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Active duty troops press Congress to end U.S. presence in Iraq

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In an extraordinary move, 65 active duty members of the military are asking members of Congress to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq and bring American soldiers home. These individuals have each sent what is called an "Appeal for Redress", a communication that is legally protected from any reprisal by the Military Whistle-Blower Protection Act (DoD directive 7050.6), asking that Congress act to redeploy U.S. troops from Iraq.

While military (and intelligence) professionals have special restrictions on speech and expression while serving, under military law, members of the armed forces are free to make this kind of protected communication to members of Congress without fear of sanction from command authorities.

It's obviously important for national defense personnel to have different standards than the average citizen, but this seems to me an appropriate and provocative action, indicating the widespread dissatisfaction regarding the scope and direction of our presence in Iraq within the military. U.S. forces are far smarter and better informed than many of our nation's civilian leaders give them credit for, and they know when they're being lied to just like anybody else -- more so, perhaps, because they've seen the failures and the incompetence up close and personal.

There are, of course, many soldiers who support the war. There is no shortage of opinions within the armed forces, but for such a large number to take such a strong, public step speaks volumes. It also may reinforce polling done last February indicating that 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year (i.e., a year from eight months ago).

Iraq is a disaster, our presence isn't making it better, and more and more people know it. This election is turning out to be an emperor-has-no-clothes moment for the Bush administration's Middle East policies, and deservedly so.

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