Our hearts go out to military personnel and families who are suffering enormous pain right now. Many of us have friends and loved ones in the armed forces, and it is because we care about them that we believe their lives should not be risked for a war that is not consistent with American democratic values. We believe there is no better way to support men and women in uniform than by keeping them out of harm's way. There are many reasons why the peace movement supports the troops.

War requires an enormous sacrifice by military personnel and their families. America's first casualty of the new war in Iraq has already hit home. Marine Staff Sgt. Kendall Waters-Bey was among a group of Marines killed in a helicopter crash inside Kuwait. As he held a picture of his son, Waters-Bey's father, Michael, said: "I want President Bush to get a good look at this, really good look here. This is the only son I had, only son." The family of the first casualty has come out vehemently opposed to this war. Was this military family anti-military? No, they are pro-peace. Families should not have to be separated from their loved ones for this war.

The government hasn't even properly cared for veterans of the first Gulf War. Many Gulf War veterans have died or continue to experience medical problems. The Pentagon estimates that 90,000 troops who served in the Gulf War complain of serious symptoms--yet upon reporting their illness, many have been dismissed as "crazy" or faced enormous obstacles in receiving treatment. Of those who submitted claims for illnesses, 73 percent have been denied help, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. One Gulf War veteran wrote, "It was the choice that I made to spend the rest of my life defending my country and my beliefs; now it's all spent in the hospital, just trying to survive, and I still have to fight the government every day to get the medications that I need."

As of 2001, nearly 10,000 Gulf War vets had died from the illness. The money that could fund competent medical attention for these veterans is being spent on the drive for yet another war. Where is the "support for the troops" once their fighting potential has been exhausted? Is it morally acceptable to do this to another generation of soldiers?

Sending human beings into battle is an enormous responsibility to bear. The administration shirked its responsibility when it failed to acknowledge the real cost and consequences of war--including risks that those pushing for war (George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle) have never had to face.

Supporting the troops means coming to terms with the reality of what they face, not romanticizing it. Veterans for Peace warns: "We know the consequences of American foreign policy because once, at a time in our lives, so many of us carried it out. We find it sad that war seems so delightful, so often, to those that have no knowledge of it. We will proudly, and patriotically, continue to denounce war despite whatever misguided sense of euphoria supports it."

With language like "surgical strikes" and "collateral damage," we ignore the reality of what soldiers are really being asked to do. "Smart bombs" have incinerated even civilian bomb shelters. Many innocent civilians die in war, and even those soldiers who return uninjured are forced to carry those memories for the rest of their lives.

We reach out to servicemen and women with deep respect and hopes for their safety. As American citizens, it's precisely because we care about America's democratic values that we have to speak out against injustice. You can still be a patriot--which many of us consider ourselves to be--without agreeing with every action the administration takes, especially in matters as serious as waging a war. We will continue to insist that the administration not dishonor the commitment of servicemen and women by sending them to ever-escalating "pre- emptive" wars around the globe, but allow them to do the job they courageously pledged to do which is DEFEND our country.

Here are some websites to check out:
Veterans Against War in Iraq
Veterans for Common Sense
Gulf War Veterans Resource
Veterans for Peace