News Release

* Military Families Gathering in Crawford * Letter to Bush from Jailed Soldier’s Wife * Assessing Withdrawal of Troops from Iraq


Celeste Zappala’s oldest son, Pennsylvania National Guardsman Sgt. Sherwood Baker, was killed in Baghdad in April 2004 while helping with the search for weapons of mass destruction. She is a co-founder, with Cindy Sheehan and others, of Gold Star Families for Peace and is now in Crawford. She said today: “It is good to join the peaceful, dignified protest here in Crawford. The measure of a just war is whether you’d be willing to send your own child. The architects of this war did not send their children. And many Americans are deciding they do not want their own children to go. The military is giving false information to soldiers and putting a lot of pressure on people to get them to re-enlist. For example, many people are being told that if they don’t re-enlist, they will be ‘stop-lossed’ indefinitely, so they re-enlist. That is, they are given the ‘choice’ of re-enlisting and getting a bonus and maybe being stationed somewhere other than Iraq, or if they don’t re-enlist they will be forced to stay in Iraq because the military says this is an emergency with their ‘stop-loss’ program.”

Zappala added: “We hope that people will confront Bush when he travels into their communities and tell him he needs to meet with us. It’s crucial that people talk about the war and the losses of our loved ones and the need for a quick exit out of Iraq.”

Dante Zappala and Ryan Fletcher can also arrange interviews with many other military family members who are arriving in Crawford the next several days to join the protest there. They include family members with loved ones who were killed in the Iraq war, are currently in Iraq or are scheduled to be deployed to Iraq. The relatives gathering in Crawford are from Texas, Washington state, Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, Arkansas, New Jersey, and California.
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Monica Benderman is the wife of Sgt. Kevin Benderman. She said today: “Kevin has been imprisoned for refusing to participate in war by filing a Conscientious Objector application against the wishes of his command.” She has written a letter to Bush and Rumsfeld available at the above web page. She said today: “Obviously the Iraq war is where Kevin had his experiences that motivated him to request CO status and not return to participate in this war. We want the war over, and we want to work toward finding an alternative to solving our differences so that war never has to happen again.”

She continued: “Kevin loved his fellow soldiers and he thought he could keep them safe by deploying with them and working on their vehicles. He couldn’t save them by being there, even with countless hours maintaining equipment; still men died. … We need to stop this war now, and we need to relegate war to the past, making the future more humane.”
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Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, is the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He said today: “The Pentagon has indicated that it will increase the number of American troops in Iraq during the next few months — but the looming 2006 congressional election campaign has spurred the Bush administration to begin a series of official statements and orchestrated leaks forecasting that American troop levels in Iraq might drop next year. A basic fault line has developed underneath the political ground where President Bush has pitched his rhetorical tent. From here to the horizon, in view of the actual military situation in Iraq, the president’s Vietnam-War-style pledge not to ‘cut and run’ would logically preclude a substantive reduction of U.S. troops there. Yet, by a widening margin, most of the American public does not approve of Bush’s war in Iraq. The administration is playing for time — floating scenarios for sizeable troop withdrawals without making the slightest commitment that they will actually take place.”
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For more information, contact at the Institute for Public Accuracy:
Sam Husseini, (202) 347-0020; or David Zupan, (541) 484-9167