Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Murtha commands spotlight over Iraq policy

Murtha commands spotlight over Iraq policy

A veteran backbencher becomes an anti-war movement darling

Monday, December 26, 2005

By Maeve Reston, Post-Gazette National Bureau

WASHINGTON -- Amid the media frenzy over U.S. Rep. John P. Murtha's proposal to begin withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq at the earliest practical date, the Pennsylvania Democrat got an interview request from an unusual source.

He told an aide that he'd just gotten off the phone with Rolling Rock.

"The beer company, Congressman?" the puzzled aide asked.

"No, that magazine all the kids read," he replied.

The magazine, of course, was Rolling Stone.

Few of his colleagues would have made that mistake in a town where most politicians covet press attention. And for some, the story spoke to the authenticity of a congressman who has long preferred a backstage role.

That changed Nov. 18, when the Johnstown Democrat, a decorated Vietnam War veteran and legislative hawk, moved debate over the war in Iraq to the top of Washington's agenda by saying it was time for the United States to start pulling out.

The man described by another top Democrat, U.S. Rep. David Obey, of Wisconsin, as someone "who likes to get things done with virtually no spoken words," has become a regular on the news talk shows.

He has become a celebrity in blogosphere. One blogger recently dubbed him as the "anti-war movement's new darling," while others have begun picking apart the millions of dollars he has channeled back to his district.

Mr. Murtha's media omnipresence has opened him up to sometimes unmerciful ribbing from friends such as U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Swissvale. They have chuckled over his adjustments to prime time, most recently, his horror when a television producer tried to coax him into wearing makeup, and warned him about overexposure.

But this very public role is one Mr. Murtha is taking seriously.

"It's not about me, but I've become the spokesperson," he said in an interview last week during a break from negotiations over defense spending legislation. "There wasn't even a debate before, they just went blindly on. ... But we're starting to get the attention of the thoughtful people."

Todd Berkley, Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, AP

U.S. Rep. John Murtha: "You really get an awful lot done when you work behind the scenes."

Click photo for larger image.

Before this winter, Mr. Murtha was better known for making deals in the back halls of Congress.

U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Philadelphia, said that, if you counted the minutes Mr. Murtha had spoken on the House floor, "they'd probably add up to less than an hour during any given year of service."

"He has stepped out in a very unconventional role for himself ... and he's in the middle of a fairly serious fight," Mr. Fattah said. "Beyond the smiles and the joking, there's a real admiration for him taking a very courageous position."

As a young member in the mid-1970s, Mr. Murtha sought the advice of a senior member who told him he would maximize his impact in Congress by following two rules: Specialize in one area and always keep your word.

Mr. Murtha, a Marine who became the first Vietnam veteran in Congress, plunged into military matters and soon won a coveted seat on the defense appropriations subcommittee, where he is now the ranking Democrat overseeing billions of dollars in defense spending each year.

He gained gravitas through his advice to Republican and Democratic presidents. One year after he was elected, he went to Vietnam and Cambodia to assess the need for military aid. He led a delegation to the Philippines to observe their presidential elections at the behest of President Ronald Reagan.

In 1989, President George H.W. Bush asked Mr. Murtha to chair a delegation to observe the elections in Panama, which were fraudulent and ultimately led to the invasion by U.S. forces. And in the early 1990s, Mr. Bush once again summoned Mr. Murtha to the White House for advice before launching the Persian Gulf War; Mr. Murtha led a House delegation to survey the region, traveling 13,000 miles across three countries in 100 hours.

In the House, the Johnstown Democrat built his power from the corner seat in the back row of the chamber, where he still sits today during votes, nearly obscured from the prying eyes in the press gallery above.

"People line up there in the corner to see him," said Mr. Doyle, one of at least a half-dozen Pennsylvania lawmakers who congregate near Mr. Murtha's chair during votes. "It's funny sometimes. We're standing there like we're almost selling admission tickets."

Mr. Murtha acknowledges that his quieter approach and his seat on the defense appropriations subcommittee had led to major successes for his district. One needs to look no further than the example of National Drug Intelligence Center in Johnstown. It was on the administration's list to be closed this year, but instead got $39 million in the defense spending bill Congress just completed.

"You really get an awful lot done when you work behind the scenes," Mr. Murtha said.

While he shows a bit of wistfulness for that time when he wasn't turning down seven or eight interview requests for each one he agrees to, he says he plans to stay in his new role until he sees substantive changes.

He's worried about what programs might be cut to support the $100 billion he expects the administration to request for Iraq and Afghanistan next year. And he intends to force attention to what he sees as the military's weakened state of recruiting, its shortages in specialists such as translators and bomb demolition experts, and the lower level of readiness because of the U.S. commitment in Iraq.

"Until they get the message where the withdrawal is significant," he said, "then I'll be satisfied and I'll certainly back down."

In the meantime, he'll be trying to get his message out while not getting snared by those who'd like to make him a symbol.

After the initial interview, the photographer for Rolling Stone showed up for the shoot and tried to wrap him in an American flag.

Mr. Murtha's aide nearly jumped out of her chair at the request, but the congressman quietly said, no, he wasn't going to do that.

(Maeve Reston can be reached at mreston@nationalpress.com or 202-488-3479.)

Murtha commands spotlight over Iraq policy
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Thursday, December 8, 2005

the Revolt of the Generals

December 3/4, 2005

"Broken, Worn Out" and "Living Hand to Mouth"

The Revolt of the Generals


The immense significance of Rep John Murtha's November 17 speech calling for immediate withdrawal from Iraq is that it signals mutiny in the US senior officer corps, seeing the institution they lead as "broken, worn out" and "living hand to mouth", to use the biting words of their spokesman, John Murtha, as he reiterated on December his denunciation of Bush's destruction of the Army.

A CounterPuncher with nearly 40 years experience working in and around the Pentagon told me this week that "The Four Star Generals picked Murtha to make this speech because he has maximum credibility." It's true. Even in the US Senate there's no one with quite Murtha's standing to deliver the message, except maybe for Byrd, but the venerable senator from West Virginia was a vehement opponent of the war from the outset , whereas Murtha voted for it and only recently has turned around.

So the Four-Star Generals briefed Murtha and gave him the state-of-the-art data which made his speech so deadly, stinging the White House into panic-stricken and foolish denunciations of Murtha as a clone of Michael Moore.

It cannot have taken vice president Cheney, a former US Defense Secretary, more than a moment to scan Murtha's speech and realize the import of Murtha's speech as an announcement that the generals have had enough.

Listen once more to what the generals want the country to know:

"The future of our military is at risk. Our military and our families are stretched thin. Many say the Army is broken. Some of our troops are on a third deployment. Recruitment is down even as the military has lowered its standards. They expect to take 20 percent category 4, which is the lowest category, which they said they'd never take. They have been forced to do that to try to meet a reduced quota.

"Defense budgets are being cut. Personnel costs are skyrocketing, particularly in health care. Choices will have to be made. We cannot allow promises we have made to our military families in terms of service benefits, in terms of their health care to be negotiated away. Procurement programs that ensure our military dominance cannot be negotiated away. We must be prepared.

"The war in Iraq has caused huge shortfalls in our bases at home. I've been to three bases in the United States, and each one of them were short of things they need to train the people going to Iraq.

"Much of our ground equipment is worn out.

"Most importantly -- this is the most important point -- incidents have increased from 150 a week to over 700 in the last year. Instead of attacks going down over a time when we had additional more troops, attacks have grown dramatically. Since the revolution at Abu Ghraib, American casualties have doubled."

read more at Alexander Cockburn: the Revolt of the Generals
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Friday, December 2, 2005

Murtha on Hardball: Generals tell him 25 years to train troops in Iraq

reposted from poster at DU

Last night I watched Rep. Murtha on Hardball; the man's sincerity and real concern, not politically correct concern, for the troops just shines through. He is a great American. What he said has not received any play in the "lib'rul media" so I thought I would post here too.

I think he told Matthews some things that he did not want to hear. One of the issues they discussed was what Bush meant when he said we would stay "until the job is done." Murtha, almost in horror, said that that was not a plan, and that according to generals he has spoken to in closed meetings that preparing the Iraqi troops for a stable Iraq may take twenty five years.

Twenty five years. Think about it. My youngest child will be 36 years old, technically old enough to have one of her children drafted. My God. What has Bush done?

Here is what he said:

MURTHA: So we've got a position where if we won't redeploy, as I'm suggesting, and let the Iraqis change their own destiny, let them handle their own destiny, we're going to be there for 100 years. I remember one time in the closed hearing, one of the top generals said, "we'll be there for 25 years." I said you saying 25 years? A lot of people think it would take that long.

Please go read this if you missed the show; it is a very worthwhile read:

Another quote showing that he thinks the casualties we have suffered thus far may be just the tip of the iceberg:

MATTHEWS: What are the military folks you get access to saying about how long it will take if we continue on the president's course, to have an Iraqi army that can defend that government?

