Enough Is Enough

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.”

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