We speak with Fernando Suarez, whose son, Marine Lance Cpl Jesus Suarez, was one of the first U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq on March 27, 2003 and we hear a speech by Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia’s aunt Norma Castillo speaking at a demonstration at Fort Bragg this weekend. Mejia surrendered to U.S. military police last week after being on the run for five months for refusing to go back to Iraq to fight. [includes rush transcript]
One year into the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq, more than 570 American soldiers have been killed with many thousands more wounded.
Marine Lance Cpl Jesus Suarez was one of the first U.S. servicemen killed in the war on March 27, 2003. His father, Fernando Suarez del Solar has become a leading antiwar voice and was one of the speakers in the antiwar demonstrations in New York City this weekend.
- Fernando Suarez del Solar, father of Marine Lance Cpl Jesus Suarez who was killed in Iraq on March 27, 2003.
- Norma Castillo, aunt of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia speaking in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Mejia surrendered to U.S. military police after being on the run for five months for refusing to go back to Iraq to fight. Special thanks to Brandon Jourdan at NYC IMC Video.
This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.
AMY GOODMAN: Fernando Suarez. Welcome to Democracy Now!.
FERNANDO SUAREZ: Thank you. Thank you for your invitation.
AMY GOODMAN: Tell us what you told the crowd. Tell us what you told the protesters.
FERNANDO SUAREZ: For the last protest here in New York, I feel in this beautiful city of thousands and thousands of people in New York and a million people around the world say, "Stop. No more war. No more blood." But at the same time I feel very bad because when everybody is here saying, "Stop the war," more boys in Iraq are dying. More children, Iraqis, are dying, only because Mr. Bush lied.
AMY GOODMAN: How did your son die? In Iraq, how did he die?
FERNANDO SUAREZ: Jesus died in Iraq on March 27, but the Bush [Administration] lied to me again and told me that Jesus died when he received a shot in the head.
AMY GOODMAN: You are saying that the Bush Administration lied when they told you that he received a shot in the head. — You’re saying that the Bush Administration lied to you?
FERNANDO SUAREZ: Yes. About the — about what happens to my son in Iraq.
AMY GOODMAN: What happened?
FERNANDO SUAREZ: According to Bush, the administration, my son died when he received a shot in the head in combat fighting the enemy. But the truth is very different. The truth is Jesus stepped on an American cluster bomb and waited almost two hours for medical help. My question is why did the administration lie to me? To cover the negligence? I understand why.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you learn how he really died?
FERNANDO SUAREZ: I made my trip to Iraq last December. I go to the Governor and the members of the one television in U.S.A. who was with my son when it happened, and he had the whole truth about this story and showed me his story.
AMY GOODMAN: You’re now going around the country, especially speaking to young people, people who might consider joining the military. What are you telling them?
FERNANDO SUAREZ: I go to the high schools and I say to the boys, "I am not coming here for saying 'no enter the military system,' no. I come here and am going to say what is the other face of the military system? Recruiters don’t lie, but the recruiters must say the whole truth. There’s a difference." I explain what is the difference about the money for school, for example. The recruiters claim it’s the same money, salary, for all of the boys, et cetera, et cetera, and I tell a little bit of my son’s story. When I finish, I say, "We don’t need the recruiting inside the schools." Somebody enters the military, goes out of the school, cross the street, go to the office and sign opinion. But the school is for students and not for military. Be careful. In the school, you serve your country, in the military, you service one person.
AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Fernando Suarez del Solar. You were in New York. There were many people outside of fort Bragg and perhaps the largest protest there since the Vietnam War. People like people like you, who lost loved ones in Iraq, people, also, whose sons and daughters are questioning what they are doing there, and we wanted to play an excerpt of one of those protests for you.
NORMA CASTILLO: On behalf of my nephew, Staff Sergeant Mejia, who has been restricted to his base, Camilo, has been to war as a soldier. When he was in Iraq, he saw no weapons of mass destruction. He saw no chemical weapons. He saw no reconstruction. What he saw was innocent people being killed. Destruction in a nation being humiliated. He wanted me to read this to you: "I would like to thank everyone for coming here today. I cannot get tired of saying that what I have done and what you people are doing today is something that goes far beyond one man, or even one nation. We are asking for an end to a war that represents a crime against all mankind. We are doing this for the soldiers and their families who are victims of this war. We are doing this for the people of Iraq, who are being oppressed for the oil. We are doing this for humanity, which has already paid a high price for this in every war. Thank you for uniting with me with this cause, which is the cause of peace. Pray with me to put an end to this and every war." Now I want to invite you to pray with me something that my nephew used to pray every night before he went to sleep in Iraq, if he could go to sleep. This is what he prayed. I want to invite the people outside to pray with me. "Dear lord, thank you for allowing me to live one more day. Forgive me for all of my sins, for all of the things that I should have said and done but did not. I ask you to soften the hearts of our leaders and to soften the hearts of those who attack us. Let there be no more war, and put an end to all violence. Protect my comrades and protect all of those who are affected by this war. Give comfort to the families of the dead and wounded. Give them the wisdom to accept your decision. Put peace in their hearts. Should you decide to take me from this world, I will accept your will. Give strength to my family, and protect my little girl. Let there be peace in all the world. Thank you, God. Sincerely and deeply yours, Camilo."
AMY GOODMAN: That was the aunt of Staff Sergeant Camilo Mejia, Norma Castillo speaking at Fort Bragg this weekend. Staff Sergeant Mejia of the Florida National Guard surrendered to the U.S. Military Police last Monday. He had been on the run five months after he refused to return to Iraq. As we wrap up this segment, Fernando Suarez, you were originally born in Mexico. So many of the soldiers in Iraq are men and women of color. Your response:
FERNANDO SUAREZ: Oh, yes. There’s hundreds and hundreds of people are from Latino America only with green cards like Camilo. He serves in the army but does not have any guarantee for nothing. It’s the same problem de Camilo, the father is in Nicaragua, the mother is here, and they have families without papers, and he can’t help the families. It is ridiculous. You are working for the Air Force. You need American status to enter, you need American status to enter the military. Everybody is welcome.
AMY GOODMAN: Fernando Suarez, thank you for being with us.