We speak with Sue Niederer, the mother of U.S. Army Lt. Seth Dvorin, 24, who was killed in Iraq in February. Niederer was arrested Thursday after disrupting a speech by first lady Laura Bush while wearing a T-shirt that bore a picture of Seth with the caption "President Bush You Killed My Son." [includes rush transcript]
Police have dropped charges against the mother of a slain soldier who was arrested on Thursday when she interrupted a campaign speech by first lady Laura Bush.
At the rally, Sue Niederer of Hopewell, New Jersey, wore a T-Shirt that read "President Bush You Killed My Son" The shirt bore a picture of her son Army Lt. Seth Dvorin who was killed in February while trying to disarm a roadside bomb. He was 24 years old.
Sue Niederer interrupted the first lady to ask why her son was killed in Iraq. She was quickly boxed in by Bush supporters who began chanting "Four more years!" Secret Service agents surrounded her and escorted her away. Once outside, she began speaking to reporters about what she said to interrupt Laura Bush.
- Sue Niederer, speaking to reporters after being escorted outside Laura Bush’s speech.
Soon after she began speaking to reporters, Sue Niederer was handcuffed, placed in a police van and charged with trespassing. The charges against her have since been dismissed.
- Sue Niederer, her son, Army Lt. Seth Dvorin was killed in Iraq on February 3, 2004 while trying to disarm a bomb.
AMY GOODMAN: Sue Niederer joins us on the phone from Hopewell, New Jersey. Welcome to Democracy Now!
SUE NIEDERER: Good morning, and thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you tell us what happened Thursday?
SUE NIEDERER: You did a very good synopsis of what happened, except the fact that once surrounded, the pushing and shoving by her secret service, and the indecency of her supporters shoving the place cards in my face and not allowing me to walk out as I stated I would, on my own, was just the same thing that I would have — was what I expected out of the Bush campaign: no tolerance. You cannot have your own freedom of speech. Do not speak out. When stating my question to Laura Bush, which was basically the fact of why aren’t your children, congressmen, senators, legislators, why aren’t any of them serving in the armed forces overseas, if this is such a justified war, and a war on terrorism that you feel that we are winning? Even though, you know, this is a volunteer army, why don’t they volunteer to go serve their country in a time of its great need, if this war is a war that they have voted for, and they feel is justified and proper.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s go to the videotape of your addressing reporters outside of Laura Bush’s speech on Thursday.
SUE NIEDERER: My two questions were one, why are no congressmen’s, legislators’, senators’ and/or George Bush’s children serving in this war? Please do not insult me by saying that you have to enlist. If they thought this was a war that was justified, they would have their children over serving in Iraq. That was question number one. Number two is a very simple question. Where is the exit strategy to get us out of Iraq?
AMY GOODMAN: That was Sue Niederer on Thursday. What was the response outside of the classic, and they did this at the Republican National Convention, as well. Each time someone protested, people would surround the protester, the delegates, and start chanting, "Four more years," and cover them with pro-Bush signs. But was there anyone who voiced sympathy for you?
SUE NIEDERER: Yes. There was a gentleman in there who, ironically speaking to in general, and his son and my son served together. And as they were physically taking me out of the rally, this gentleman said, "What are you doing? Why are you taking her out? She is a mother." He was the only gentleman that stood up, basically, for me.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us a little about your son, Seth Dvorin. Why did he go into the military?
SUE NIEDERER: How did he go into the military? He had been recruited from when he was in high school, and the recruiter kept calling him through college and finally got him with his wonderful salesmanship, his lies, his deception, and the statement that gets me the most is the fact of Seth had said that since he was going in, and would be going to officer candidate school rather than just going in on the lowest level, the recruiter stated to him, "Officers don’t see the front lines if there is a war." Now, remember, Seth joined when there wasn’t any war or any thought of a war. Well, my son was killed on the front line, taking a bomb for the 18 men that he saved, so, yes, he is a hero. The recruiters are a bunch of wonderful salesmen who lie, and deceive the young and the innocent.
AMY GOODMAN: Your son wanted to go into the C.I.A. or F.B.I.?
SUE NIEDERER: That’s correct. That’s what he really wanted, and his recruiter said this would be a very good way for him to gear himself up, and would look wonderful on his resume to become an F.B.I. or a C.I.A. agent.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, you asked your son to get the promises of the recruiter in writing?
SUE NIEDERER: Yes, I did. I said to him, "Seth, you know, they’re promising you the world, and my feeling is it’s salesmanship," and I said, "Seth, I want to see the papers before you sign them. I want to take them to an attorney, and I want to have them read." He went back to his recruiter, asked them for the papers, and his recruiter basically said to him, "Does your mother wear your pants? Sign on the dotted line." It’s embarrassment. And my son signed.
AMY GOODMAN: When was the last time you spoke with your son or received a letter from him, or email?
SUE NIEDERER: Well, we got a voicemail from him the day — about a day or two before he was killed, and we — he said he had written a letter, and we received that letter right after, about a week after he was killed. In the most horrifying portion of that is in that letter, he said, "Mom, Dad," which is my husband, Greg, he said, "I want to go to where you and dad got married in the park and propose to Kelly in the proper manner and get married in the park because, Mom, I really thought it was one of the most beautiful weddings, and I want to do the same thing for Kelly." And that just broke my husband and I into crying and tears. We just broke down when we read that letter.
AMY GOODMAN: How did your son respond to your opposition to the invasion in the war?
SUE NIEDERER: How did he — he didn’t. He had already been deceased.
AMY GOODMAN: Had you been active at all before?
SUE NIEDERER: No. I had expressed my opinions to my son, —
AMY GOODMAN: Right, and how did he respond to those?
SUE NIEDERER: At the very beginning when he went over from September to the middle of October, he said to me, "Mom, we are making progress here. I feel that we’re doing something proper. So, your thoughts and your fears are incorrect." Middle of October, his letters started changing. And I started to ask him, "What’s going on?" His answer to me was, "Mom, I cannot tell you, shut up, leave me alone." I never found out until after Seth was killed the reason why his letters started to change, and it was a simple answer to this question: his job changed. He was now going out every single day looking for roadside bombs. This was their mission, and then when the last day we saw Seth at Baltimore airport, I asked him, "Do you want to go back, son." His answer to me was, "Mom, absolutely, positively not. We are making no headway in that country. It’s a bunch of guerrillas. You don’t know who your friends are. I don’t want to go back, but I’m in charge of 18 men. I must go back to bring them home safely." He cried to my husband. He didn’t let me see that. And he said to him, "I don’t want to go back, Dad. I don’t want to go back. I’m afraid. I’m scared." I had said to Seth, I’ll take him to Israel, take him anywhere he wants to go. He refused. The brainwashing of the army and the services, comraderie and you have to be a person that sticks up for everyone else. It broke my heart to see my son kiss me goodbye and just have a gut feeling Seth was not going to return. Gut feelings, mothers have. Mine turned out to be right.
AMY GOODMAN: Sue Niederer, I want to thank you for being with us, and also to express our condolences to you from the whole staff at Democracy Now!, and especially at this time during the new year that Jews observe around the world in this period between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
SUE NIEDERER: That’s correct. Thank you very much. I appreciate that and I just hope people understand, the reason I am doing what I am doing is in the memory of my son to bring our troops home safely and alive. That’s my mission. That’s what I need to do, because those were the last words of my son.
AMY GOODMAN: Sue Niederer lost her son, Seth Dvorin, in Iraq. She was arrested last week as she spoke out at a speech of the First Lady, Laura Bush. This is Democracy Now!