• Iraq
  • January 8, 2008
  • 14 minutes read

An Interview with Naval Petty Officer Jonathan Hutto, Sr.

An Interview with Naval Petty Officer Jonathan Hutto, Sr.

“Those who start wars, never fight them
and those who fight wars, never like them
and those who write laws, can recite them
and those who fight laws, they live and die by them…

But I know it”s time, yes I know it”s time to go home…”

Michael Franti and Spearhead (lyrics)

You may have seen him on 60 Minutes, you may have read about him in the Washington Post, or the L.A. Times but for those of you who don”t know him, you are about to meet Jonathan Hutto, Sr.:

Naval Petty Officer, third class, stationed on board the USS Theodore Roosevelt, co-founder of the Appeal For Redress Movement and author of the soon to be released book, Anti-War Soldier. He has also recently decided to support Congressman Ron Paul”s (R-TX) candidacy for President. I spoke with Jonathan, who is presently on leave, by phone and we talked about the Redress Movement, ending the war and why he is supporting Ron Paul.

The wording is simple but the words ring loud and true:

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.-

Mission Statement-Appeal For Redress, October 16, 2006

How is the Redress movement possible? It is possible because of DoD Directive 1325.6, guidelines for handling dissident and protest activities among members of the armed forces, which provides that:

DoD policy to preserve military members” “right of expression … to the maximum extent possible, consistent with good order and discipline and the national security.” Members of the military may attend demonstrations but only in the United States and only when they are off base, off duty, and out of uniform.

And Dod 7050.6, the Military Whistleblower Protection Act and it provides that:

4.1 Members of the Armed Forces shall be free to make a protected communication to:

4.1.1- A Member of Congress

4.2-4.4- Military members are protected against reprisals for such communication.

The Appeal for Redress Movement should not be confused with those who refuse to fight, which Jonathan views as “an extension or result of unjust government policy”, or those who claim conscientious objector status, which every military member has the right to claim (and they are protected legally as well).

In fact, the Appeal for Redress Movement discourages both enlisted personnel and officers (fifteen percent of all Appeal signers are officers) from going AWOL and hopes that by providing this viable alternative, active duty personnel will seek constructive ways to make their voices heard and not give way to despair which quite often leads to suicide or other (personal) destructive forms of behavior, which as Jonathan points out: “Is an extension of unjust occupation of Iraq by our government.”

And it seems to be working. “At present, there are over two thousand active duty personnel who have signed on to the Appeal for Redress and that number continues to grow. This number represents all branches of the US Military, includes the National Guard and Reserves and Individual Ready Reserves, those men and women having completed their active duty assignment but are consolidated within a special emergency reserve force”, as Jonathan explains.

Organizations who support the Appeal for Redress include: Iraq Veterans Against the War, Veterans For Peace, Military Families Speak Out, in addition to active duty service members and their families.

Appeal for Redress co-founder, Jonathan Hutto, Sr. is no stranger to controversy and crusade. Since he joined the Navy in 2004, he has tackled issues such as racism on board ship and is out spoken about many other issues effecting enlisted personnel including sexual harassment, sexual orientation, the rate of suicides and a wide array of enlisted service members grievances and Veterans issues which will largely be addressed in his forth coming book, Anti-War Soldier.

Who is Jonathan Hutto, Sr. and how did the Appeal For Redress Movement begin?

Born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia, Jonathan Hutto, the son of a small family business owner and whose mother, a graduate of Clark College, who gave up her teaching career to stay at home to raise her sons and who had influenced Jonathan with the riveting stories of her upbringing in the Apartheid South and her exposure to the Civil Rights Movement , it seemed only natural that Jonathan would eventually follow in her footsteps to pursue social issues such as racism, equality, political corruption and the illegality of the war.

While working toward his degree in political science, with a minor in history, at Howard University, he attended the Million Man March, was politically active on campus and his local community.

His heroes were Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. and the late Stokley Carmichael but it wasn”t until he joined the Navy and read a book called Soldiers in Revolt: GI Resistance During the Vietnam War by Dr. David Cortright that he fully recognized his political path which would lead him to found the Appeal for Redress Movement.

Jonathan joined the Navy for the same reasons many do, he wanted to pursue his Masters degree and needed financial assistance afforded by military programs and he also felt the need to become more centered about his life and believed that military service would aid him toward that end. It did that and more.

The birth of the Appeal for Redress Movement

The birth of the Appeal for Redress was a result of a series of events. Jonathan had been dealing with a steady stream of racism and xenophobia on board ship, including an incident where a shipmate placed a hangman”s noose in front of his face, which he reported through the chain of command. (His shipmate was eventually reprimanded, losing one rank and restricted to the ship for a period of 30 days.)

The growing dissent, amongst his military colleagues, concerning the illegality of the war, the stop-loss policy (extending active duty tours beyond the contracted agreement), Individual Warrior program (the back door reserves effecting mostly Army personnel), and more recently, the Pentagon program of Individual Augmentees which reassigns Navy personnel and places them under the command of the Army and Marines, in Iraq and Afghanistan (a kind of back door conscription), and upon reading Dr. Cortright”s book, Soldiers in Revolt, led Jonathan to organize his first meeting to flesh out the possibilities of a Redress Movement.

