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Vermont serviceman calls for U.S. troop withdrawal

By Christian Avard | Special to the Vermont Guardian

Posted October 25, 2006

Editor's Note: This story was updated at 6 p.m. to reflect reaction from U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, and to reflect additional military members who have sent appeals to Congress.

WASHINGTON — For the first time since the invasion of Iraq, active-duty members of the military are asking members of Congress to end the occupation and bring U.S. soldiers home.

Today in Washington, three active duty servicemen, including one who spoke on the condition of anonymity, and a retired military judge advocate general (JAG) filed an appeal of redress through a whistleblower provision in military law.

A few days ago, 65 military service members and National Guardsmen sent “Appeals for Redress” to urge members of Congress an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.

Under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act, active-duty military, National Guard and reservists can send a protected communication to a member of Congress regarding any subject without reprisal.

What began as 65 servicemen and servicewomen has now reached nearly 350, with more than 125 of them on active duty.

The idea for the redress appeals originated January when Seaman Jonathan Hutto of Atlanta, GA, was deployed to Iraq.

An old buddy of his, who was a member of the G.I. movement to resist the Vietnam War back in the early 1970s, sent him a 30th anniversary copy of Soldiers in Revolt written by David Cortright. The book chronicles the G.I. movement within the military during the Vietnam War who advocated to end that war and bring the troops home. One of the avenues they used was appealing to their political leaders in Washington.

By 1971 more than 250,000 of these active duty servicemen appealed to Congress. Reading this gave Hutto an inspiration to speak out.

One of the active service members who has taken Hutto’s lead is a Vermonter.

Marine Corps Sgt. Liam Madden of Rockingham spoke to the media today after filing the redress, expressing his support for the effort because he opposes the war the Iraq.

“None of the Marines know that there is a policy available to them and that it’s everybody’s duty to support democracy and do it much more effectively than we are in exercising these rights in Iraq,” said Madden.

Madden, like others in the group, does not consider himself a pacifist, a conscientious objector, and is not urging any action that may be deemed illegal.

But he and others are saying to family, friends, and other active duty members that military whistleblower protection gives members of the military the right to send an appeal to a member of Congress without any fear of reprisal.

“The real grievances are if democracy is our goal than I believe we are going about it all wrong. The occupation is perpetuating more violence and I think it is the biggest de-stabilizing thing we can do to the Middle East. It’s costing way too many human lives — Iraqi civilians and American service member lives — and brings us no benefits,” Madden said. “The only people who benefit in my eyes are corporations like Halliburton. I don’t think that the war is being paid for in the right manner, and I think that if people want to support the troops then they should support us coming home.”

Madden serves in the U.S. Marine Corps and is stationed in Quantico, VA. He is a 2002 graduate of Bellows Falls High School and is the son of Oona Madden, former owner of Oona’s restaurant in Bellows Falls,and the brother of Darry Madden, a reporter for the Brattleboro Reformer.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy praised Madden's courage.

"This is a soldier who has the courage of his convictions to speak out about a war that has been a disaster for our country. Sgt. Madden is an American patriot. I wish officials in the White House and the Pentagon who got us into this fiasco had a fraction of his honesty and courage," said Leahy. "This whistle-blowing effort is symptomatic of a larger level of concern over the leadership of this war that increasingly is felt by those serving throughout our military services. Our fine soldiers, airmen, and Marines who are carrying out the White House's policies know full well that this war has been mishandled from the start."

Leahy said Madden joins a long tradition of military personnel who have spoken out when they have become concerned about the conduct of a war — from World War I to Vietnam.