A Father Speaks Out Against the Iraq War
His buddies in the Marines called him the "Aztec warrior." Jesus Suarez del Solar was one of the first Americans killed during in invasion of Iraq. On March 27, 2003 Jesus stepped on an undetonated U.S. cluster bomb and bled to death in a remote desert near Diwaniya. Jesus left behind his wife and 1-year-old son, his mother, three sisters, and a father who now speaks out against the occupation of Iraq. As a representative of Military Families Speak Out, a burgeoning organization of 1,500 families who call for an end to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, Fernando Juarez tells high school and college students: Stay in school; don't be deceived by false promises from recruiters for Bush.
Fernando Suarez del Solar is a Mexican-born American citizen. With his wife and children, he immigrated from Tijuana, Mexico, to Escondido, California, where he delivered newspapers and worked at a Seven-Eleven store.
Paul Rockwell: How did your son lose his life in Iraq?
Fernando Suarez: On March 26th the army dropped cluster bombs outside a city. The next day my son's unit received orders to advance into the area. That's when he stepped on a cluster bomb.
Rockwell: Cluster bomb are anti-personnel weapons, with a failure rate of 15 to 20 percent. When they lie unexploded on the ground, like mines, they look like beer cans and are easy to step on. Did his commanders inform Jesus about cluster bomb drops in the area?
Suarez: He never received any information about the drop.
Rockwell: Was that a mistake, an exception to overall policy? Does the military put out fliers or warnings about cluster bombs in the area?
Suarez: No. What happened was, after my son was killed, the military in the area began to pay more attention. They publicized the accident.
Rockwell: I guess the Iraqi civilians, like kids playing in the fields, didn't get any warnings about left-over clusters?
Suarez: That's right.
Rockwell: How did your son get involved in the military?
Suarez: My son was in Mexico. Along the border there are military recruiters. My son told the recruiter he hoped to join the police in Tijuana. The recruiter said: "Don't join the Mexican police. It's dangerous for you in the police department in Tijuana. It's safer for you to join the Marine Corps."
In 1997 we moved from Tijuana to San Diego, where Jesus wanted to finish high school. That's where he joined the military.
Rockwell: Did the recruiters deceive Jesus?
Suarez: The military promised Jesus to provide money for school. They said Jesus would get $1,000 a month for school, but the recruiter never explained where the money comes from. When Jesus finished boot camp, he became very upset. He told me: "The recruiter said I am going to receive $1,000 every month. I only get $620."
So I talked with the recruiter. He explained, "Yes, you receive $1,000 a month, minus money for the scholarship, minus $100 for the uniform -- minus, minus, minus."
Rockwell: I understand that the military is recruiting youth from the Philippines, from Mexico, people of color in the Third World. Was your son living in Mexico when he was contacted?
Suarez: Yes. When he came to San Diego he had a green card.
Rockwell: Where do recruiters contact young people?
Suarez: On the border there are lots of recruiting offices. Last year, around October, this one recruiter crossed the border into Mexico and recruited young boys from a school in Mexico.
Rockwell: He went into a Mexican school to get sign-ups for the U.S. military?
Rockwell: What kind of promises did he make?
Suarez: According to what I heard, the recruiters say, "You can go to the U.S.A. and enter high school and enter a military program in high school." They say to the kids, "I can help you with the papers."
Rockwell: What do you think about recruiting kids from Mexico for U.S. wars?
Suarez: If they can use Hispanic people, Anglo-Americans don't have to be used. They want to use Hispanic boys in the war.
Rockwell: You mean they are trying to substitute Hispanic kids so that Anglo-Americans do not have to risk their lives?
Suarez: Exactly. They offer education and a formal offer of citizenship. That's not all. Here in the U.S. they recruit kids in the barrios. They contact them when they are 14, 15 years old. And they say to our kids, "It's not a problem you do not have papers. You can enter the program and we will help you with the papers and immigration. You just need to do well in school and our program."
This in my opinion is very immoral. There are a lot of high schools in the Mexican barrio where recruiters are recruiting. The recruiter has an open door. It's a big problem.
Rockwell: Do you feel betrayed by the Bush Administration?
Suarez: The Bush Administration lied about the war. They lied to my son. They lied about weapons of mass destruction. They lied about Iraq and September 11th. And they lie about other things.
Bush said, "I put in a lot of time to support families who lost members in the war." This is another lie. Mr. Bush never contacted me, never supported me, never supported my family. This is a lie.
We have a lot of contact with parents, parents who have boys in Iraq. They are very upset with this war and Mr. Bush. My feeling is Mr. Bush uses the boys for personal reasons, to get family revenge on Saddam. Bush has no idea about what is happening in Iraq. He never went to Vietnam. He has no good plan for what is to happen. He never provides humanitarian help for the civilian people. Thousands and thousands of civilians died. The children now have no help in the hospital. The ordinary Iraqi people say stop. You don't give me freedom. And it's not terrorist groups who are attacking Americans. It's the regular, ordinary civilian people.
In December 2003, Fernando Suarez traveled to Iraq. He visited the site where his son died, and he brought back thousands of letters of peace from Iraqi children. "My heart goes out to the soldiers, many of whom come from poor communities and joined the military as a way to get an education," he says. "Then they find themselves sent off to a faraway land where they are exposed to death every day, with their families suffering back home -- all for the whims and lies of President Bush. I support the troops, but I don't support the Commander-in-Chief."