Philadelphia resident Celeste Zappala carried a life-size poster of a photo of her 30-year-old son Sherwood Baker at the January 20 inauguration of US President George Bush. Baker had been killed in Iraq last April 26.
"There are 1370 American soldiers dead, 10,000 soldiers injured and at least 100,000 Iraqi people dead", Zappala told the Los Angeles Times. "A country has been destroyed, and we make new enemies every day, but we never see the coffins coming back because there has been a deliberate effort to sanitise the war."
Speaking of herself and other mothers of slain US soldiers protesting the war at Bush's US$40 million inauguration celebrations, Zappala said: "We're here as witnesses to what the real costs are. You know our family's been demolished by this, and my grandson grows up without a father. That's what the war means... Is this the time to spend $40 million for flowing champagne and caviar? While they're partying in fur coats at balls, blood will be shed in Iraq."
The mothers of US troops deployed to Iraq to carry out the US rulers' brutal war against the Iraqi people are increasingly organising to oppose the war. One of the latest and most inspiring manifestations of this is the formation of Gold Star Families for Peace, an organisation of mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who have lost a relative in the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq.
The name of the group is a variation on American Gold Star Mothers, a group for mothers of slain soldiers that dates from the 1920s.
Describing the formation of Gold Star Families for Peace, an article in the February 22 Washington Post reported that the 50 families that it consists of "stumbled upon one another through the Internet and through Military Families Speak Out, an antiwar group for families with loved ones serving in Iraq".
From their grief, these people are taking action to try to stop the carnage. Their mission is to bring an end to the occupation of Iraq and to be a support group for gold star families. They also aim to raise awareness of the true human and other costs of the war in Iraq.
The Post article recounted the experience of one member of Gold Star Families for Peace: "Diane Santoriello, who teaches troubled elementary school students in Pittsburgh, knew her son would be sent abroad. First Lt. Neil Anthony Santoriello Jr. had joined the Army after high school.
"'He wanted this as a career from the time he was in fifth grade, though he knew I wasn't crazy about it', she said. Neil had been an Eagle Scout, along with friends who joined the Army with him. 'Nine scouts that were with my son are currently in uniform', Santoriello said. 'His two best friends are over in Mosul right now.' Like other Gold Star families, she recalls that her son began to express disillusionment over Iraq. 'Some of his men had to go to civilian websites to get boots', she said. 'He did not have enough parts for his tanks.' Neil, who had married his college sweetheart at 22, was killed on Aug. 13, one month shy of his 25th birthday.
"He was very interested in government and politics', his mother told the Post. "We all knew that he was going to change our country in some way. Maybe I consider what I'm doing now a way of carrying on his work."
We should all be carrying on this work in the lead-up to the international days of action to end the war on March 19-21.
Let us not forget the courageous words of Margaret Pardoel, mother of the only Australian killed to date in Iraq. Flight Lieutenant Paul Pardoel, aged 35, died in a military plane crash in Iraq on January 30. Margaret Pardoel told ABC Radio's AM program on February 1 that she felt her son's life was wasted. She had opposed the invasion of Iraq and was always fearful her son would be killed. "I don't think this should have gone on", she said. "I think it's just cold-blooded murder."
The Australian Associated Press reported that same day: "The mother of the first Australian combatant killed in the Iraq conflict condemned the war as officials in Canberra said the death would not dilute their commitment to the US-led campaign."
Other military families in Australia need to join with the anti-war groups to demand that our troops come home — before there are any more deaths.
@auth. = Lara Pullin
[The author is a member of the Canberra branch of the Socialist Alliance.]
From Green Left Weekly, March 2, 2005.
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