Mexican Parents of GIs in Iraq: 'Bring Our Children Home'
by Diego Cevallos
December 4, 2003
"Our children must come home, and not keep dying in this absurd military occupation," says Mexican Fernando Suárez, whose son, a U.S. citizen, was killed in Iraq in the first days of the war.
"I'm in Iraq to express support for the people and to tell the soldiers from the United States, and especially the Latinos, to return home, to stop this military madness," Suárez said Wednesday in a telephone interview with IPS.
The 48-year-old Mexican, who emigrated to the United States in the mid-1990s without proper migration documents, lost his only son, Jesús, in March. The soldier, 20, stepped on a landmine just days after arriving in Iraq as a member of the invading forces.
As a result of his son's death, Suárez left his business and became an activist, joining organizations that are demanding the withdrawal of the US troops from Iraq. He is currently visiting Baghdad as part of that campaign.
"Hundreds of soldiers from the United States have died since the war began in March many of the victims are of Latin American descent and all because of decisions of that Mr. (George W.) Bush, the one they call president," he said.
Like many of the 120,000 soldiers of Latin American descent who are in the US army, Suárez's son enlisted, motivated by the offer of US citizenship and access to university scholarships and credits.
"The death of Jesús was the worst that could happen to my family, and the same has happened to others, who have also lost their sons. But this helped me understand that if civil society does not mobilize, the deaths of so many brave young people will continue," he said.
Suárez arrived in Baghdad on Monday and will stay until Sunday, part of a group of nine people, mostly US activists.
The team is visiting hospitals, childcare centers and humanitarian assistance sites. The tour is financed by the non-governmental organization Global Exchange, based in the western US city of San Francisco.
"Everything here is chaos, nobody seems to want war, but at the same time people are frenetically dedicated to their work and commercial activities," he said.
While he spoke with IPS by phone, Suárez was visiting a children's hospital in the Iraqi capital. He presented them with 3,000 letters written by US children offering solidarity and condemning war.
The Mexican activist, who after his son died said he regretted having emigrated to the United States, denounced the Bush government for pegging him as mad and ungrateful just because he is part of the antiwar campaign.
"I tell them here that the people of the United States don't want the occupation of Iraq, that this is entirely the responsibility of a lying government that is headed by an illegitimate president who has turned a handful of inexperienced soldiers into victims and assassins."
Suárez points to what he calls Bush's illegitimate presidency, referring to the reports of irregularities in his favor in the vote count of the southeastern US state of Florida, governed by his brother, Jeb Bush. It was the Florida votes that ultimately put Bush in the nation's highest office.
Approximately 30,000 of the 140,000 US soldiers currently in Iraq are of Latin American origin. Also from this region, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic have sent 1,144 members of their armed forces to take part in the occupation effort.
According to US government figures, more than 400 of its soldiers have died since the war began in March, including an estimated 150 Latinos, say activists.
The United States led the invasion, with British backing, with the goal of removing Saddam Hussein from power. That objective was achieved, but gave way to a situation of military occupation that will continue until, says Washington, the Arab nation is safe and establishes a clear path towards democracy.
The occupation has met with aggressive resistance by pro-Saddam groups, whose surprise attacks and suicide bombings have claimed the lives of dozens of soldiers, civilians and diplomats from various countries.
Wednesday, the base of the Honduran forces came under fire in the southern Iraqi city of Najaf. In Tegucigalpa, President Ricardo Maduro expressed concern about the attack, but said he would not withdraw the Honduran soldiers.
Suárez, meanwhile, says that "young Latinos shouldn't enlist in the US army, which hooks them with promises and lies. Their place is in schools and universities."
"My son let himself be fooled. That's how he joined an army that killed him, that deprived him of the best of life. This must not happen to others. We must say it loud, we must shout it!"
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