Navy seaman Jonathan Hutto loves and serves his country proudly.
As a member of the U.S. Armed Forces, Hutto became increasingly concerned with the war in Iraq and says the damaging toll can be felt by much of the American public.
In December of 2005, while afloat an aircraft carrier off the coast of Iraq, Hutto read the book “Solders in Revolt” by David Cortright. Hutto, 29, read of extreme GI opposition to the Vietnam War. Festering within the ranks of the U.S. military, he learned of an ugly resistance movement.
Outright insubordination ensued: As the war unfolded, dissenting troops refused to take orders or to go out on dangerous patrols. While some soldiers went AWOL, others defiantly turned to blatant marijuana use.
Hutto conceived a way to channel his dissent into a more constructive outlet. Exclusively for U.S. troops, Hutto would exercise the military’s right to petition Congress in an “Appeal for Redress.”
In collaboration with other anti-war organizers, including 21-year-old Army Sgt. Liam Madden, Hutto helped organize and launch the official “Appeal for Redress” via a Web site.
The site, designed to serve as a petition-drive for the troops, is still in its infancy. It debuted on Oct. 23. Active or reserve, National Guard or Marine – all U.S. servicemen and women are eligible to attach their name to the appeal.
Simply stated, the appeal reads: “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.”
The site’s URL, www.appealforredress.org, has seen a lot of traffic since its recent conception. As of Nov. 1, more than 1,200 troops had attached their names to the online petition, according to Hutto. The names, all attached to the appeal, will be forwarded on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day to Congress. More specifically, each name will be forwarded to the representative of a soldier’s perspective voting district.
“We’ve had a tremendous response,” Hutto said on his day off in a phone interview from Norfolk, Va., where he is currently stationed. “In terms of the current Iraq war, this is definitely unprecedented.”
Led by soldiers who want to immediately end the occupation, Hutto dismissed the notion of his group’s organized ability to cause strife within the ranks of the military.
“It’s only about active duty service members expressing reservations,” he stressed in his distinction between the act of physically following orders and expressing dissent.
Hutto, who received an undergraduate degree in political science from Brown University, spoke clearly about the damage the Iraq war has already caused. He cited thousands of lives lost and a price tag of more than $340 billion as reason enough to vacate Iraq.
Hutto is critical of the war effort and said it has left America’s infrastructure vulnerable. He referenced Hurricane Katrina as one example of the U.S. government not being able to take care of its own.
“While people were dying in Louisiana, two-thirds of the National Guard was in Iraq ?We can’t get schools opened in New Orleans and Mississippi, but at the same time we’re trying to open them in Baghdad,” he said.
Still in its beginning phases, Hutto hopes to see “Appeal for Redress” quickly catch on within the ranks. And with 1.4 million soldiers in the U.S. Armed Forces, he realizes the scope of the task at hand. Hutto said 76 officers, four of whom are colonels, are also part of the group.
Also of interest is the U.S. government’s reaction to opposition within the ranks of its military.
While public affairs officials from the Department of Defense failed to return phone calls to the Daily Sundial, a Pentagon spokesman did issue a statement to an online magazine.
“The members of the Armed Forces are free to communicate with Congress in a lawful manner that does not violate the Uniform Code of Military Justice,” wrote Maj. Stewart Upton. The policy protects communication between military personnel and Congress.
Bill Galvin from the Center on Conscience and War said “Appeal for Redress” organizers were careful to organize the effort, and that military personnel must abide by strict guidelines in order to participate in an anti-war agenda.
“They can speak out as long as they’re not speaking for the military,” said the counseling coordinator from the center’s Maryland headquarters. “They also have to be off base, off duty and out of uniform.”
Galvin emphasized the importance of military personnel having the opportunity to voice their concerns. He said morale within the military is disturbingly low and that the majority of soldiers echo the sentiments of most of the American people who also say they are not for the war.
Indeed, a Zogby poll conducted earlier this year said 72 percent of American troops serving in Iraq thought the military should exit Iraq by the end of 2006.
The same poll also showed most soldiers – just like the American public – have been mislead as to why they think the U.S. went to Iraq in the first place. When asked, 85 percent said it was “to retaliate for Saddam Hussein’s role in the 9-11 attacks.”
Currently, there is no evidence the former dictator ever played a role in the attacks.
Reserve U.S. Air Force Airman Joshua Lemburg expressed his thoughts on what he said are “common misconceptions.” He said brand-new airmen – often kids just out of high school – can be especially ignorant.
“They got the impression of Saddam Hussein having something to do with 9-11 from gossip. A lot of these kids are not informed. They don’t vote, and when it comes to political discussions, they do not know what is going on,” he said, while also attributing blame to commanders who do not disseminate information down through the lower levels.
Lemburg, who recently earned the rank of E4 and was previously stationed in Kuwait and Japan, said he personally would not sign the “Appeal for Redress.”
Lemburg said he is not in favor of complete withdrawal of U.S. troops and bases, but that he would support a “slight withdrawal.”
In Northridge, CSUN students also shed light on the issue.
Sociology major Josh Angquico did not hesitate to sympathize with anti-Iraq war organizers.
“If you have a job and you do not like what is going on, you should be able to express your opinion to human relations or a manager,” he said.
Yet criminology major Eric Coats sees more of a conflict of interest.
“When you sign up for the military, you give up certain rights to receive privileges,” he said. Coats said the GI bill and money for college is reason enough or “incentive” for soldiers to do their job – no questions asked.
“When you sign up knowing there is a possibility of going to war, it’s almost like a binding contract,” he said. Yet he still acknowledged the importance of a democracy where everyone gets a chance to voice his or her concerns.
Eric Correa, a business law student, said, “If they’re first-hand witnesses, then they (soldiers) probably have a better idea of what is going on than the average American sitting on the couch.”
And if reports of lowered moral and an overall consensus of dissent are accurate, civilians and soldiers might have more in common than they thought.