After participating in the peace march last weekend, Tina sought to meet Missouri US Senators Claire McCaskill and Kit Bond. Tina spoke on 1/30 with a man identifying himself as Sen. Bond's military legislative adviser, to whom Tina explained her son's recall despite seeking treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from prior Iraq tours. The aide responded that Sen. Bond would act on Cloy's behalf to keep him from being reactivated, and Tina then asked about the thousands of other men and women still slated to go Iraq. The response: Bond continues to support George Bush and his policies, repeating exactly what was told to a room full of Missourians the day before.
Tina's appointment at the McCaskill office (granted a full 3 weeks after requesting it) yielded only a disappointing cold shoulder from Senator' staff, and even though McCaskill had requested Cloy appear in a commercial last year. Likewise, Tina's friend Stacy Hafley, also of MFSO, reported leaving McCaskill's office in tears after receiving rude treatment from a staffer. Tina's particular consternation with McCaskill is the Senator's support of the current Warner-Levine resolution against further troop buildup, as it shields President Bush from rebuke for his policies.
Her meetings with senatorial staff unsatisfactory, Tina went on to interrupt the Senate Judiciary Panel on 1/30 to make her voice heard [NPR, NYTimes , KWTX], interrupting Senator Orrin Hatch as he explained his opposition to the current resolution against troop buildup in Iraq. Countering Sen. Hatch's assertion that resolution would send the wrong message to troops already in Iraq, Tina said “supporting the troops is defending the war." Tina felt that Sen. Hatch deserved rebuttal for his staunch support of the war (as opposed to the troops themselves), and she felt vindicated by the fact the Sen. Russ Feingold (who gavels the panel) let her continue to her speak. She also disagrees with the NYTimes article stating Sen. Hatch “expressed sympathy” to her.
Tina now seeks to confront the Senate and House Defense Appropriation Sub-Committees over their continued war funding. As of 2/1 she had visited all Senators' office and was starting on the Representatives, making sure to leave behind a printed copy of Cloy's poem about survivor guilt. She is diligently pushing for the opportunity to testify during Congressional proceedings, rather than risk cheapening her message by speaking out of turn.
Tina is not alone in her mission. St Louis Instead of War and the Center for Theology and Social Analysis are joining with Voices for Creative Nonviolence in Chicago for the Occupation Project, a “nationwide direct action campaign” starting on 2/5/07 to push for “safe and expeditious withdrawal of U.S. troops immediately.” In particular, the 8week campaign will involve “sustained nonviolent civil disobedience at the offices of Representatives and Senators who do not publicly pledge to vote against war funding.” To get involved, tel (314) 725-5303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com .
Tina and Cloy Richards, Background
Raised in a military family in Salem, MO, Tina is Events Coordinator for the veteran's peace group Military Families Speak Out (MFSO). She runs the non-profit Grassroots Missouri, “dedicated to taking back the 8th Congressional District county by county,” and she helped organize the Missouri bus convoy to the DC peach march. Tina worked tirelessly to help Cloy connect with other veterans opposed to war, and she encouraged him to find his own voice of indignation and outrage. Tina's opposition to the war has come at a considerable cost, as she was fired from her job with the Democratic Party for speaking out. Likewise, her current, unplanned vigil in DC has left her life and family back in Missouri in limbo. Graciously, Tina has received generous support for her vigil from new friends, from members of United for Peace and Justice in Mount Rainer, MD, and she has been contacted by many other military families pleading for her to stay in DC.
Cloy, a U.S. Marine with the 111th Artillery Division who served 2 horrific tours in Iraq, went “on 'shake-and-bake' missions in Nazaria and Fallujah that employed white phosphorous munitions against women and children, and he witnessed the death of a fellow Marine to a car bomb when he took Cloy's position on guard duty.” [IOW]. Cloy spoke publicly about his “long journey from warrior to peacemaker” at a St. Louis Declaration of Peace (DOP) event in September 2006 [video], relating the weight on his conscious and own sense of morals after being told he could possibly serve a 3rd term in Iraq. Cloy also spoke in August 2006 at Camp() Casey on behalf of Iraq Veterans Against the War, reading a letter from Ehren Watada, the lieutenant who faces trial for refusing orders to Iraq.
