President Bush's plan to send additional troops to Iraq is facing public opposition from a slice of the American population that rarely speaks out: the military rank and file.

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WASHINGTON — President Bush’s plan to send additional troops to Iraq is facing public opposition from a slice of the American population that rarely speaks out: the military rank and file.

A group of service members came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday armed with signatures from more than 1,000 military personnel who want Congress to stop the troop escalation and find a way to bring forces home.

“We will not be silent while thousands die,” said Sgt. Liam Madden, 22, an active-duty Marine and Iraq war veteran who is helping lead the effort to organize resistance to the war from inside the military.

Madden said he believes that the war “benefits neither the United States nor Iraq, and especially not the American military. … If you are funding a war that puts them [U.S. troops] in harm’s way, you are not supporting them.”

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The signatories represent a tiny fraction of the military personnel who have served in and around Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

Still, according to the group, those who have signed the appeal include about 100 officers. Approximately 70 percent of signatories are active-duty military, while the rest are reservists or National Guard members, said Madden, who said signatories will not be identified publicly to protect them.

The statement, on the Web site, was signed by 1,098 troops as of Tuesday night, according to the site. The statement reads: “As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq. Staying in Iraq will not work and is not worth the price. It is time for U.S. troops to come home.”

When the campaign began three months ago, White House spokesman Tony Snow dismissed the first signatories as “65 people who are going to be able to get more press than the hundreds of thousands who have come back and said they’re proud of their service.”

Madden and other leaders of the campaign arrived on Capitol Hill as members of Congress moved closer to challenging Bush’s plans to send 21,500 more troops to Baghdad and Anbar province.

Senate leaders are expected to introduce a bipartisan resolution of opposition to Bush’s new policy as early as today, with a vote planned soon after the president’s State of the Union speech Tuesday. The resolution — backed by perhaps a dozen Republicans and crafted by Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Joseph Biden, D-Del., Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., and Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. — will lay out policy alternatives that have bipartisan appeal, according to a senior Senate Democratic aide.

House leaders opted to allow the Senate to strike first, reasoning that a strong bipartisan vote there would splinter Republicans in the House, Democratic leadership aides said. Meanwhile, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., chairman of the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee, planned to start hearings today about how Congress might use the threat of spending cutoffs to demand changes in policy.

The servicemen who came to Capitol Hill were greeted Tuesday by newly energized anti-war lawmakers, including Reps. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Jim McGovern, D-Mass.

The servicemen also were joined by an organization of anti-war families of military-service members, Military Families Speak Out, which claims more than 3,200 members.

And drawing a deliberate link to another controversial war, a group of Vietnam veterans, several in green jungle camouflage jackets, also stood up with the soldiers outside the Cannon House Office Building across the street from the Capitol.

“The movement in the military is growing just as the movement grew in the military 30 years ago,” said David Cline, president of Veterans for Peace, a St. Louis-based group founded more than two decades ago.

A Pew Research Center poll released Tuesday showed that 61 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops to Iraq. Some 60 percent of Republicans support Bush’s plan, and 33 percent oppose it. Among Democrats, 12 percent support it and 82 percent oppose it. Among independents, 31 percent support the plan and 62 percent oppose.

Compiled from the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and

McClatchy Newspapers

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