MURTHA: I've heard estimates up to 25 years. Now we've already spent $277 billion in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let me give you a figure from Vietnam. Secretary McNamara said in 1963 that it would take us two years to win the war in Vietnam, two years.

In 1965, we had lost 2,100 people in Vietnam. From 1965 until 1972, we lost 55,000 Americans. What I'm saying is, we've lost 2,100 people now and we have become the enemy. Our troops are the targets for the insurgents.

Democratic Underground
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Thursday, December 1, 2005

Cpl Jeffrey Starr letter; there was more not included in President's speech yesterday

Bush discussed a letter found on the laptop of Corporal Jeffrey B. Starr: see at link

Bush left out, as Paul Harvey says, the rest of the story at NY Times

Another member of the 1/5, Cpl. Jeffrey B. Starr, rejected a $24,000 bonus to re-enlist. Corporal Starr believed strongly in the war, his father said, but was tired of the harsh life and nearness of death in Iraq. So he enrolled at Everett Community College near his parents' home in Snohomish, Wash., planning to study psychology after his enlistment ended in August.

But he died in a firefight in Ramadi on April 30 during his third tour in Iraq. He was 22.

Sifting through Corporal Starr's laptop computer after his death, his father found a letter to be delivered to the marine's girlfriend. "I kind of predicted this," Corporal Starr wrote of his own death. "A third time just seemed like I'm pushing my chances."

The President of the United States should have respected his memory by being honest about Cpl. Starr's story. He was not.

Daily Kos: State of the Nation
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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Capt. Jeff Pirozzi; War based on a lie; from Stars and Stripes

Stars and Stripes

European and Mideast editions

Nov 28, 2005

War based on a lie

Weapons of mass destruction? I’m still looking for them, and if you find any give me a call so we can justify our presence in Iraq. We started the war based on a lie, and we’ll finish it based on a lie. I say this because I am currently serving with a logistics headquarters in the Anbar province, between the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi. I am not fooled by the constant fabrication of “democracy” and “freedom” touted by our leadership at home and overseas.

This deception is furthered by our armed forces’ belief that we can just enter ancient Mesopotamia and tell the locals about the benefits of a legislative assembly. While our European ancestors were hanging from trees, these ancient people were writing algebra and solving quadratic equations. Now we feel compelled to strong-arm them into accepting the spoils of capitalism and “laissez-faire” society. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy watching Britney Spears on MTV and driving to McDonald’s, but do you honestly believe that Sunnis, Shias and Kurds want our Western ideas of entertainment and freedom imposed on them? Think again.

I’m not being negative, I’m being realistic. The reality in Iraq is that the United States created a nightmare situation where one didn’t exist. Yes, Saddam Hussein was an evil man who lied, cheated and pillaged his own nation. But how was he different from dictators in Africa who commit massive crimes again humanity with little repercussion and sometimes support from the West? The bottom line up front (BLUF to use a military acronym) is that Saddam was different because we used him as an excuse to go to war to make Americans “feel good” about the “War on Terrorism.” The BLUF is that our ultimate goal in 2003 was the security of Israel and the lucrative oil fields in northern and southern Iraq.

Weapons of mass destruction? Call me when you find them. In the meantime, “bring ’em on” so we can get our “mission accomplished” and get out of this mess.

Capt. Jeff Pirozzi

Camp Taqaddum, Iraq

Stars & Stripes
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Asleep on President Bush New Strategy in Iraq Speech today

Naval Academy midshipmen waiting for President Bush speech this morning; strategy for war in Iraq. Picture posted on CNN website in the CNN coverage...picture no longer there. Posted by Picasa
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Monday, November 28, 2005

: Recommended BCC documentary; The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear

We give this a Highly Recommended rating, please take the time to view, it is full of detail and if you don't watch all of it, guaranteed you will learn something new even from watching bits of it!

Hi Friends,

We watched all three; and the history relevant to US getting into Iraq is profound. So much so that we believe it a valued gift at Christmas this year...it contributes immensely to the dialogue with language not yet used. A BBC documentary that US media will not air in this country....it's apparant why not once you see the videos. Highly recommended, and sharing among my 'bring them home now' friends. Lietta (and Arthur; he found them and shared with me)

The Power of Nightmares -
Each program is 58 minutes long - - Real Video -11-26

Part 1 http://tinyurl.com/7qhmt
Part 2 http://tinyurl.com/af2aw
Part 3 http://tinyurl.com/8j27y

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Video Immediate Troop Withdrawal speech Congressman John Murtha; also transcipt

Hi all,

Lietta here, animated excitement this morning on (D) Rep John Murtha's impassioned call of Immediate Withdrawal Troops. Brief research this am indicates this is not a lightweight position by this Congressman, known for his hawkish positions (per what others say about him). He's a long time and respected Congressman, long time former Marine, Vietnam Veteran, and a bit of research will tell you this is almost a pivotal turning point (imo).

A must see link to video of Congressman John Murtha's speech this morning on CNN

A link to partial transcript of his speech this morning

Just some excerpts but he covers every single point and fullness of his speech is a don't miss, he states so much pertinent factual info;

"The war in Iraq is not going as advertised..."

"The American and coalition troops have done all they can in Iraq..."

"It is evident that continued military presence in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States, Iraq, or the MIddle East..."

"The main reason given for war has been discredited..."

"Let me personalize this for you. I go to the hospitals every week... two women... they wanted to say they were happy to be alive... I had a kid in my district, was blinded and lost his foot... getting bills from a collection agency..."

"These soldiers are marvelous people..."

"It was a US intelligence failure, and it was a failure in how the intelligence was used..."

"What demoralizes is not the criticism" but the lack of a plan to win the peace.

"We must be prepared, the war in Iraq has caused huge shortfalls in our bases at home..."

"George Washington said that being prepared for war is one of the best ways to preserve the peace... we better make sure we prepare enough to preserve the peace..."

That the Coalition soldiers were considered the common enemy of the Sunnis, Saddamists and foreign Jihadists, alike...our men were the catalyst of violence in Iraq.

That our troops have become the primary target of the insurgency.

That only about 7% of the insurgency consists of foreign fighters.

That 80% of the Iraqis are against the presence of our Coalition being there and want us out of their country!

That 45% of the Iraqis think that attacks against our soldiers are justified.!

That we need to turn Iraq over to the Iraqis!

That criticism isn't what is demoralizing our troops...what is demoralizing them are the IEDs (roadside bombs)!
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Immediate Troop Withdrawal says Congressman John Murtha, former Marine - Nov 17, 2005

Vietnam vet says the Iraq war is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An influential House Democrat who voted for the Iraq war called Thursday for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, another sign of growing unease in Congress about the conflict.

"This is the immediate redeployment of American forces because they have become the target," said Rep. John Murtha, D-Pennsylvania, one of Congress' most hawkish Democrats. At times during his remarks to reporters, the decorated Vietnam War veteran and former Marine was choking back tears.

"It is time for a change in direction. Our military is suffering, the future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course. It is evident that continued military action in Iraq is not in the best interests of the United States of America, the Iraqi people or the Persian Gulf region," Murtha said.

Murtha, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee, has earned bipartisan respect for his grasp of military issues over three decades in Congress.

He said announcing a U.S. withdrawal would provide the Iraqi government with an added incentive to have their own security forces take control of the conflict.

Murtha is a close adviser to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-California. For months, Pelosi has pushed for the Bush administration to outline an exit strategy, although she has stopped short of calling for an immediate troop pullout.

Some Senate Democrats have called for immediate or phased withdrawal.

Murtha's comments came just two days after the Senate voted to approve a statement that 2006 "should be a period of significant transition to full Iraqi sovereignty" to create the conditions for the phased withdrawal of U.S. forces.

Murtha voted to give the president authority to use force against Saddam Hussein in 2002. In recent months, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee defense panel has grown increasingly troubled with the direction of the war and with the Bush administration's handling of it, particularly following reports of secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe.

"The war in Iraq is not going as advertised. It is a flawed policy wrapped in illusion," Murtha said.

CNN.com - House Democrat�calls for immediate troop withdrawal - Nov 17, 2005
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Saturday, November 12, 2005

Tomdispatch Interview: Ann Wright on Service to Country

I met Ann Wright in my week at Crawford, TX, Camp Casey. She is indeed a remarkable woman. Would that when I reach age 59, I have half her passion! When Military Speaks Out, it's time to listen.

A new Tomdispatch Interview today: (copyright)

Former diplomat Ann Wright, who publicly resigned in protest before the invasion of Iraq and became one of our most out-of-the-ordinary antiwar activists describes her life and thoughts in a wide-ranging interview: "A Felon for Peace"

TomDispatch - Tomdispatch Interview: Ann Wright on Service to Country
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Tuesday, November 8, 2005

92,000 US troops told to prepare for Iraq rotation

By Charles Aldinger Mon Nov 7, 5:03 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The

Pentagon on Monday notified 92,000 fresh U.S. troops to prepare for rotation to

Iraq over a two-year period beginning in mid-2006, but cautioned that the number did not signal immediate plans to slash a much-higher U.S. troop level now in that country.

more at 92,000 US troops told to prepare for Iraq rotation - Yahoo! News

from GI Special;

Nov. 7, 2005 By Donna Miles, American Forces Press Service

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld today announced the next major units to deploy to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Today's announcement affects about 92,000 servicemembers -- more than 65,000 from the active component and 26,000 from the Guard and Reserve -- who will begin their scheduled rotation in mid-2006, according to Army Lt. Col. Barry Venable, a Defense Department spokesman.

