Veterans want troops to come home
By J.J. Andrews
Steve Brown remembers patrolling Vietnam waters as part of the U.S. CGC Androscoggin in 1967-68.
As a member of the U.S. Coast Guard, Brown believed in his mission during his 11-month tour of duty.
And then some time after the Tet Offensive in 1968, Brown believes the battles went from being waged for military goals to political goals. The local legal assistant sees much of the same going on now in Iraq, which is why he joined Florida Veterans for Common Sense.
“We support our troops, but we think the reasons we went there were misleading to the public,” Brown said. “Things that were previously being stated as the case are not the case. And these poor kids … I’d hate to see another thing like Vietnam that drug on and drug on as a political thing rather than what it was meant for.”
In step with President George Bush’s inauguration Thursday, Florida Veterans for Common Sense came out stating troops in Iraq should be brought home.
More than 1,350 troops have died, thousands more have been wounded and they accuse the administration of misleading the public and militaries.
“The administration knew, or should have known, that Saddam had no operational ties to Al Qaeda, and was a secular enemy of Osama Bin Laden,” according to the group’s official position. “The administration chose to invade Iraq, and now the CIA confirms that Iraq has become, since our invasion, a recruiting and training ground for fundamentalist, religious terrorists.”
Sarasota resident Gene Jones is the spokesperson for the Manatee and Sarasota county area of Florida Veterans for Common Sense. A veteran of the U.S. Air Force from 1965 to 1969, the Florida chapter got started during election season when a branch of Veterans of Foreign Wars supported the reelection of U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris.
As a nonprofit, VFW cannot endorse candidates, but this subdivision of VFW made it look that way, according to Jones.
“This (political action committee) out of Washington, D.C., backed Katherine Harris,” Jones said. “We thought, who are these people? We’re veterans and they’re not speaking for us.”
The organization is still reaching out to other, more established veterans groups like VFW and American Legion in which the majority of members support President Bush.
Jones said the common bond of military service links all veterans, regardless of political beliefs.
“We’ve come to this problem (in Iraq) with experience,” Jones said. “We have a lot of combat veterans, former POWs. So, (other veterans) may not agree with us, but they certainly have to respect us.”
Florida Veterans for Common Sense is not part of the national group by the same name. Jones said this is a coincidence, but the two groups are working to merge together. The national group formed in 2002, according to its Web site.
Goals for both groups are to bring current troops home, improve the image of America overseas and remain true to national ideals.
“International respect for America is at an all-time low due to the policies of this administration,” according to its statement. “In Iraq, the best estimates are that we have killed as many as 100,000 civilians. We have used collective punishment. We have destroyed Fallujah. We have tortured prisoners. Such behavior is contrary to American ideals and morality.”
On the Web
The national Web site of Veterans for Common Sense is veteransforcommonsense.org. The local chapter for veterans is still erecting its online site. Its e-mail address is [email protected].