U.S. Military Families Bring Help

AMMAN — Families of some U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq plan a strong protest to mark the second anniversary of the invasion. The group ‘Military Families Speak Out’ will hold a demonstration in Fayetteville, North Carolina, in the United States March 19.

As of now 1,340 U.S. soldiers have been killed in Iraq.

“We’ll be working with our allies in the peace movement all around the world to send a clear message that the whole world says we reject this war and the illegal and unjust occupation of Iraq,” a member of the delegation told IPS on its recent visit to Amman.

The delegation included members of three families of U.S. military personnel who have died in Iraq. But members claim the support of many more families who have lost their kin.

The group held a candlelight peace vigil on New Year’s Eve in front of the United Nations offices in Amman. On Jan. 1 the delegation traveled to the Iraqi border for another peace vigil.

The delegation sought to highlight the illegality of the war and occupation, and the suffering it had brought. The U.S. members of the delegation returned home Jan. 4.

“This delegation is a way for me to express my sympathy and support for the Iraqi people,” said Rosa Suarez of Escondito, California. Her son Jesus died in Iraq Mar. 27, 2003. “The Iraq war took away my son’s life, and it’s taken away the lives of so many innocent Iraqis,” she told IPS. “It’s time to stop the killing and to help the children of Iraq.”

Rosa and her husband Fernando Suarez brought three suitcases filled with medicines for Iraqi children. “I am going to try to continue the campaign to bring medicine for Iraq,” Fernando told IPS. “This is important because the war is not going to stop today. The Iraqi children need more help.”

The delegation was supported by the U.S.-based organizations Global Exchange and Code Pink. Members of Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a group that lost their kin in the Sep.11 attacks also joined the delegation.

“We are part of one human family,” said Medea Benjamin, founding director of Global Exchange and co-founder of Code Pink. “It is time to stop the killing.”

The delegation to Jordan has raised 600,000 dollars in aid for Iraqis. The money and medical aid was raised mostly through appeals on the Internet. The group is asking Iraqi volunteers to donate money and other aid supplies.

“In a poll taken just weeks after the U.S. election, the majority of Americans were opposed to the occupation of Iraq,” said Benjamin. “So we represent the majority of Americans.”

Speaking behind piles of medical supplies and toys for children, she said “we are here to deliver medical supplies to Iraq, and most of it has already been sent.”

Dr. Intisar, a pharmacist from Baghdad who joined the delegation told IPS that “the occupation has come to hurt the Iraqi people and not to help them.” The security situation has meant that the Iraqi ministry of health has been unable to help people, she said.

“I thank all the international organizations who gave help to Iraqis, including this delegation of American families,” she added. “These families are suffering exactly like we are suffering. We want to stop the bloodshed whether it is American or Iraqi.”

An Iraqi woman who gave her name as Rana said she was able to deliver aid as a humanitarian worker for Code Pink. “I got the donations from one of the friends of Code Pink in Baghdad,” she said.

U.S. soldiers helped her, she added. “Some good American soldiers like the sons of these families here helped me to enter Fallujah,” she said. “I brought blankets, heaters and food to families.”