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Walking For A Better World - Melbourne Conference Speech

peacehq | 16.11.2003 14:59

MFSO representative Jeff McKenzie's speech at the International Peace Pilgrimage Toward A Nuclear Free Future, Melbourne Conference on November 16th, 2003. Highlights include MFSO history, war in Iraq, protests in America, ending the nuclear cycle and the culture of war.

Military Families Speak Out was formed last November, to oppose a war on Iraq and the Bush administrations policies. Over the past year we have been reaching out to other military families and have grown from 2 to over 1,000 military families and we continue to grow. In January, my own son was deployed to Kuwait/Iraq, where he flew medevac missions until June.

Several members of MFSO, including myself were part of a lawsuit to stop the President from declaring war, a power under the U.S. Constitution given only to Congress. We have and continue to protest in the streets of Washington DC, NYC, LA and around the country. We lobby our elected and unelected officials. We have been very vocal in the media both in the U.S. and internationally. A small group of military families are currently preparing to visit Iraq.

Our focus at present is to call for an end to the occupation and continued deployments. Recently military families, veterans, active duty personnel, reservist and others launched the BRING THEM HOME NOW campaign. Bush says, "Bring `em on." We say, "BRING THEM HOME NOW."

I am going to play a short news clip off Japanese TV that aired on April 2nd. It starts out at the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC, then follows military families and veterans gathered in DC for Operation Dire Distress. The clip ends at my home in Gasport, NY.

VIDEO - approx. 7 minutes long.

This month, two U.S. helicopters were downed by hostile fire, resulting in many casualties. These incidents brought back a long night I spent worrying about my son earlier this year and the emails I sent him. The headline on Yahoo News read: U.S. Army Black Hawk Copter Shot Down 9 minutes ago I wrote:

Hi Jeremy,

I am glad you are okay but I know you are not out of danger until you come home. The email I sent you last night was not the one I originally wrote, that one appears below.

Last night I hesitated sending it to you, I wasn't sure I should. But I reread it today and have had more time to think about it. I have decided to share it because to often we don't tell people what we want and then later regret it (then again sometimes we tell people what we want and end up regretting it also).

I realize everyday now, you are probably facing danger and experiencing things that will effect you as long as you live. I hate the fact that you and all the others there in the Gulf have to experience this and I feel so helpless in trying to stop it. Just watching it 24/7 on TV is having its effect on those of us, well away from the immediate danger.

I realize you and your fellows in arms did not choose your mission, and refusing to go and serve would be dealt with harshly. Unlike most Americans, that should they disagree with their boss or not agree with the company's goals, can just up and quit. Even so, some can't quit, they have no other viable options, I'm thinking about women that go to work each day and are groped and insulted but have to support their children.

So my anger is not pointed at those in the field but those that are not; they are using you to further their own goals. It is also very possible that this will appear in newspapers, as I use my pen to stop the bullets and the insanity. I also realize the administration has been effectively using the media, over 50% of Americans believe Saddam is connected to Bin Laden, because the link (that does not exist) to terrorism has been repeated over and over (if you say something enough, even if it has no basis in truth, you become convinced it is true). Since no WMD (weapons of mass destruction) have been found or used yet, the administration has been hammering away how evil Saddam is, how he is responsible for more deaths than anyone else (which has been adjusted to of those leaders that are still living). The U.S. goals also keep changing.

So remember Jeremy, I love you and I am doing what every father should and that is protect you from harm. I ask you to forgive me for mistakes I have made in the past and those I make now but I'm doing my best.

Be careful, fly safe, watch out for yourself and those under you. Don't let your heart harden and don't just see black and white.

Love and peace, Dad

Hi Jeremy,

I'm at college making copies when I just spotted this story. So again I know it will be hours of not knowing and wondering. All I can do is hope you were not in the chopper but I also know a number of families are worrying about the same thing. I hope gramma isn't watching TV but I'm sure she is.

I wish I could say the cost in lives was worth it but its not. Over the next few days we are going to see massive casualties or to be honest Iraqi's are, the U.S. and the UK will only be a tiny fraction of those that die. Yet for the most part our media will ignore their lost and gloat over the destruction of the Republican Guard, yet if our casualties are high, Americans will cry out- some wanting more blood, others will join the antiwar and peace movement because they will think the price in U.S. lives isn't worth it, but they still won't care about the Iraqis. Let's be honest, had you or your fellow soldiers been born in Iraq rather than here, you would be fighting for what you believe was a just cause and doing God's will. You might have even become a suicide bomber because really, what choice do you have but to go to extremes when faced with overwhelming force.

Sorry, I should be positive and up beat. I should honor the fallen 'heros' on our side and believe they have defended my freedoms and proved once again we are a mighty nation. Heck they are liberating the poor Iraqis (those that they don't kill) from a brutal dictator. No, no that wasn't the reason, it was WMD; oh, but they haven't found any of those yet nor have they been used, so its got to be liberation. The people will be better off, even though their doors have been kicked in and their houses have been destroyed. The children have once again been traumatized by bombs raining down and bullets flying in every direction. But they will have food shortly, even though 12 years ago they were an emerging 1st world country. I mean today, many live in squalor and filth, not that our bombing of their infrastructure in the past had anything to do with it.