Major units to deploy include:

Division Headquarters and 3rd Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii;

13th Corps Support Command, Fort Hood, Texas;

1st Brigade, 34th Infantry Division, Minnesota Army National Guard;

2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, Schweinfurt, Germany;

3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, Fort Lewis, Wash.;

3rd Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, Fort Bragg, N.C.; and

2nd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division, Fort Drum, N.Y.
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Antiwar Sermon Brings IRS Warning -

Having myself prepared and delivered several sermons in my own Episcopal church challenging the Commander-in-Chief and war in Iraq; this article got my attention.

November 7, 2005

# All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena risks losing its tax-exempt status because of a former rector's remarks in 2004.

By Patricia Ward Biederman and Jason Felch, Times Staff Writers

The Internal Revenue Service has warned one of Southern California's largest and most liberal churches that it is at risk of losing its tax-exempt status because of an antiwar sermon two days before the 2004 presidential election.

Rector J. Edwin Bacon of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena told many congregants during morning services Sunday that a guest sermon by the church's former rector, the Rev. George F. Regas, on Oct. 31, 2004, had prompted a letter from the IRS.

In his sermon, Regas, who from the pulpit opposed both the Vietnam War and 1991's Gulf War, imagined Jesus participating in a political debate with then-candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry. Regas said that "good people of profound faith" could vote for either man, and did not tell parishioners whom to support.

But he criticized the war in Iraq, saying that Jesus would have told Bush, "Mr. President, your doctrine of preemptive war is a failed doctrine. Forcibly changing the regime of an enemy that posed no imminent threat has led to disaster."

On June 9, the church received a letter from the IRS stating that "a reasonable belief exists that you may not be tax-exempt as a church … " The federal tax code prohibits tax-exempt organizations, including churches, from intervening in political campaigns and elections.

The letter went on to say that "our concerns are based on a Nov. 1, 2004, newspaper article in the Los Angeles Times and a sermon presented at the All Saints Church discussed in the article."

The IRS cited The Times story's description of the sermon as a "searing indictment of the Bush administration's policies in Iraq" and noted that the sermon described "tax cuts as inimical to the values of Jesus."

As Bacon spoke, 1984 Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu, a co-celebrant of Sunday's Requiem Eucharist, looked on.

"We are so careful at our church never to endorse a candidate," Bacon said in a later interview.

"One of the strongest sermons I've ever given was against President Clinton's fraying of the social safety net."

Telephone calls to IRS officials in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles were not returned.

On a day when churches throughout California took stands on both sides of Proposition 73, which would bar abortions for minors unless parents are notified, some at All Saints feared the politically active church had been singled out.

"I think obviously we were a bit shocked and dismayed," said Bob Long, senior warden for the church's oversight board. "We felt somewhat targeted."

Bacon said the church had retained the services of a Washington law firm with expertise in tax-exempt organizations.

And he told the congregation: "It's important for everyone to understand that the IRS concerns are not supported by the facts."

After the initial inquiry, the church provided the IRS with a copy of all literature given out before the election and copies of its policies, Bacon said.

But the IRS recently informed the church that it was not satisfied by those materials, and would proceed with a formal examination. Soon after that, church officials decided to inform the congregation about the dispute.

In an October letter to the IRS, Marcus Owens, the church's tax attorney and a former head of the IRS tax-exempt section, said, "It seems ludicrous to suggest that a pastor cannot preach about the value of promoting peace simply because the nation happens to be at war during an election season."

Owens said that an IRS audit team had recently offered the church a settlement during a face-to-face meeting.

"They said if there was a confession of wrongdoing, they would not proceed to the exam stage. They would be willing not to revoke tax-exempt status if the church admitted intervening in an election."

more at Antiwar Sermon Brings IRS Warning - Los Angeles Times
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Church's leaders urge Bush to provide plan for Iraq withdrawal - UMC.org

Nov. 7, 2005

By Tim Tanton*

LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (UMNS) - The United Methodist Church's bishops are calling on President George Bush to draw up a plan and timeline for withdrawing all U.S. forces from Iraq.

The resolution, adopted Nov. 4, updates a statement that the Council of Bishops issued in May 2004. During the final session of the council's weeklong fall meeting, no bishops voted in opposition to the resolution, though some abstained from voting.

In a poignant moment, Bishop Charlene Kammerer of Virginia told the council about her son, Chris, who is serving in the Navy in the Persian Gulf.

"I know the pain of totally loving and supporting your child in the military and at the same time faithfully challenging the policies of the United States government," she said.

"Our son has absolutely no problem with our stance," she said. "He has been formed and shaped by the United Methodist Church. We are very proud of him for his service, and yet he and many, many, many others in the military are questioning why we are there. I cannot do anything but support this resolution as a parent of Chris."

Other bishops also spoke in favor of the resolution, submitted by retired Bishop Marshall "Jack" Meadors Jr. of Atlanta.

"Nothing could be more global than this war," said Bishop Sally Dyck of Minnesota, "and we need to bear in mind that the world is waiting for us to make a moral statement about the war."

Though the council had adopted a statement on Iraq a year and a half ago, several bishops stressed the importance of speaking again on the issue. Bishop Melvin Talbert noted that when something is important, the message needs to be said over and over again. "Repetition is helpful at times."

more at Church's leaders urge Bush to provide plan for Iraq withdrawal - UMC.org
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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Members of Veterans For Peace stand around 2000 candles in Oakland, California, October 25, 2005 in memory of the 2,000 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq. (Kimberly White/Reuters)
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Wednesday, October 26, 2005

If You're Not Attending a Vigil Today, Please see this video

Many will attend candlelight vigils today in memoriam of 2,000 US soldiers killed in Iraq. If you are not among them, please view this video; extremely moving photo essay of 27 funerals, soldiers killed in Iraq. Remember them all, they and their families have given so much......

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Monday, October 24, 2005

Ohio War Veteran, Paul Hackett, Democratic veteran of the Iraq war Running for Senate

CINCINNATI Oct 24, 2005 — Paul Hackett, the Democratic veteran of the Iraq war who narrowly lost in a special election in a heavily Republican congressional district in August, prepared Monday to officially jump into the U.S. Senate race.

Hackett planned a noon news conference at his home in suburban Indian Hill. He faces a tough Democratic primary with Rep. Sherrod Brown in the race for the nomination to challenge second-term Republican incumbent Mike DeWine next year.

read more at ABC News: Ohio War Veteran Running for Senate
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Another soldier in Iraq blog shut down....muted voices.

Noting this soldier's last post as his blog is shut down; but first read his story posted to Operation Truth as veteran of the week

Then contrast it with same soldier's last post in his blog which is being shut down All The King's Horses

Wishing you well soldier, get home safe; and when you do, I sincerely hope you and your comrades will apply your skills to taking back America; we seem to have lost her along the way.

All The King's Horses
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Sunday, October 23, 2005

Colonel quits as troops are denied armoured land rovers in Iraq

THE commanding officer of a battalion serving in Iraq has resigned after failing to obtain armoured Land Rovers for his patrols.

Lieutenant-Colonel Nick Henderson, commander of the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, is understood to have been furious last week after one of his senior sergeants died as a direct result of the failure to supply “armour protected” Land Rovers for his men, defence sources said.

Sergeant Christian Hickey was killed when his vehicle was blown up by a roadside bomb on patrol in Basra late on Tuesday night.

The Ministry of Defence says frontline troops cannot have the armoured Land Rovers because they are not unsuitable for use off-road, but six weeks ago Britain supplied a number of the vehicles to Iraqi police in Basra.

British troops are equipped with the “snatch vehicle”, a Land Rover protected by composite fibre glass designed to stop rifle fire. One senior source who has recently been in Iraq said: “They [the insurgents] have weapons that go right through the composite.”

The source added that British troops were now using tanks or convoys of up to 12 Warrior armoured vehicles to mount patrols with some areas deemed too dangerous to be patrolled at all. “We’re in survival mode right now, we can’t do anything at all,” he said.

The Ministry of Defence insisted that Henderson, 43, decided some time ago to leave but news of his resignation comes amid growing anger among senior officers.

Commanders recently asked for two extra battalions totalling around 1,200 men to help them regain control of Basra but claim the request was denied on political grounds. Instead they were sent one company of fewer than 200 men from the Royal Highland Fusiliers.

