Tue, Nov 09, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Families of dead soldiers urge pullout

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

Pipe Major Scott Taylor, 34, from Glasgow, plays the bagpipes as he moves across the Jurf-Al-Sukhr Bridge from the west to the east side with a tank from Britain's 1st Battalion Black Watch, Sunday.

PHOTO: AFP

The families of military personnel in Iraq, including those serving with the Black Watch in its controversial redeployment, will this week will launch an anti-war campaign reinforcing calls for the withdrawal of British troops.

The initiative comes days after the relatives of three Scottish soldiers killed by a suicide bomber lashed out at the government's decision to send them to a more dangerous zone south of Baghdad.

Experts have warned that more casualties are likely in the area.

Now other bereaved parents and families of those still serving hope to persuade the public that the best way to support troops is by demanding their return.

"I think at first people worried that they weren't supporting the soldiers [if they opposed the war]," said Rose Gentle, one of the founders of the campaign, whose son, Gordon, was serving with the Royal Highland Fusiliers when he was killed in Basra in June.

"Now I'm getting calls and e-mails from people who have changed their minds -- but we still need more. This is an unjustified war, based on a lie," she said.

The group is modelled on the American network, Military Families Speak Out, which has attracted 1,800 families and helped to challenge perceptions in the US that calling for the withdrawal of soldiers is unpatriotic.

Dante Zappala, who joined the US group shortly before his brother, Sherwood Baker, was killed in Iraq, will help to launch the British campaign at the House of Commons on Wednesday. He said that he believed that relatives could be particularly effective in the UK, which appeared to have "a more honest perspective" on the war.

"My sense is that most people don't want to see British troops in Iraq. Particularly in the light of the three Black Watch soldiers killed this week, I'm beginning to sense more outrage here."

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