Column, march left!

As opposition to the Iraq war mounts among the U.S. public, a nontraditional protest also is growing by the day.

Following the federal protocol for military dissent, 1,245 (and counting) service members have signed what's known as an Appeal for Redress. It's a three-sentence statement reading:

"As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home."

Fourteen Michigan active duty personnel or reservists are among the signees, says Jennifer Glick, webmaster for

The effort started with some servicemen based in Norfolk, Va., led by Jonathan Hutto, a Navy seaman. While on duty in the Middle East, he read Soldiers in Revolt, a story of GI resistance to the Vietnam War. Hutto then started the signings.

Following the president's announcement of plans to increase troop levels in Iraq, Hutto and others formally presented the appeal at a Capitol Hill press conference.

J.E. McNeil from the Center on Conscience and War was their legal adviser. She says the appeal follows the rules in the Department of Defense's "Guidelines for Handling Dissident and Protest Activities Among Members of the Armed Forces."

When service members join the effort, via the Web site, their military status is confirmed. Then, notifications are sent to their congressional reps and U.S. senators. The law prohibits service members from circulating petitions themselves.

"It's not like they're disobeying orders or doing anything disrespectful in that way," McNeil says. "They're refusing to give up their rights as U.S. citizens to communicate with their government."

She likens the Internet-based effort to the underground newspapers circulated on and near bases in the 1960s and 1970s protesting the Vietnam War. In the pre-Internet time (if we can recall), the blog equivalents were newsletters and newspapers of varying quality and professionalism — now part of the GI Underground Press Collection at the Reuther Library at Wayne State University.

The papers had articles, cartoons, letters, music reviews and calls for action. That's similar to the Web site — except that the electronic version can reach millions instantly and anonymously without postage fees.

"The technology helps them now," McNeil says. "The biggest obstacle is not the technological aspect or even the law. The biggest obstacle is people in the military. The military culture is such that people who oppose the war still hesitate to speak out in anything other than private, personal conversations, which is a shame."

The GI Underground Press files — seven boxes of them — can be viewed at the Reuther Library at Wayne State University. News Hits took a peek at them, and we had déjà vu. Articles report a decline in military recruiting successes, increases in anti-ROTC rallies and other protests. Cartoons satirize the motivations for war as being profit-driven and originating with the military-industrial complex.

Geez, if only there were an alternative press around today that would provide an outlet for criticism of a government run amok. Oh, wait ...

News Hits is edited by Curt Guyette. Contact him at 313-202-8004 or [email protected]
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