Colonel quits as troops are denied armoured land rovers in Iraq - Sunday Times - Times Online
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45% = 7 Million Iraqis believe attacks on 140,000 Coalition troops justified

Think about the odds...........

From Reuters

Poll shows Iraqis back attacks on UK, US forces

Sat Oct 22, 5:45 PM ET

Forty-five percent of Iraqis believe attacks on U.S. and British troops are justified, according to a secret poll said to have been commissioned by British defense leaders and cited by The Sunday Telegraph.

Less than 1 percent of those polled believed that the forces were responsible for any improvement in security, according to poll figures.

Eighty-two percent of those polled said they were "strongly opposed" to the presence of the troops.

The paper said the poll, conducted in August by an Iraqi university research team, was commissioned by the Ministry of Defense.

Britain has more than 8,000 troops stationed in the south of Iraq, and has had 97 soldiers killed, the most recent the victim of a roadside bomb on Tuesday night.
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Saturday, October 22, 2005

I Can’t Bear Another Vigil; 2,000 Killed and Still Counting..

There will be vigils across the nation this week commemorating Dept of Defense report of 2,000 US soldiers killed in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Plans are underway amongst peace and activist groups to stage vigils in local communities across the nation when that fatal number is published. Already I’ve received media phone calls about these upcoming events as it seems media also wants to mark the tragic occasion. They phone me as a member family representing Military Families Speak Out. Will I be participating one wants to know; another wants to know if I can refer names of other military family members who are willing to speak in media, specifically, who’s loved one has been killed.

A gruesome time; gruesome media requests. A morbid reason to even have to think about planning or participating in another memoriam vigil. Since August 2005 through September 22, 2005 I have participated in vigil after vigil at the Camp Casey that sprung up in Crawford, Texas and again for nearly 4 weeks on the Bring Them Home Now Tour, central route from Crawford to DC. In DC, I was one among approximately 300,000 to 600,000 who participated in the 3 mile march to the White House.

I was in the contingent representing Military Families Speak Out, which was one of four contingents comprising a collective military community voice calling to bring our troops home. With the young Iraq Veterans Against The War; the seasoned veterans of Veterans for Peace, and the families who have had loved one killed, Gold Star Families for Peace, we stood together in front of the White House in commonality and purpose. Never mind whatever else was reported about that rally and march; our four contingents knew why we were there and what our collective represented…the experience of being in military or connected to military by the fact of our deployed loved ones. Our voice is a valid voice and cannot be dismissed away as it is representative of our collective authentic experience and truth. It is an essential part of the dialogue. While it is not in itself a singular truth, it is indeed another perspective of the authenticity of truthful experience regarding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In that light, no matter the perceptions and opinions, our’s is a critical part of the ongoing dialogue.

When I came home, it was a transition from high energy, high profile daily activities, morning to night; in sharing the message with a wider American public to the quiet of the life I share with my family in our quaint little fishing village on the bay. And yet amongst the communities in our state there are new military family voices coming forward to share their truth. Vigils continue amongst our state communities, and last weekend an Arlington Northwest Memorial was staged on our state capitol grounds. Last weekend the number of killed was in the neighborhood of 1977 . Crosses numbering 1970 had been crafted and were erected to honor the fallen. There was no political message whatsoever except the tradition of veterans to honor veterans, living and dead. I could not make myself attend; chiding myself for not attending and knowing my heart could not take another field of so many crosses.

I write this on a Saturday knowing in a matter of a few days, maybe even sooner, there will be memorial vigils in communities across the nation to mark the passing of now 2,000 of our fallen troops. I cannot make myself participate. In one short week, from the 1970 erected crosses to the need now for 2,000 crosses only a week later to mark the immediately coming number of killed.

But I don’t carry the burden of the war on my shoulders alone, and perhaps it is timely that my individual participation is less needed as more and more Americans see the need to take up the burden on their own backs. People who aren’t typically from peace and activist movements step forth to share their personal truths. People who have never before given opinion in public venues now see a need to lend their voice and actions. People talk now of being less content to be about the busy-ness of daily life are trying to make adjustments to free up time to give in lending voice and action. People talk of being weary of trying to be in denial about what they see with their own eyes and hear with their own ears.

Isn’t that the desired outcome in calling attention to our troops and their families who carry the burden of the wars every day without relent? To call out to Americans to lend their own voices and actions to relieving the troops and their families from carrying the weight of the war ensnarled now in an undefined mission with no clarity of purpose or outcome? I excuse my temporary lapse into my own human-ness as I forgive myself for being unable or unwilling to participate in yet another vigil and memoriam to commemorate the loss of 2,000 of our troops. As Americans across our country now pick up their own civilian duty and carry it forward to challenge not only the basis of the initiated wars, but to challenge the mission and duration, I take some comfort that my own work in this endeavor has been the contribution of one military family in a collective of voices coming from military families.

As each of you who are reading go about the business of your daily lives, what will you do this week to commemorate the marking of 2,000 loved ones killed in the wars? What will you do different tomorrow than you did today to contribute your own voice and action? As it goes without saying that this number doesn’t begin to measure the rest of the human cost of war. It doesn’t take into account the number wounded, without limbs, disfigured, paralyzed, mentally destroyed, nor the unreported carnages to the people who try to live their lives in Iraq. They too are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, who carry a burden daily of living life in midst of war.

What is the measure for when enough is enough?

by Lietta Ruger, Oct 22, 2005


Military Families Speak Out

Gold Star Families for Peace

Iraq Veterans Against The War

Veterans for Peace

Bring Them Home Now Tour

Not One More Death, Not One More Dollar

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Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Military recruiting ads zero in on mom, dad / Parents, many of whom never served, are told of benefits

Back in April, 05, I placed this news item on Dying to Preserve the Lies blog. I have since referenced the data contained in the article many times as opportunities have presented for me to speak out, representing Military Families Speak Out.

Take a look now at this latest article, to better understand how the multi-million dollar ad campaigns to recruit your kids is working. Be ready when your children come to you to 'have a discussion' about enlisting. Seems the ad campaigns are teaching the young how to have a discussion with their parents, not the other way around. Since it's been determined that parents are the major resistance to the decreased recruitment numbers, recruiters shift focus to parents

I don't want my two having to serve yet another deployment, and many military families will tell you about second and third deployments for their loved ones. Clear facts are there are not enough troops to do the job...a mission not clearly defined, and our loved ones continue to be maimed and killed to 'stay the course'. How is this dilema to resolve... supporting the troops by not sending over any more, requiring the ones who did step up to the plate to serve rotated and repeat tours? It's beyond time to really think about what we're doing in Iraq, what is support, what is patriotic and stop the 'go nowhere' dialogue about staying or leaving Iraq. While the political positioning goes on back and forth, our troops on the ground in combat are in serious need of something resembling Real Support. They continue to die for the cause, meanwhile no fresh troops incoming, and no definitions as to exactly what the mission is for our loved ones already there, and entrapped with repeat tours via the draft called 'stop loss'.

Ready to read what the 'discussions' your children will be having with you will look like? Read on.....

Military recruiting ads zero in on mom, dad

Parents, many of whom never served, are told of benefits

- Joe Garofoli, Chronicle Staff Writer

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

With public support for the Iraq war dropping and military recruits becoming harder to attract, the Pentagon started an ad campaign Monday that skips patriotic images and focuses on the difficult conversations that young people have with their parents about joining up.

The $10 million campaign by the military's marketing arm urges parents to "make it a two-way conversation" with children looking to join the military. In four 30-second spots on cable networks and in print ads in publications ranging from O, The Oprah Magazine to Field and Stream, the appeals urge parents -- many of whom, the Pentagon realizes, have never served in the military -- to learn more about the services.

Military officials say the ads aren't a response to falling poll numbers and emphasize that they have long tried to connect with people the Pentagon calls influencers -- parents, coaches, teachers and other adults who affect a potential recruit's life.

However, in contrast to past campaigns, the new ads focus less on a patriotic call to military service ("Uncle Sam Wants You") and opportunities for self-advancement ("Be all you can be"). The military's market surveys told them that families wanted a different reason for their children to join.

"Patriotism resonates with everybody," said Air Force Maj. Rene Stockwell, chief of joint advertisements for the Joint Advertising Market Research and Studies, which helped produce the advertisements. "But just because it resonates with someone doesn't mean that they'll recommend military service."

The ads are being released at a time when peace activists are trying to limit the military's access to potential recruits in public schools. One such activist, Gail Sredanovic of the group Raging Grannies, said the new campaign glosses over the disadvantages of serving in the military, especially during a war.

"If you want information about a car, you don't ask the used car dealer," said Sredanovic, who lives in Menlo Park. "You ask Consumer Reports."

In all of the four TV commercials released Monday, the camera takes the point of view of the parents. Shot in the no-frills style of a public service announcement, each ad features a teenage boy or girl looking directly into the camera and pleading the case for joining the military.

The parents are silent, their gaze occasionally wandering to a child's bicycle in the yard, or to their hands fumbling nervously with a salt shaker, or to people gathering on a street corner. Stockwell said this was meant to convey the awkwardness of the conversations.

