Mother of Slain Guardsman Says Bring Troops Home
Nadia McCaffrey’s son was shot and killed in Iraq two years ago, by Iraqis posing as American support troops; even so, McCaffrey says she bears the Iraqis no vengeful feelings. Instead, her anger is focused at her own government, which she contends has prosecuted the war with a disastrous cocktail of deceit and incompetence. Born in Paris under the Nazis, McCaffrey said she sympathizes with people living in occupied land. “If somebody were to invade my town and attack my grandchildren, do you think I would not stand up and defend them?” she demanded. “What happened in Iraq is the same thing. They did not attack us. We invaded their country.”
Now a resident of Tracy, California, the antiwar mom was in Santa Barbara this week to take part in protests organized to mark the third anniversary of “Shock and Awe.” McCaffrey’s message was simple: “We have to bring our troops home and stop the war now,” she said. But given that the United States is currently constructing 14 military bases in the Iraqi desert, McCaffrey was doubtful that a withdrawal of American troops would happen anytime soon.
McCaffrey gained national media attention two years ago when she asked reporters to be with her when her son’s coffin was delivered from a military cargo plane shortly after midnight on June 26, 2004. “I wanted people to see the face of war,” she explained. At that time, the Bush administration went to great lengths to prevent the release of images of flag-draped coffins to the American press. McCaffrey recalled that the arrival time of her son’s coffin was changed multiple times before its delivery. Since burying her son, McCaffrey has courted national media attention to make her case against the war. In addition, she traveled to Jordan, where she met with Iraqis who had also lost family members in the war.
Patrick McCaffrey joined the National Guard shortly after September 11, his mother recalled, because he “needed to do something for his country.” And when the United States attacked Iraq in 2003, McCaffrey, 34, was assured he would be kept from harm’s way because of his age, and because he had two children. The guardsman was ill-trained and ill-equipped for the challenges ahead, recalled Nadia. Her son was forced to buy his own boots and night-vision goggles, while the Humvee he drove was held together with wooden boards. Trained in demolition removal, McCaffrey found himself assigned the task of teaching Iraqis how to be soldiers. The day her son was killed, Nadia said, it was 125 degrees. He had been on duty for 48 hours straight with only a two-hour break and little to eat; when he and two other Americans became separated from their unit, McCaffrey said, they were shot by two of the Iraqi trainees accompanying them. Only because one of her son’s companions managed to escape, McCaffrey said, was she able to glean these few details of her son’s demise. Otherwise, the government wasn’t talking to her. “Even now, the Pentagon will not release anything of Patrick’s death, not even the autopsy report,” she said.
McCaffrey responded by campaigning vigorously for better care and treatment of troops returning from combat. She described how one of her son’s friends, a fellow guardsman, returned from Iraq with a blistering body rash, searing migraines, and a temper that made him fear for his wife and daughter. “He was afraid to go outside, he had such panics,” she said. “But the VA said he was okay, and the Guard threatened him with desertion if he didn’t make their monthly meetings.”