At the St. Louis DOP event, Cloy described his “long journey to reclaim his humanity,” explaining how the loss of returning soldiers' conscience is a vastly underreported causality of the war. “I can't forget … they told me were taking out advancing Iraq force [in Fallijuah]. When we went to go inspect the bodies, there only women and children desperately trying to flee their homes.” He described how his little brother, who joined the California National Guard and was sent to Iraq for year, has since isolated himself from everyone but one close friend, and now suffers nightmares about his tour. “All [other returning Marines] can do is bounce from job to job, drink, do drugs, and contemplate suicide to end the pain.”
Both Tina and Cloy Richards have devoted themselves to empowering more members of the military to speak out. They've shown poignantly what 2 people can accomplish, and they've shown that the end of this war will come not from legislators, but from dedicated individuals building coalitions and taking direct action to bring peace and human decency.
Contact: Ateqah Khaki, Riptide Communications, (917) 612-5657
Nancy Lessin, Military Families Speak Out, 617-320-5301
Military Mom Speaks Out at Senate Judiciary Hearing: Support Our Troops by De-Funding the Iraq War!
Washington, D.C. At the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing considering Congress's war powers held on Tuesday, January 30, 2007, Military Families Speak Out member Tina Richards from Salem, Missouri, seized the opportunity to tell Senators that the most supportive thing they can do for U.S. troops is defund the war in Iraq. Ms. Richards came to Washington, D.C. last week to join Military Families Speak Out members from 31 states at Saturday's Iraq War protest, and call on Congress to support our troops by voting against the upcoming supplemental appropriation that will allow the war to continue. She had planned to spend today sight-seeing in Washington, D.C. Instead, after receiving a call from her son telling her he had just been contacted by a Marine mobilization unit to prepare for a possible third deployment to Iraq despite his Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Ms. Richards decided to attend today's Senate Judiciary Hearing.
During the hearing entitled "Exercising Congress's Constitutional Power to End a War", Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah said that opposing President Bush's new mission would demoralize U.S. troops and send the message that they are no longer being supported. Tina Richards stood up in the hearing room and told Senator Hatch that she is the proud mother of a Marine who is now facing a third deployment to Iraq, and that the best way to support her son and all of our troops is to end the funding that will allow the war to continue.
To speak with Tina Richards and other military families who are calling on Congress to de-fund the war in Iraq,
Freedom of speech - Use it or lose it
When they took away the 4th Amendment,
we were quiet,
because we didn't deal drugs.
When they took away the 6th Amendment,
we were quiet,
because we were innocent.
When they took away the 2nd Amendment,
we were quiet,
because we don't own guns.
Now they have taken away the 1st Amendment,
and very soon,
If we continue to be quiet,
we will have no choice,
BUT to continue to be quiet.
Notes from United for Progress Radio 12/9/06 interview with Tina Richards:
Cloy, upon being thanked for his service: “If you want to thank me, throw out this Congress and send George Bush a message than we need our troops home.” MFSO goes out into communities to raise awareness of what service members and their families actually experience, to relate to others the personal impact of a war otherwise only experienced from media coverage.
Cloy, during 2nd deployment in Fallujah: “They're making me kill women and children; I can't live with this.” Son's return from 2nd deployment really communicated to her the horrors he experienced during his tour, and the profound crises of conscience and mental anguish caused by his duties. Made very clear to her the apparent apathy of her son's commanding officers to his welfare.
Tina, March 2006, invited son to a march in New Orleans held by Iraq Veterans Against War, MFSO, and Veterans for Peace. Cloy met other Iraq veterans there and realized that his experiences during the war, and tragic personal consequences like PTSD, were shared by many other service members. This inspired Cloy to begin speaking about his hellish experiences, especially deaths witnessed during the siege of Fallujah, and to begin speaking out against the war.
Tina related how the Cloy encountered callous attitudes from VA counselors, e.g. how they blamed his current mental anguish on his childhood. Likewise, grossly inadequate treatment of his physical injuries by VA hospital because of lacking funds w.r.t. to the huge influx of injured veterans.
Now, on the 4th anniversary of the war, Tina can not forgive George Bush for his continued lack of preparedness.
An inglorious peace is better than a dishonorable war.