GIs Petition Congress To End Iraq War

More Than 1,000 Military Personnel Sign Petition Urging Withdrawal

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The idea for this protest by active duty and reserve service members came from two enlisted men who served in the war: Marine Sgt. Liam Madden, who got to Iraq during the battle of Falluja, and his military commitment is up this winter, and Naval Petty Officer Jonathan Hutto, who serves on the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which was deployed in the Gulf during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

"I'm not anti-war. I'm not a pacifist. I'm not opposed to protecting our country and defending our principles. But at the same time, as citizens it's our obligation to have a questioning attitude, you know, about policy," Hutto says,

"Just because we volunteered for the military, doesn't mean we volunteered to put our lives in unnecessary harm, and to carry out missions that are illogical and immoral," Madden adds.

They say they're permitted to express their opinions under a number of military rules, which the group lists. Among them is the 1995 Military Whistleblower Act. Although it prohibits them from speaking against the Commander in Chief or any of their superior officers, it does allow "Members of the Armed Forces…" to speak on their own behalf and "to make a protected communication to… Congress."

"A senior officer in the Marine Corps said to me when I asked him about the Appeal, what was his opinion – and he served in both Iraq wars – he said, 'I have a hard enough time getting young men to put themselves in harm's way, without having to have men in uniform tell them it's not worth it,'" Logan remarks.

"We're not telling young men and women that it's not worth it, to serve their country. We've served our country. The men and women who have signed the appeal have served their country. So those, we're not saying it's not worth it. We're saying that, if you have reservations about it to communicate it. That's simply what it is," Hutto says.

"There are gonna be a lot of people who don't like what you're doing," Logan says.

"By volunteering we've done more than about 99 percent of the population. And anybody who joined after 9/11 when the country was at a state of war, it's my opinion that nobody has the right to question that soldier's patriotism, nobody," Cantu replies.

"There are going to be a lot of people listening to this who say that, 'You're a traitor. You're betraying your uniform. You don't deserve to wear it,'" says Logan.

"I hope there aren't people that think that," says Lt. Commander Mark Dearden.

For him, going public has been one of the hardest decisions of his life. He's a combat surgeon who served during Operation Iraqi Freedom, returned for a second tour and now treats soldiers at a Naval hospital in California.

"The decision to come here for me personally was not an easy one. And I don't expect it was for anyone. Last night I was with my family in the park in our town and it hit me that 'At this very moment, while I'm standing here, people are fighting and people are dying.' I've seen it with my own eyes. And I can feel it in my chest," Dearden says.

Dearden acknowledges this is very hard for him and he also admits that it isn't so much a protest as a plea.

According to a recent Military Times survey, many in uniform feel the same way. The poll found that for the first time ever more US soldiers oppose the president's handling of the war in Iraq than support it.

Still, critics claim the group is partisan, just out to boost Democrats who oppose the war.

"I'm certainly not liberal, and I doubt many of the members on this panel are liberal. It's not funded by any partisan organization. It's soldiers. It's service members. It's grass roots. It's us," says Lt. Kent Gneiting.

White House spokesman Tony Snow has dismissed the protesters as an insignificant minority. "It's not unusual for soldiers in a time of war to have some misgivings. You have several hundred thousand who served in Iraq. You have reenlistment rates that have exceeded goals in all the military," he said.

Logan read to the group: "And then he goes on to say that it's unfortunate that people like you – and the quote is – are 'going to be able to get more press than the hundreds of thousands who have come back and said they are proud of their service.'"

Sgt. Cantu responds, "You got two right here who are gonna do multiple tours in Iraq and, you know, I'm reenlisting. I never said I wasn't proud of my service. I fit some of those statistics right there myself."