June 16, 2004
Honoring a Fallen Son
Another grief-stricken father denounces the occupation
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His buddies in the Marines called him the "Aztec warrior." Jesus Suarez del Solar was one of the first Americans killed during the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
On March 27, Jesus stepped on an undetonated U.S. cluster bomb and bled to death in a remote desert near Diwaniya. Jesus left behind his wife, his mother, his 1-year-old son, 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, donít be deceived by false promises from recruiters for Bush.
Fernando Juarez del Solar is a Mexican-born American citizen. With his wife and children, he immigrated from Tijuana, Mexico, to Escondido, where he delivered newspapers and worked at a 7-11 store.
What is it like to lose a son in war, or rather, in a war based on misinformation? I talked with Mr. Juarez last week.
Q: How did your son lose his life in Iraq?
A: On March 26, the army dropped cluster bombs outside a city. The next day my sonís unit received orders to advance into the area. Thatís when he stepped on a cluster bomb.
Q: I know cluster bombs 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?
A: He never received any information about the drop.
Q: Was that a mistake, an exception to overall policy? Does the military put out fliers or warnings about cluster bombs in the area?
A. No. What happened was, after my son was killed, the military in the area began to pay more attention. They publicized the accident.
Q: I guess the Iraqi civilians, like kids playing in the fields, didnít get any warnings about leftover clusters?
A. Thatís right.
Q: How did your son get involved in the military?
A: 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: "Donít join the Mexican police. Itís dangerous for you in the police department in Tijuana. Itís safer for you to join the Marine Corps." In 1997 we moved from Tijuana to San Diego, where Jesus wanted to finish High School. Thatís where he joined the military.
Q: Did the recruiters deceive Jesus?
A: 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 a hundred dollars for the uniform ó minus, minus, minus."
Q: 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?
A: Yes. When he came to San Diego he had a green card.
Q: Where do recruiters contact young people?
A: 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.
Q: He went into a Mexican school to get signups for the U.S. military?
Q: What kind of promises did he make?
A: 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."
Q: Like ROTC?
A: Yes. They say to the kids, "I can help you with the papers."
Q: What do you think about recruiting kids from Mexico for U.S. wars?
A: If they can use Hispanic people, Anglo-Americans donít have to be used. They want to use Hispanic boys in the war.
Q: You mean they are trying to substitute Hispanic kids so that Anglo-Americans do not have to risk their lives?
A: Exactly. They offer education and a formal offer of citizenship. Thatís 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, "Itís 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. Itís a big problem.
Q: Do you feel betrayed by the Bush administration?
A: 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 11. And they lie about other things. Bush said last week, "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 donít give me freedom. And itís not terrorist groups who are attacking Americans. Itís the regular, ordinary, civilian people.
In December 2003, Fernando Juarez traveled to Iraq. He visited the site where his son died, and he brought back thousands of letters of peace from Iraqi children. When he speaks, Fernando Juarez touches the souls of his listeners: "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. Then they find themselves sent off to a faraway land where they are exposed to death every day, with their families suffering back home ó all for the whims and lies of President Bush. I support the troops, but I donít support the commander-in-chief."
A BUZZFLASH GUEST CONTRIBUTION
Paul Rockwell is a writer from the Bay Area. He has been published in the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle and Alternative weeklies. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This interview also appeared in New Times (San Luis Obisbo) and In Motion Magazine.
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