Military Families Speak Out (MFSO) describes itself as “an organization of people who are opposed to war in Iraq and who have relatives or loved ones in the military.” With chapters in 17 states, the group was formed in November 2002 and by 2006 claimed a membership of more than 2,900 military families. These members participate in anti-war demonstrations and “peace vigils” across the United States. The organization also makes speakers available to give interviews and speeches on the subject of the Iraq War.
The founding members of MFSO are Charley Richardson and Nancy Lessin, who are veterans of the 1960s anti-Vietnam War movement and the parents of a soldier who served in Iraq (he returned home in 2004). Says Lessin, “We were very concerned about media coverage that tried to characterize the anti-war movement as those who supported the troops and those who didn’t,” and so MFSO was born. “As people with family members and loved ones in the military,” said Lessin, “we have both a special need and a unique role to play in speaking out against war in Iraq.” Lessin, Richardson, and other MFSO members have spoken at numerous anti-war rallies and demonstrations; some have appeared at Congressional briefings.
According to MFSO, the United States’ motives for invading Iraq were rooted in its quest for empire and its lust for oil. “We need money for jobs and education, not for wars and occupations,” says the organization. Along these lines, in October 2003 MFSO spokesman Robert Smith, depicting the war as a calculated U.S. decision to trade “money and lives for oil,” charged that America had invaded Iraq “because we want friendlier ownership of the Iraqi oil.” In a speech he delivered that same month in Tokyo, Smith summarized at length MFSO’s views on the Iraq War: “The so-called democratization of the Middle East is only thinly veiled American imperialism. … Since September 11th, the U.S. has rescinded the rights of people both inside and outside our country. … We pompously declared twelve years ago that Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait could not stand, that the world must unite in undoing this unjust invasion of a sovereign country. Now we are the invaders. We had no more justification for invading Iraq than Saddam Hussein did for invading Kuwait.”
MFSO is a member organization of the United For Peace and Justice antiwar coalition led by Leslie Cagan. It has worked closely with radical groups such as Bring Them Home Now, Iraq Veterans Against the War, September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, Veterans Against the Iraq War, and Veterans for Peace. Moreover, MFSO has received much positive press in such publications as Socialist Worker and the International Socialist Review.