"Mom, you know how I love being on the water, right? How I love the environment?" a young man asks his mother as they talk on their back porch. "I can be part of an environmental response team working on oil cleanups and stuff. I'm serious about this.

"So what do you think?" the young man asks. A voice-over urges parents to "make it a two-way conversation" and points them to the military's Web site www.todaysmilitary.com.

The site, Stockwell said, is aimed at a generation of parents who "aren't as likely to have served in the military and don't have that firsthand knowledge." The site is designed to supply that knowledge with sections like, "Myths vs. Reality."

Another spot begins with a mother scanning a kitchen table covered with bills and calculator as her daughter tells her that she wants to join as a way to gain experience for medical school. "It will be good for my career," the daughter says.

In another, a young man is working on a car in front of a home.

"C'mon, Dad," he says into the camera, "You always said, 'Finish what you start.' " The son says he already has discipline and determination -- "I need a place where they can come out, where they matter.

"Dad," the son says, "talk to me."

As advertising, the spots are "quite powerful and emotional," said Betsy DePalma Sperry, managing director of Grey San Francisco, an advertising firm.

But Sperry said the ads skirt the issue that would worry a parent most -- the possibility their son or daughter will die in combat.

"I think there's a need, therefore, to call a spade a spade: You're going in to serve a higher calling at great risk," Sperry wrote in an e-mail. "I know this would recall earlier messaging of patriotism, which may not play to current audiences, but I question whether any such conversation -- informed or otherwise -- could address the main barriers (to recruiting)."

The military is slightly behind its active duty recruiting goals for the year, October statistics from the Department of Defense show. Four of the military's six reserve components are behind their targets.

Polls show that some parents have their doubts about the military, too. A survey of 1,500 adults this month by Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 44 percent felt that the United States made the right decision in using military force against Iraq, compared with 51 percent who felt that way in January.

Brian Hurley, a partner with the San Francisco advertising firm Grant, Scott & Hurley, said the ads were honest in that they "there are so many people between 18 and 24 in the U.S. for whom life is bleak enough that the military seems a good option. Or, as these ads imply, the only option."

But Hurley said they made him wonder whether the "military, like our government in general, is in such sorry shape that thoughtful, well-intentioned people have thrown up their hands and said, 'We can't show people jumping out of planes or helicopters anymore, we can't tell them about the great training they'll get, or how people the world over will admire them.' We have to be plain and honest that today's military is at least a choice."

Although the ads may not contain patriotic images or "I want you!" calls to service, the military's core values such as discipline, determination and commitment are conveyed in the dialogue, said David Swaebe, a spokesman for Mullen, the Boston-area ad firm that created the campaign for the military.

Megan Matson, an organizer with San Francisco-based Leave My Child Alone, which focuses on controlling the release of student information to military recruiters, found the ads encouraging in that the military "has spent all this money on focus groups, and they're recognizing that they need to take a different tack."

"The focus groups must have shown that no one over 19 is falling for the glitz anymore (Army rodeo teams, babes on humvees, the adventure of it all, etc.) and they had better look real, and look like they care," Matson wrote in a separate e-mail. The Bolinas resident is a former creative director at a New York advertising agency.

One military historian said advertising campaigns can only do so much.

"I don't think it's going to work as long as there's a war still going on," said Larry Suid, a military historian and co-author of "Stars & Stripes on Screen: A Comprehensive Guide to Portrayals of American Military on Film." "They're trying to market at a time when the market isn't that good."

E-mail Joe Garofoli at jgarofoli@sfchronicle.com.

Military recruiting ads zero in on mom, dad / Parents, many of whom never served, are told of benefits
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Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Wounds no one was able to see

Wounds no one was able to see

Photographed carrying a terrified, half-naked Iraqi child to safety in March of 2003, Army Spc. Joseph Dwyer, of Mount Sinai, was on front pages across the country, a potent symbol of American heroism.

Friday morning, Dwyer, 29, was arrested in El Paso, Texas, after a three-hour standoff in which he fired a 9-millimeter handgun in his apartment.

Dwyer's family says he's suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and that he's fallen through the cracks of the Army mental health system since he returned two years ago to Fort Bliss, Texas, from his tour of duty as a medic in Iraq.

"If you look at the picture, he's holding this baby, but he's got an M-16 on his back," said Dwyer's older sister, Christine Dwyer-Ogno, 38, of Mount Sinai, crying. "These guys need help ... I didn't know how much pain he was in. I don't want him to be in any more pain."

El Paso Police said Dwyer was arrested early Friday after the standoff, in which no one was injured, and charged with discharging a firearm in a municipality, a class-A misdemeanor. An Army spokeswoman for Fort Bliss, Jean Offutt, said Dwyer was released from police custody Friday and is being treated at William Beaumont Army Medical Center. "They will determine whether or not he can be released," she said.

Dwyer, who joined the Army on Sept. 13, 2001 in response to the terrorist attacks, was married a month before he was deployed to Iraq, in March of 2003. His wife, Matina Dwyer, who was not in the off-base apartment during the incident Thursday night, is pregnant, Dwyer's family members said. She has since been evicted and is staying at the base, they said.

Offutt said Dwyer was evaluated upon his return from Iraq, in June of 2003, and has been treated by mental health specialists. She said that she did not have details of his diagnosis or treatment but that when she met him, she found him "an intelligent, charming young man, very proud of his profession as a medic in the United States Army ... But then, you can never judge what will prey on another person's mind."

Family members say they saw Dwyer changed from the cheerful kid who loved to fish and played golf for Mount Sinai High School. The first sign was the 50 pounds he put on in six weeks after he returned from Iraq, more than making up for the 30 pounds he lost during his deployment. Then there was the car accident in El Paso, caused by Dwyer swerving to avoid what he thought was a roadside bomb detonating device. Friends told the El Paso Times that Dwyer had been having nightmares and had been abusing alcohol and sniffing inhalants.

Friday's incident was the most alarming, said his father, Patrick Dwyer of North Carolina.

"When he was in the apartment, he was calling for air strikes," Patrick Dwyer said. "He put a mirror out the window to see what was going on. He was being very defensive. Totally not connected to reality. And that's not like him."

Dwyer-Ogno said she doesn't blame the Army for what's happened to her younger brother, but she wants him to get the psychiatric help he needs now.

When the picture of him saving the Iraqi child came out, she said, Dwyer didn't like the fame it earned him.

"He wished he had never been identified," she said. "He said everyone over there was doing the same thing." Now, she said, he has a different perspective.

"With everything he's going through," she said, "he's hoping that that picture can be associated with post-traumatic stress."

See also this article; Friends: Man who fired shots has stress disorder

A Fort Bliss soldier who gained national attention two years ago when he was photographed carrying a wounded Iraqi boy to safety is the same man behind a shooting that terrified an East Side apartment complex Thursday, police and friends said.

Spc. Joseph Dwyer, 29, repeatedly fired a 9-mm handgun inside his second-floor apartment starting around 9:15 p.m. Thursday in a more-than-three-hour standoff friends described as a violent episode brought on by drug abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder due to the war in Iraq.

No one was injured in the incident at the Vista Village apartments, 10535 Montwood. Dwyer surrendered just before 1 a.m. Friday.

He was jailed in lieu of a $10,000 bond on a Class-A misdemeanor charge of discharging a firearm inside the city limits, police said.

"I'm angry because Joseph, when he came back from Iraq, he was a hero, and now when he needs help, nobody is helping him," said friend Dionne Knapp, a former Army medic who served with Dwyer at Fort Bliss.

"We gave (military and mental-health authorities) warning after warning after warning. ... All this could have been prevented," Knapp said.

Dwyer is a friendly, humorous person who loves children, his friends said.

"Joseph is the sweetest, most good-hearted man I've ever met in my life," said Angela Barraza, who worked with Knapp and Dwyer. Both Barraza, now living in New York, and Knapp of El Paso left the Army in April.

Dwyer, a native of Mount Sinai, N.Y., joined the Army as a medic two days after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, according to news accounts.

When the war began in Iraq, Dwyer, a newlywed, volunteered to take Knapp's spot in a deployment of medics because she was a single mother, Knapp said. Dwyer served four months in Iraq attached to the 3rd Squadron of the 7th Cavalry Regiment, Fort Bliss officials said.

March 23, 2003, Dwyer was among soldiers who rushed to help an Iraqi family caught in the crossfire in a fierce battle near the village of Al Faysaliyah.

An Army Times photographer captured the moment Dwyer carried a young boy to safety. The photo was published around the world, including in the El Paso Times.

But friends said Dwyer returned from the war a changed man. He came back "very religious," but problems slowly emerged. Nightmares, drinking and sniffing inhalants, they said.

"He basically saw the ugliest part of the war," Barraza said.

Earlier this year, Dwyer crashed his car. "He (said he) saw a box on the street and thought it was a bomb and he swerved," she said.

