MELISSA BLOCK, host:
In Washington today, active-duty members of the U.S. armed services presented more than a thousand appeals for redress to Congress. These are letters urging U.S. disengagement from Iraq.
Here's NPR's David Welna from the Capitol.
DAVID WELNA: Liam Madden is a 22-year-old sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps who two years ago did combat duty in Iraq's turbulent Anbar province. Today, Sergeant Madden donned a civilian coat and tie in a chilling wind outside the Capitol so he could formally present 1,028 appeals for redress from other active-duty forces, 60 percent of them fellow Iraq veterans.
Sergeant LIAM MADDEN (U.S. Marine Corps): We are asking Congress to stop the funding for the Iraq War. We will not tolerate the rhetoric that we must support the troops by funding a war that puts them in harm's way. If you are funding a war that puts them in harm's way, you are not supporting them. You are endangering their lives for war that cannot be justified, have not been justified and will not work.
WELNA: The actual text of the appeals for redress says, quote, "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 it's not worth the price," unquote.
Twenty-four-year-old California Army National Guard Sergeant Jabar McGruder(ph), who also fought two years ago in Iraq, came in civilian dress as well and said he had not told his commander about the appeal he had signed.
Sergeant JABAR MCGRUDER (Army National Guard): I know why I was fighting in Iraq. I wanted somebody to get this movement going. I wanted to see things here at home changed to get back to common sense and actually speak about, you know, bringing the troops home and actually getting out of Iraq. So I know that there are troops in Iraq right now who must see this on ASN and know that they are - that we had their best interests in mind, especially since we put our boots on ground.
WELNA: Ohio Democrat Dennis Kucinich, a long time opponent of the war and who's also a presidential contender, received the appeals for redress saying since lawmakers sent people to Iraq and asked them to die, those people have a right to ask why.
Representative DENNIS KUCINICH (Democrat, Ohio): Article 3.5.7 of Department of Defense Directive 132.6 provides the right of service members to complain and request redress of grievances against action of their commanders. The action taken here by individual service members is an appeal for redress to end the war in Iraq. As you know, these troops have risked their careers to deliver this message to Congress.
WELNA: But the identities of most of those who signed the appeals won't be revealed, according to Sergeant Madden, who co-founded the drive to collect signatures.
Sgt. MADDEN: Although what we're doing is public, the appeal goes directly -it's a protected communications to the service members, members of Congress. Their chain of command does not know. Members around the military don't have to worry about reprisal.
WELNA: And none of the three active-duty service members who were at the Capitol Hill event reported any reprisals from military superiors. Massachusetts Democrat Jim McGovern promised them Congress will act on their demands since, he said, President Bush won't.
Representative JIM MCGOVERN (Democrat, Massachusetts): What you need to do in the face of that kind of arrogance of power is you need to get Congress to stand up and to demand an end to this war. And if that means conditioning, withholding or cutting the funds, that's what we need to do.
WELNA: That's exactly how Congress ended U.S. involvement in Vietnam 32 years ago. Vietnam veteran David Klein(ph) told the active-duty service members that their Vietnam-era counterparts had also signed petitions.
Mr. DAVID KLEIN (Vietnam Veteran): So we are seeing a repeat of history. The war in Iraq is a repeat of the Vietnam War, well I'm proud to say that are fighting men and women are repeating what we did back in the '60s and '70s in standing up for what's right.
WELNA: The appeals for redress are to be delivered to the House clerk and referred to the proper committees.
David Welna, NPR News, the Capitol.
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