldiers and left some 20,000 others wounded. Elsewhere, the army has ordered a review of military losses in Afghanistan, Iraq and other locations since 2001. The number of Iraqi civilian deaths (more than 3,400 in July alone, the bloodiest month since 2003) and the recurring scandals around military exactions are not helping the government protect its stake in foreign policy – of which Iraq remains the “showcase.”

“In 10 or 15 years, you will be able to look back and appreciate the importance and value of what we did,” Rumsfeld pleaded to the 700 family members and soldiers who gathered in Alaska, as he also brought up once again the September 11 attacks and the terrorist threat. A $1,000 bonus will be paid to each member of the 172nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team for each additional month spent in Iraq. The secretary of defense evasively answered families’ questions about the possibility of a homecoming in time for the New Year holidays. “I wish I had a magic wand and the power to say yes. I don’t.” (2) He added: “I am not Santa Claus.”

Anne Roy

Translator’s Note: Parallel documents

(1) Military Families Speak Out

(2) SJ-R.COM (The State Journal-Register of Springfield, Illinois)


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