A Fort Bliss spokeswoman said Dwyer had no disciplinary issues but confirmed he had seen mental-health experts.

Dwyer's friends said they were disappointed with the mental help he was receiving, saying he lacked supervision.

Last Wednesday, Barraza, Knapp and other friends met with Dwyer, whose condition they say had worsened since April when their close-knit group was broken up as individuals left the Army.

They said they tried but failed to take away three handguns Dwyer had in the home. "He was paranoid people would attack him. He answers his door with his weapon," Knapp said.

Thursday night, Dwyer's wife told his friends he became angry when he was told he had to return to the hospital. His wife left before Dwyer allegedly began shooting in the apartment.

"He started shooting and calling for backup (while talking to his wife on the phone) and that he needed direct fire and other things you hear in combat," Knapp said.

Yessika Varela and her two children, ages 2 and 8, were among the dozens of residents in surrounding apartments who heard volley upon volley of gunfire. "Each (burst) was like five shots. You could hear tah-tah-tah-tah. I wouldn't even look out the window. I was very scared," Varela said.

Friday afternoon, children at the complex walked up to see a broken window and a bullet hole in the front door of the Dwyers' apartment, which management said had suffered ceiling damage. Dwyer is no longer allowed on the property.

El Paso police spokesman Javier Sambrano would not confirm whether Dwyer's service in Iraq was a factor in the shooting.

Dwyer's friends hope the publicity of the shooting will prompt the military to provide improved mental-health treatment for Dwyer and other troops returning from combat.

"If he doesn't get help -- I'm afraid he will end up in the streets selling Pixy Stix (candy) on corners," Barraza said. " ... And this is going on around the nation, not just at Fort Bliss."

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Saturday, October 1, 2005

Reflections from the bus; Bring Them Home Now Tour

Reflections on Bring Them Home Now Tour, Central Route;
participant; Lietta Ruger, Military Families Speak Out,

Opportunities that might never have crossed my path were afforded by the Bring Them Home Now Tour, Crawford, TX to Washington DC, September 2005. I was fortunate to be included and participated in the central route, through the central Eastern states. There are two stories that emerged from my experiences. The story of interaction with thousands of people at each of our city stops is amazing in itself. The story, though, of being a part of the birthing of our 4 young panel speakers is yet another story. And of course, there is yet another story; the behind-the-scenes story of 6-12 adults travelling on an RV for almost 4 weeks on a whirlwind schedule of stops in cities across the states. Amusing anectodal storylines developed in our travels together and that's another time, another story.

In my 54 years, I've had a lot of life experiences, yet this historical adventure of time spent in Crawford, Texas supporting Cindy Sheehan's stand and the 4 weeks of the Bring Them Home Now Tour will be at the top of my list as both memorable and significant. When I went to Crawford in that first week of Camp Casey, I left my home state of Washington feeling an almost hopeless despair that America, generally speaking, had given up on and abandoned our deployed troops. At the very least, I felt, as a military family with deployed loved ones, I could stand with Cindy, a mother whose son was killed in Iraq. Expecting little to come of this effort, it was nothing short of astounding to experience what grew out of Camp Casey in Crawford, Texas. I learned that America does care and enough to discomfort themselves to stand up for their convictions. I learned this over and over again on the Bring Them Home Now tour and yet again at the rally in Washington DC on Sept 24 where an estimated 300,000 to 600,000 people gathered and marched based on their convictions to end the war in Iraq and bring our troops home.

Having no guide book to how the tour would emerge, I reconciled with myself that my own efforts would stand as a historical testament on behalf of our adult children and our 12 grandchildren that their mother and grandmother did choose to act regarding the issue of the war in Iraq. At best, I could hope my own example would serve in some measure as a mentoring or model for them as they inherit this America and the ongoing war in Iraq and Middle East. Yet my own are not the only young who will inherit what has been unleashed and it was of interest to me to see up close how Americans in other states, largely considered of the conservative bent, were feeling and reacting to the issue of the war in Iraq. What I learned is that it is imperative not to give up on our young and that they are indeed the leaders of tomorrow and that they can be impassioned to act in their own best interest, given the opportunity to be heard.

So it is with the 4 young participants on our central bus tour, ages in early to late 20s and early 30s. By tours end these 4 are polished and powerful speakers with a passionate message of their own experiences related to war, particularly the war in Iraq. They will carry their own message to the young in this country and reach far and beyond where some of us elders are unable to connect. It is fitting that the young will be the messengers to the young in our country who are the avenue for change in the coming years. It is fitting, therefore, that I name with pride our 4 young messengers who have learned from our tour the power of their own experiences and message. Pay attention to these names, and hear their message. Hart Viges, an Iraq veteran and member of Iraq Veterans Against the War. Kallisa Stanley, a young military wife and member of Military Families Speak Out. Beatriz Saldivar, aunt to nephew killed in Iraq on his second tour and herself a member of Gold Star Families for Peace and Military Families Speak Out. Chris Snively, a veteran and member of Veterans for Peace.

These four already had a message when they began the tour, and over the course of the weeks, as they participated with us who are older and part of the panel speakers, these young ones engaged our audiences beyond what we elders could have done less their efforts. It was the tribal elder model, where our elder experience was valued by them, yet it was their own vitality, youth and passion that was sent forth on the mission to engage the young of this country and astound the elders of this country. Surely, it was for me, a likeness to laboring to give birth to the babes who are the new light of our America. It is difficult to ignore their message, their experience, their courage, their determination, their compassion, their deep concern and their optimistic hope that they can make a difference in speaking and sharing their message. It is difficult to dismiss their message as being a throwback to an earlier time in our history. Their message is a message for today and for today's America. It is a powerful message and I am deeply honored and priviledged to have been a part of their lives for the 4 weeks on tour. I expect America will be hearing from them often as it is unlikely they can return home and easily forget their own experiences while on tour.

The reception our central tour received as we stopped in city after city to participate in planned rallies, town-hall meetings, events and vigils was warm, embracing and heartening. My assessment would be that ordinary citizens where ever we stopped were hungry for information and eager to hear our own experiences as a military community. I'm mindful of the words of one woman where we stopped in Ohio, who said they don't get much opportunity in their community to have legitimate discussions about the war in Iraq and sometimes don't even know how to frame the questions or the enter the discussion. I asked her to say more and she explained that the rhetorical 'support the troops by not challenging the President' took precedence over generating further authentic discussion. She further pointed out that our example as panelists on the tour, served to help them not only ask the questions, but also bolstered their courage and determination to have the discussion despite oppositional rhetoric intended to shut down discussion. I took her comments to heart as we continued the tour, recognizing that we were serving a function above and beyond what even we were aware of as we shared our experiences, stories and message.

I'm mindful too of our experience of two Marine Moms with deployed sons in the Lima unit which experienced 22 killed in August, 1/3rd of that Marine unit killed. They shared the usual concerns of keeping their silence on behalf of feared repercussions to their deployed sons if they did speak out. Most all our military families have this concern and fear and it can be a very real consequence to our active and deployed loved ones. They followed along with our tour through the rest of Ohio, and were resolved to speak out in their own communities. By the next stop, one of the Marine Moms spoke on our panel, and before we left Ohio, had sent along her own written article speaking out on her experience which has been published online. I'm fairly positive, we left these two Marine Moms feeling more empowered to act in their and their loved ones own best interest than before we arrived. And that is what we found true throughout our tour. People felt more empowered to not only speak out, but to act and in action, often times, the feelings of helplessness in the face of great odds begins to dissipate. Our ongoing message at all of our stops was to thank the people who turned out as the real power lies with the people and to encourage them take an action today and tomorrow that they didn't take yesterday to end the war and bring out troops home, now. It was a well-received encouragement, I think, gauging by reactions of the people we encountered.

There are far too many anectodal stories of our experiences on the tour to share in a short missive, yet each and every one is an important part of the larger story. What is the larger story? For me, it is that after 2 + years of 24/7 attention to bringing our troops home and feeling an almost utter despair that America, Congress and this Commander-in-Chief has abandoned our troops, I am pleased to know how wrong I was to have arrived at the conclusion. A conclusion, in great part formed, by the absence of accurate or adequate media reporting and by the deliberate efforts of this Administration to put forth an alternative storyline masking the harsh truths of the war in Iraq. Ordinary American citizens across this nation DO care, and care enough to ask and act and are stepping up to the plate to honor their requirement to have a civilian duty in time of war which is to challenge the Commander-in-Chief always on the necessity, validity and value of sending troops into combat and war. This is more especially true when such a war is waged on foreign soil and the origin reasons for invasion or pre-emptive war are at best speculative and in the case of Iraq shown to be outright deception on the part of this Administration.

