Members of Military Make War Views Known Members of the armed services are prohibited from speaking out against the war in Iraq. The Uniform Code of Military Justice limits what they may say about political issues. But as opposition to the war mounts, some service members are finding ways to air their opinions.
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Members of Military Make War Views Known

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Members of Military Make War Views Known

Members of Military Make War Views Known

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

As Americans debate the war, Americans in uniform do not. At least they're not supposed to, not in public. But as NPR's Guy Raz reports, that is starting to change.

GUY RAZ: Many NPR listeners write in and wonder why we don't just ask soldiers stationed in Iraq to talk about their feelings on the Iraq war. Well, the short answer is because they're not allowed to. There is something called the Uniform Code of Military Justice and it restricts what service men and women may and may not say about orders and politics and so on, which is what makes the following voice so remarkable.

Unidentified Man: You know, this isn't really what we signed up to do. This isn't really what I believe America is about.

RAZ: This voice belongs to an Army intelligence officer speaking from his base in Iraq. What he's saying and what you'll hear from him in the story could land him in a military prison if he's identified. He's in uniform, he's on a military base, and he's in the middle of a deployment. And under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, he's not supposed to have this conversation, but he does.

Unidentified Man: As long as we're here, we're decimating our own military.

RAZ: The Army officer is in a nasty part of Iraq. It's his second tour there, and he explains his problem with the war this way.

Unidentified Man: There's no clearly defined enemy. We're not fighting a military - insurgents or terrorists, everybody we're shooting at, or defending ourselves from, is technically a civilian.

RAZ: And that's basically why this Army officer turned against the war. As I mentioned, it's his second deployment. During his first one, he says he accidentally shot a non-combatant, a civilian. The officer's convoy hit a roadside bomb. And in the chaos, he opened fire on a passing vehicle.

Unidentified Man: We were shooting at everything. And you know, a vehicle came up behind us really fast and we thought it was like a secondary attack, and I fired into the vehicle and I hit somebody and I didn't even mean to. I didn't -the vehicle was full; I mean I had no idea.

RAZ: Several months later, he came back to the United States and he decided to sign a petition calling for a withdrawal from Iraq. It's known as the Appeal for Redress, and all the signatories are active duty servicemen and women. Nearly 2,000 of them have now signed it. Most of them are veterans of the Iraq war like Lieutenant Commander Mark Dearden. He's a naval surgeon who served two tours in the country and he now wants Congress to end the war.

Lieutenant Commander MARK DEARDEN (U.S. Naval Surgeon): I really don't think it's the rule of the military to dictate policy. But the problem is, I don't think that anyone else have not invested in this to question. I don't see enough questioning going on among people who don't have, you know, a family member in the military or who aren't being asked to sacrifice anything.

RAZ: Dearden can speak openly because he spoke from his home, and he was out of uniform. Now the whole campaign has its critics among military bloggers, even among members of Congress. The Pentagon doesn't publicly comment on the petition or on Petty Officer Jonathan Hutto, who's behind it. He's 29 and he's now taking the campaign on the road.

(Soundbite of rally)

RAZ: This is Jonathan Hutto at an anti-war rally this past January. In the speech, he rails against what he calls an imperialist war. He calls it a war against the working class. Hutto's found a loophole in the Military Code of Justice. It's called the Military Whistleblower's Protection Act and it means any service member can legally petition their member of Congress for any reason. And they don't have to worry about punishment. I met Hutto a few weeks ago in Richmond, Virginia during another one of his lectures.

(Soundbite of applause)

RAZ: The turn out was modest, mostly aging hippies and a couple of Vietnam era draft dodgers. And throughout Hutto's speech, their heads were nodding in agreement.

Mr. JONATHAN HUTTO (U.S. Navy Officer): I don't believe that the Iraq war has provided freedom for the people of Iraq. The people of Iraq right now are caught up in a vicious civil war and our troops over there are caught in the middle of it. There's mayhem, sectarian violence every day that are claiming too many lives.

RAZ: Hutto's already served one tour in support of the Iraq war. He's signed up for the Navy through 2010. And though he fiercely opposes the war, he says he expects to return to the Persian Gulf some time next year when his unit is called back.

Guy Raz, NPR News.

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