Of course, some will think they are getting food packages like in Afghanistan, only to be blown to bits because once again cluster bombs rain terror from the sky and their unexploded bomblets curiously the same color of food rations, will make them hunger no more.

Oh, yes some will welcome you and be glad Saddam is gone until they realize the U.S. intends to run the country for now. We will create a better life for them because apparently their life is flawed and barbaric. Oh, don't get me wrong, there are those that inhabited the darkside but I have to wonder if the most powerful administration on earth isn't the real source of evil, hell it was the U.S. that created and supported Bin Laden and Saddam and the list gets much longer as a history major you know. Of course, our contractors are lining up to rape the profits from oil, as we ironically build with their money, what we shamefully destroyed.

If it is you that has been mangled in metal what will I do, how will I react? I already know who I will blame.

I wish I could do something to make it all stop.

Here are a few quotes from some other MFSO members:

1.) A mom in Oklahoma said, "I would just like to say that my primary identity is not that of a military mother, but a citizen of the world. I am not proud of our troops. They are participating in the wholesale slaughter of thousands of Iraqi men, women and children and the destruction of much of the country. …(I) do not hold American lives to be more valuable than all others. I am terrified every time I hear of American casualties, worried about my son's life, but let's not fool ourselves. The danger that our young people are in, is nothing to compare to the danger that every person in Iraq faces. The Iraqi army is somehow dehumanized in all this, we worry about the deaths of women and children, while thousands of Iraqi men, sons, husbands, fathers and brothers of Iraqi families have been wiped out.

I support our soldiers, they will need our support, and I realize that most of them as people would not have decided to do the things they are participating in. But I will not turn a blind eye to what the US military is doing in Iraq, I am not proud of them for doing their jobs well. I worry about them having to walk through stacks of Iraqi bodies, I worry what this is doing to our young people."

2.) A mother and pastor says, " I am clear that nowhere in the Bible does it say that God should bless America more than any other nation, and from there I am a citizen of the world, seeking justice and peace for all peoples.

Later she wrote, My worst nightmare is this looming war which is such a war of aggression. I love my son and I am proud that he is trained to clean up landmines and build roads and bridges, but the thought of his using those skills to destroy the Iraqi people destroys me greatly."

3.) A mom shared this, "I've been thinking a lot about the aftermath of this war myself. Especially after getting an email from my son in Iraq, who said "Mama, I've seen enough blood to last me a lifetime." And wondering about the nightmares that will haunt him for the rest of his life."

A friend of her's who fought in the Vietnam war suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and she worries that her son and those that have served in Iraq will suffer the same.

She goes on to say, "They will carry the burden of bringing death to the innocent for the rest of their lives. So many turn to alcohol and drugs to try and deaden the pain. I meet them on Friday nights at the Arlington Street church for dinner: homeless, unable to hold a job, they are reviled by the very public that saw them off with waving flags, and … music. We did that to them, yet shrink away from their unwashed bodies, their outstretched cups. That is why I march for peace. That is why I support our troops, while despising this lying government. That is why I will continue to protest, to commit acts of civil disobedience... Our sons and daughters in the military don't have that choice. And those sights will haunt them for the rest of their lives. I do not want another mother's child to have to live with that. I don't want another mother's child to die for a greedy, imperialistic government whose members have few if any children laying THEIR lives on the line."

The U.S. currently has 132,00 troops deployed in Iraq. There are 24,000 non-US foreign troops in Iraq, including troops from Australia. Japan has delayed sending any troops because of the security situation in Iraq. Let's support each other in a call to end the occupation and deployments.

I meet Marcus and Atsuko a little over a year ago while protesting at the Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Plant in Oak Ridge, TN (Tennessee), it was then I first heard about the International Peace Pilgrimage and made the commitment to participate and here I am.

We live in a troubled world which increasing relies on weapons rather than diplomacy to solve conflicts and disputes, it is important to speak out and draw attention to the destructible nature of nuclear weapons. With President Bush's ultimatum, "either you or with us or against us", coupled with the backing away from treaties and the total disregard for international law, and threats to use weapons of mass destruction, this pilgrimage is not only timely but crucial.

Of course, nuclear weapons are only part of the equation. The whole nuclear cycle has to be dismantled, from the mining and processing of uranium, to nuclear power plants. Cleanup of the environment and development of safe ways to store and dispose of massive quantities of radioactive waste must be developed. The lands of the native and indigenous peoples need to be restored and returned.

I encourage others to join the pilgrimage, either physically, through prayer or by offering other means of support that will help to make this pilgrimage successful.

I realize we are foot messengers and will be a visible reminder that there are alternatives to the nuclear cycle and the endless spiral of violence. This is not my journey, it is our journey. Each of us has a part in the nuclear cycle and the culture of war, but together we can create a better, peaceful world for all humankind. So let's all take a step together towards a nuclear free world and world peace.

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