I believe our Bring Them Home Now Tour did have a large impact in the growth of the grass-roots level movement as was demonstrated by the numbers who turned out for the rally in Washington DC on Sept 24, 2005. Yet that rally was only a beginning, I do believe. I do not think America will go quietly into the night again. I am proud of our four coalitons, Military Families Speak Out, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Gold Star Families for Peace and Veterans for Peace and proud to have been a part of carrying our collective military community voice with our singular message 'support the troops, bring them home now, and take care of them when they get home'. In the two months that have passed since that beginning vigil in Crawford, Texas, I do not believe there has been an adequate defined answer to the original question that was posited 'what is the noble cause?'

As we visited with Congressional aides, Legislators and Congress people at our every stop and blitzed Congress when we got to Washington DC, we did ask the hard questions of each of them. Despite efforts by some to blow us off, my own evaluation, is that for the most part we were listened to and heard. That in itself is a small measure of accomplishment, but is hardly enough. Essentially the challenge to Congress is that the time for sitting on the fence has ended, and as one of our internal slogans on our bus was 'you're either on the bus or you're not' modelled after the President's own message of you're either for or against; for Congress it is time to do their own Congressional duty on behalf of their representation of citizens of this America and on behalf of the deployed troops and step up to the plate regarding the issue of the war in Iraq.

There is a clearly defined mission for our deployed troops, and it has yet to be defined. In the absence of a clearly defined mission, our troops then have no reason to be deployed. Staying the course is not a clearly defined mission. Fighting them there so we don't have to fight them there is not a clearly defined mission. Waiting for the training of the Iraqi military so they can take over their own security is questionable when it takes approximately 6 weeks to 4 months to train a recruit fresh out of high school in America to be deployed to combat in Iraq. There has been considerably longer period of time to train an Iraqi military than is permitted for training our own young American troops. Fighting terrorism is not a clearly defined mission as the definition of terrorism is far too broad and non-specific in it's definitions. Rebuilding Iraq because our invasion destroyed the infrastructure is not a clearly defined mission for combat troops; rather begs quite the opposite in international and political resolution instead of military resolution. Most of these are the reasons we heard from the Congressionals we visited. We are hopeful that our own heartfelt and passionate messages served to show these same Congressionals that the arguments for remaining in Iraq are weak.

And speaking for myself only, my own last message in our visits was all the way out of Iraq now, anything else is a strategy of delay and placating the public and itself a non-plan serving to continue the war in Iraq. Asking for a reasonable reaction from unreasonable Administration and expecting a reasonable reaction is unreasonable. I also offered up a few facts for consideration;

1) The current mass marketing campaign by high profile marketers to target parents of children at elementary school level for recruitment into the military points to a decade or longer effort of war in Iraq and Middle East

2) As 341,000 troops have served two or more tours in Iraq, it is apparant by simple math that there are not enough troops to do the undefined mission for which they were sent. With the reported 150,000 standing troops, the remarkable incidence of forced retention via stop loss, extended tours, repeat tours for Active, Guard and Reserve troops demonstrates an involuntary military and an under-the-radar use of a draft of forced conscription.

3) America is losing a battalion of troops a month, killed and wounded, according to Senator Jack Reed in the Senate Armed Forces Committee Report in June 2003. A battalion size is approximately 800 troops.

4) One million children in America have a deployed parent.

5) The estimated number of 23,533 Iraq and Afghan veterans requiring VA care has been revised upwards by 103,000 additional Iraq and Afghan veterans needing VA care. That would total 126,533 Iraq and Afghan returning vets requiring VA services in addition to the veterans of previous wars. At this time we know VA is seriously underfunded.

6) The triangle model of accountability, responsibility, trust of the troops to the Commander-in-Chief and citizens, the Commander-in-Chief to the citizens and troops, and the citizens to the troops and Commander-in-Chief demands more of our civilian citizens and Congress in holding the Commander-in-Chief accountable and responsible on behalf of our deployed troops.

Overall, my own assessment is that Congress is reacheable, and more has to be done by ordinary citizens everywhere to reach their Representatives and Senators and express their own experiences, concerns, and well-stated arguments for why it is necessary to bring the troops home now and expect Congress to act accordingly. As I travelled through the offices and halls of Congress in my shorts and tank top, instead of the impressive blazer, shirt and slacks I planned to wear, I can say simply the illusion of power is an illusion. Our message asks for people in positions of power to return to decency and do the right thing, that partisan politics be set aside and an expectation that higher ground is possible beyond political gaming.

Lastly, given what I believe is the success of our tour, I'm among those who believe the tour should continue to the Western states, to Canada, and abroad. Where's the bus, I want to get on the bus again. What about you, do you want to get on the bus, too, figuratively speaking?

Lietta Ruger, member Military Families Speak Out
military family with 2 Iraq veterans, stop lossed for second deployments
Bay Center, WA
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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Dropped from Three Iraqi army battalions to One Iraqi battalion as capable of fighting without U.S. help

'how long does it take to train a new recruit, fresh out of high school, for combat in Iraq?' I used this same question in our meeting in DC this past weekend with Washington state Representative Adam Smith. The answer is self-evident, and lends to the argument of why we need to Bring Them Home Now!

The Spokesman Review; Spokane, Washington Thursday, September 29, 2005

Generals tell Senate panel Iraq strategy is working [NOT!]

By Robert Burns

Associated Press

September 29, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) — Only one Iraqi army battalion seems capable of fighting without U.S. help, a senior American general told Congress today, leaving some lawmakers worried about worsening conditions there despite his assurances that the overall military strategy is working.

Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that the number of Iraqi army battalions rated by U.S. officers as capable of fighting without U.S. help had dropped from three to one. This prompted expressions of concern by Democrats and Republicans alike, at a time when many lawmakers and members of the public are growing restless about the U.S. involvement in Iraq and the nearly 2,000 American troops who have died there.


“That contributes to a loss of public confidence in how the war is going,” Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said of Casey’s remarks. “It doesn’t feel like progress when we hear today that there is only one Iraqi battalion fully capable.”

The Iraqi troop ratings are important because the Pentagon has built its Iraq strategy on the expectation that it can start bringing American troops home as the Iraqis gradually take the lead in the fight against the insurgency.

Casey said 75 percent of the U.S.-trained Iraqi army was at least capable of engaging in combat, albeit with U.S. troops providing support in most cases. He declined to give an exact breakdown of Iraqi combat readiness, which he said was classified as secret, but he said more than 30 battalions are judged capable of taking the lead in an offensive, with U.S. support. Only one can operate entirely on its own.

Casey did not explain why the number had dropped from three in June to one today. But he said the Iraqi army is getting stronger, even though the Ministry of Defense that manages the army lacks expertise and stability. He said Iraqi soldiers performed well in recent battles for control of the city of Tal Afar.

The training effort has progressed far slower than once expected, and Casey conceded it has been hurt by infiltration of the army and Iraqi police by insurgents and their sympathizers.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he was troubled that with such uneven progress in training the Iraqi army, the Bush administration is still planning for the possible withdrawal of some U.S. troops from Iraq next year.

Casey said troops reductions are an important part of the overall military strategy for stabilizing Iraq. He declined to predict, as he had in July, that the Pentagon could make a fairly substantial troop withdrawal next year if political progress continues and the insurgency does not grow more violent. But he said under questioning by committee members that troop reductions were possible in 2006.

“You’re taking a very big gamble here,” McCain said to Casey “I hope you’re correct. I don’t see the indicators yet that we are ready to plan or begin troop withdrawals, given the overall security situation.”

Democrats on the panel pressed Casey and Gen. John Abizaid, the Central Command commander who also testified, for clear measures of progress on the military front and for indications that the Iraqis are taking seriously the need to assume more responsibility for their own security.

There are now about 149,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, and the number is likely to top 150,000 as Casey bolsters the force to prepare for an expected increase in violence before an Oct. 15 referendum on the Iraqi constitution.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also testified. Together with Casey and Abizaid they also testified before the House Armed Services Committee.

Abizaid cited several encouraging signs in Iraq. He said the main battles against the insurgency had shifted to western Iraq, “which is a good sign, a good indicator that Iraqi and U.S. forces are having an effect elsewhere.” Also, infiltration of foreign fighters across the Syrian border “remains a concern, but it’s down.”

Both Abizaid and Casey said they did not want a large increase of U.S. forces in Iraq, in part because that would fuel the insurgency by reinforcing the perception among Iraqis of the Americans as occupiers.

The hearing came on a day when five American soldiers were killed by a roadside bomb in Ramadi in western Iraq. That brought the number of U.S. troops who have died in Iraq since the war began in 2003 to 1,934, according to a tally by The Associated Press.

Casey said events between now and December, when Iraq is scheduled to hold a national election — assuming the draft constitution is approved in the October referendum — will determine when U.S. troops can begin going home. The constitution is expected to be approved.

On a less optimistic note, Casey said political divisions in Iraq could widen if, as he expects, a sizable majority of Sunni Arabs vote against the constitution.

“I think that’s entirely possible, senator,” Casey told Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich. “I mean, as we’ve looked at this, we’ve looked for the constitution to be a national compact, and the perception now is that it’s not, particularly among the Sunni.”

