Veterans, families of troops oppose Iraq war

The groups, Veterans for Common Sense and Military Families Speak Out, are part of a small but vocal anti-war movement that has arisen in recent months as Bush orders hundreds of thousands of troops to the Middle East in preparation for a potential war with Iraq.

They warn of unintended consequences from military action, including exposure of troops and Iraqi civilians to toxic chemicals and nerve agents, increased hostility toward Americans throughout the Arab world, and the economic shock of having to pay for a military campaign and its aftermath, including a lengthy occupation of Iraq. In an emotional press conference in Washington, organizers of the groups questioned Bush’s motives for confronting Iraq and placing thousands of lives at risk.

“Those of us gathered here today strongly believe that the president has failed to justify an invasion and occupation of Iraq,” said Erik Gustafson, director of the Education for Peace in Iraq Center and a founder of Veterans for Common Sense.

“As military families, we have both a special voice and a special need to speak out against war,” said Nancy Lessin, whose step-son is an Arab-language specialist with the Marines now deployed to Kuwait.

“We notice that those who say we have to go to war are not going anywhere, and neither are their loved ones,” Lessin said.

“The potential costs of war are greater than have been presented to the average American,” said Steve Robinson, a Gulf War veteran and director of the National Gulf War Resource Center, an organization that helps veterans of the 1991 conflict obtain government disability benefits.

Most cost estimates for a new conflict, ranging into the trillions of dollars, do not even include the costs of medical treatment and disability benefits to troops now about to put into harm’s way, organizers said.

Public opinion polls show a majority of Americans support Bush’s policy on Iraq, but opponents have become increasingly vocal. An anti-war rally is planned for the weekend in Washington on the 12th anniversary of the start of the Gulf War.

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