Friday, January 19, 2007

Vet group protests surge on Capitol Hill

By Rick Maze - Staff writer
Posted : Thursday Jan 18, 2007 18:26:04 EST
The Air Force Times

Just days after a group of active-duty service members pressed Congress to end the war in Iraq, another group of veterans of that conflict is calling on lawmakers to oppose President Bush’s plan to send additional troops into the fray.

The group’s leader implored lawmakers to listen to people who have been in the fight and “not those draft-dodgers down the road,” an apparent reference to President Bush and Vice President Cheney.

Nine veterans, all affiliated with the increasingly partisan VoteVets.org, made the rounds of the Senate to drum up support for some legislative action that would prevent an increase in U.S. troops in Iraq. It was Jon Stolz, an Army Reserve captain who served in Iraq in 2003, who made the jab at Bush and Cheney. Bush served in the National Guard during the Vietnam War but did not deploy, while Cheney received multiple draft deferments and never served.

Stolz, national chairman of VoteVets.org, has been involved in forming a new umbrella group, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, that involves veterans, anti-war groups, MoveOn.org Political Action and other groups. Two of the veterans making the visit ran for Congress in 2006 but lost their election bids.

The new group is not affiliated with the group of active-duty service members who delivered a letter to the House of Representatives on Tuesday that they said was signed by about 1,000 active-duty troops who want Congress to end the war in Iraq.

Stolz said the veterans include Democrats, Republicans and independents who all agree that sending more troops to Iraq is a mistake.

“We are here to meet with senators on both sides of the aisle,” he said. “We are here to tell them why this is, frankly, ridiculous.”

Indiana Army National Guard veteran Sam Schultz, another of the veterans, called the Bush plan “delusional,” while Army Spec. Robert Loria, who lost his hand in Iraq in 2004, said he also disagreed with the plan.

“How many more men and women have to lose a limb or a life?” Loria asked.

“This is a policy that has nothing supporting a solution,” said Army veteran Jeremy Broussard, a field artillery officer who deployed in 2003 to Iraq.

Shelly Burgoyne, who served two tours in Iraq commanding supply convoys, said that of the 21,500 additional troops, 300 to 400 are likely to die, because every deployed company typically loses two people.

“That doesn’t include casualties or wounded,” she said.

The nine veterans appeared at a press conference along with Democrat Sens. Patty Murray of Washington, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and Sherrod Brown of Ohio and independent Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont. They had visits with Democrats Bob Casey of Pennsylvania, Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Barack Obama of Illinois and Jon Tester of Montana and Republicans Sam Brownback of Kansas and John Sununu of New Hampshire.

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