SR.com: Generals tell Senate panel Iraq strategy is working
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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Pentagon Misstated Terror War Spending

Pentagon Misstated Terror War Spending

UPI | September 23, 2005

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon has misstated the cost of the war on terror, basically telling the Congress it is spending whatever is appropriated, a government agency says.

The Government Accountability Office, in a report to Congress released Wednesday, said the inaccuracies in the amount the U.S. Department of Defense is saying it is spending in operations in Afghanistan and Iraq are in the billions of dollars.

"Effectively, the Army was reporting back to Congress exactly what it had appropriated," the GAO said.

The GAO report claims, "Neither DOD nor Congress can reliably know how much the war is costing the details of how appropriated funds are being spent." The New York Times said the GAO blamed Pentagon accounting systems designed to handle only small-scale contingencies.

The Pentagon issued a letter saying it generally agreed with the GAO report.

Pentagon Misstated Terror War Spending
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Thursday, September 22, 2005

MFSO Pac NW meets with Murray, Smith and the Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee

(This one is long but no apologies offered for its length. What she had to say tonight has got me fighting mad and fired up! - Arthur)

Lietta Ruger: "walking the halls of Congress in shorts."
Thursday night, 11:30 PM ... (Lietta)This was an extremely busy day. I got to see a lot of famous buildings I've only seen on TV and in movies ... The Supreme Court Building, the Library of Congress, the Senate office buildings, the Capitol Building ... just like the tourist I always felt I'd be when coming finally to Washington D.C. to see first hand the tangible monuments to our national heritage and democracy-in-action.

Only I wasn't a tourist today, but an activist lobbying for our core American values and what we baby boomers were taught growing up in a country proud of its heritage ... unafraid to practice what we we taught. However, today, as we pursued our talks with those who we helped place in the positions as our representatives, we were not dressed as government business-people; formally, in 3-piece power suits, in skirts, blouses or dresses with earrings, eye-shadow and lipstick. We walked the halls of Congress in the heat of the day in the happy casual dress of tourists. How strange to deal with three-piece-suiters and power-fashioned women of authority.

Yes, I saw all those photogenic buildings, over and over, back and forth all day - walking through or by them - on our way to see one after another person we all hired with our ballots in some prior election. It was thrilling, moving and also embarrassing. How many who read this have ever felt embarrased by the Senator or Congressperson chosen to be our voice in Washington? I met some today who embarrased their constituencies and others who honored them. More later, but first the highlight of the day.

This evening Bring Them Home now Tour members went with Elaine Johnson MFSO member) to participate in the Black Voices For America town hall meeting at Plymouth Congregational Church where Elaine was one of the primary speakers. Also in attendance were many officials and politicians and activist organizations - all powerful advocates.

The evening was spent in strong discussion and public discourse on the war in Iraq, rights and support of our troops, consequences of hurricane Katrina, racial injustice, justice for all, the roots of war and more. There were two different panels and the evening was both amazing and powerfully inspirational.

Adam Smith
Earlier today representing MFSO, we (Stacy Bannerman, Judy Linehan, Rose Gentle from MFSO U.K. and I) met with Congressman Adam Smith (D Washington). After a brief discussion about Congressman Smith's position on an upcoming vote regarding troop withdrawals/reductions we emphasized to him that withdrawals/reductions based on a future deadline were no longer as important as bringing the troops home now.

Again, we were able to emphasize how recent weeks had demonstrated the invalidity of the administration's oft-changed reasons for the war, any Bush-defined noble cause and justification for more loss of troops in a Republican mantra of "staying the course" despite the failure of Bush's foreign policy objectives and strategy.

Smith was respectful, polite and obviously interested in our discussion, showing no signs of impatience or a desire to keep the discussion limited, brief or redirected to other venues.

Smith: (paraphrasing) "You're not saying later, you're saying now?"

"Yes we are."


When we talked about the relationship between the troops, the commander-in-chief and the citizens responsibility to hold the CIC accountable to insure that lives are not placed in harm's way for invalid reasons or political agendas, Smith "got it," and told us "You are right!"

Patty Murray
Contrast that with our disappointing visit with Senator Patty Murray ( who, like Congressman Adam Smith, did not send an aide to meet with us but instead talked to us personally) who gave us only five minutes and declared that her position on the troops and the ware were "non-negotiable".

Senator Patty Murray, talking like an Bush insider, flatly declared that we needed to keep our troops in Iraq and stay the course until the mission was completed.

I felt that my Senator - like many prominent Democratic politicians - is too intimidated by the Republican majority to take any other stand ... possibly thinking that there is still a silent majority in her home state and the country that continues to drink the kool-aid Republicans have been offering now into a fifth year of political dominance.

As this is written, the most recent USAToday/CNN/Gallup poll indicates that 67% versus 32% of American citizens disapprove of what Bush is doing in Iraq.

That is not an insignificant number and evinces a silent majority that might have a thing or two to say to an intimidated elected Democratic minority.

Bill Thomas (R California), Chairman of House Ways and Means Committee

But the "stinkiest" moment of our day was when Kalisa Stanley and I (Lietta) accompanied Gold Star co-founder (with Cindy Sheehan) Bill Mitchell as he made another of several attempts to meet with his Congressman, Bill Thomas (R California) who was elected Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in 2001.

Bill Mitchell is a single parent who raised his only child - only to lose him in Iraq the same day Cindy Sheehan lost her son, Casey. Bill has attempted for over a year to have - even if only briefly - a meeting with Rep Thomas with absolutely no success. They've never once offered Bill an appointment with Rep Thomas.

Lietta and Kalisa Stanley volunteered to go with Bill in another attempt as a constituent to meet his congressman. They went in handicapped by not having an appointment. An aide to Thomas was called to the desk by the receptionist. The aide escorted the group out of the office to - as she put it - the "other meeting room."

Bill told us that this is what happens every time and he's been to the "other waiting room" before. It's not a waiting room, it's a place where we stand next to window to talk through the window.

(Lietta was not aware at the time that Thomas is Chairman of what the press has for years cliched as "The Powerful Ways and Means Committee") and asked a question that was even more pointed than she realized:

"Are you saying that Congressman Thomas has no place where you can sit down and talk to him?"

Aide's response: (again paraphrased) "His office is not equipped for visitors."

(Lietta)"How come Congressman Adam Smith has a meeting area and Rep Thomas doesn't? We've crossed several states to get here, we've meet with numerous congressional aides in those states and here in D.C. - all of whom met us in a room with tables and chairs where we could discuss ssues with them. But Rep Thomas (the Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee) tells us to go stand by a window sill?"

Lietta's perception of the aide was that of a woman who was cold and showed absolutely no emotion and was distant when she told Bill, "I remember you from before. Didn't you talk to our scheduler?"

Bill:"Yes I have several times. But she never called me back."

Kalisa and Lietta: "We're here to support Bill Mitchell, your constituent. He's attempted to get an appointment with his elected representative 6 times in the last 12 months with no success. Both in California and here in D.C. - with no success. The 'scheduler' has never called him back. He wants to meet with his representative and for the sake of decency Representative Thomas owes it to this man; owes this grieving father acknowledgement, owes the loss of his only child an acknowledgement."

Lietta: "That is what we do in Washington and Oregon and we are treated respectfully by our congress persons. Bill and his son are Rep Thomas's constituents and deserve at least 15 minutes of his time."

The aide called the scheduler in: "No, the congressman isn't available. He's voting."

Lietta: "So you'll make an appointment for Bill?"

Aide: "Not at this time. But we'll tell the Congressman about our little chat."

Lietta: "This is not a 'little chat' - it's serious business."

At this point the scheduler seemed to grow uncomfortable, conciliatory and apologetic. The aide then said that as staffers, they will make this a "work in progress," to which Kalisa, Bill and Lietta responded: "We will follow up and expect to see an appointed meeting between Bill and his Congressman take place as soon as possible."

Lietta was still fuming, calling the episode the "stinkiest" part of the day.

"This single parent and grieving father has been so dishonored and disrespected by his congressman who forces him to resort to a meeting with an aide at a window sill like a ticket buyer to a circus. We're going to help Bill compose a letter to be sent to the Congressman every week (the same letter) and to local news media in Bill's district until an appointment is set and a meeting is held. That's our project and we don't intend to drop the ball."

Bill Mitchell is a veteran, a quiet man, polite and respectful by nature, not brash and not overly agressive - all attributes we as Americans are supposed to cherish. And for this he has been politically snubbed and treated with a cold and brutal disregard by one of the stalwarts of the current Republican administration.

But since this shameful and embarrassing display of ignorant arrogance took place in the morning, all that followed today - capped by the wonderful meeting at Plymouth Congregational Church tonight - helped dilute the bad taste in our mouths from someone who has talked the tough fight but for whom the war and loss of life remains a political abstraction.

End of report.

Arthur's note: MFSO Pac NW members have already responded with emails to Senator Murray. Go to our Letters & Editorials Page. - Arthur Ruger, MFSO Pacific Northwest

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