Jonathan Hutto, joined by Liam Madden, a Marine Sergeant from Vermont, formed the nucleus of the Appeal for Redress movement.

How much Congressional support has the movement gained?

“The response from Congress has been decent, considering the nontraditional approach of what we are doing. It is not traditional, nor is it every day for Congress members to hear from active duty service members. The first member of Congress to endorse the Appeal For Redress, was Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich, followed by John Conyers of Michigan, Congressman John Lewis of Atlanta, Congressman James McGovern of Massachusetts, among several others”, says Jonathan.

He also believes that as the movement continues to grow, so will political support for the movement. Not all of the Appeal movement”s Congressional endorsers voting records reflect the level of commitment that Jonathan would like to see, given the amount of funding the war continues to receive from the politicians in Washington, “We need to continue to hold them accountable”, insists Jonathan.

How do you feel about the anti-war movement”s inability to be effective, in terms of stopping the war, bringing the troops home, changing the direction of Congress or even in terms of failing to unite with the anti-war conservatives?

“I think what the anti-war movement has been effective in doing, at the beginning of the Iraq war, was mass mobilization and education of the populace and also in connection with the mobilization that was happening all over the world and also in terms of effecting change at the ballot box, from the so-called war party to the party for perceived change”, says Jonathan, “But I think where the anti-war movement has fallen short, is holding that party, which is now in power in the Congress and Senate, accountable for following through on the mandate it was given at the ballot box in 2006. It has also failed to look at alternative strategies, outside of traditional strategies that have been used. The Civil Rights Movement had a strategy of non-violent, direct action but when that strategy started to break down and when the strategy was no longer effective, people were willing to look at other forms of dissent such as mass refusal and militant action. A movement has to be willing to debate all tactics and strategy.”

How do you feel about the Democrats failure to acknowledge the will of the people? The people continue to struggle to end this war but they are continually ignored or marginalized by the party?

“Somehow, the people of this country have been oriented to believe politics is voting and then they wait for the politician, whoever he or she is, to deliver on what it is that you voted for. But you know, voting is only meant to be an extension of the “political process”, that you are already engaged in, the political movement. You know you are organizing, you are mobilizing, you stop by the ballot box and you vote, then you organize and mobilize to hold the politicians accountable. When those things don”t work, then it”s time to try something new, we move to potential mass refusal which may lead to acts of civil disobedience, whatever it may be but we have to make the government understand, you are not going to govern, you are not going to occupy another country, in our name and at our expense. We must continue to engage the ballot process because, as flawed as it is, it still belongs to us and I believe that ultimately if we are going to radically change society and if in fact that process doesn”t work, we have to prove to people, practically and pragmatically that it doesn”t but until that process breaks down I think we must engage it. Malcom X told us years ago it would either be the ballot or the bullet. If politicians fail to respond in the streets, the masses will take justice by any and all means in the streets. The recent collective refusal of the 2nd Platoon in Iraq is a direct result of no relief from politicians in Washington.”

Recently you sent a letter to Ron Paul endorsing his candidacy for President, tell us about that…

“I believe Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) is serious about ending the war in Iraq and I believe the anti-war movement should actually consider voting for him, he”s the only candidate representing us (the anti-war movement) in the Republican party and I am personally going to vote for him. As a person who doesn”t agree with him on everything, on the issue of the Iraq war, I”m with him ninety percent, as far as his non-intervention and bringing our troops home. Supporting Ron Paul is strategic in terms of what needs to happen. I hope that other people will consider this too. The anti-war movement needs to give him a serious look The anti-war movement, ninety plus percent of it is supporting the democratic party and what has the democratic party done for us on the question of war? They have have consistently been complicit in funding the war, that”s what they have done. I also believe it is unintelligent for the entire anti-war movement to be confined within one political party, we need to be looking at it from a broader based perspective and I”m glad that Ron Paul is running. The one thing I can say about Ron Paul is that he is consistent. I think he is very courageous to take the stands on issues that he does. It is very empowering. I hope more active duty members and citizens in general will take a better look at his candidacy.”

“You know, we are patriots, when I read the Constitution, when I read the Declaration of Independence, these are beautiful documents, you know? They actually give you instructions on what to do when your government is not accountable to the people. The Declaration of Independence is a radical document. I believe in it and I”m going to live it. Not just talk about it.”

Where do you see us in one year or two years if we don”t stop this war?

“Unfortunately, if we do not stop this war, if this war is not stopped, if we”re not able to halt it, I see us losing more friends around the world, I see more lives being in danger, I see more American lives being lost, on the ground in both Iraq and Afghanistan, I see, sadly, more terrorist attacks abroad and potentially here on our own soil. I see more Imperialists wars, I see a potential, future attack on Iran, I see the possibility of invasion of other sovereign countries, perhaps in Pakistan, I see a sharpening rivalry with Russia and China, in Latin America and other countries that dare to stand in opposition to US Imperialism. I see more military recruitment of so-called illegal immigrants in exchange for citizenship and a lowering of military standards and a continued breakdown within this country.”

“At the same time, what I see as a result of all of this, is that the people are being forced, especially as things become worse at home, to make a decision to become involved politically, I believe that if you don”t join the movement to end the war and to change the course of this country, then the movement”s gonna draft you, whether you like it or not.”

Jonathan, thank you for your time and also for your service to our country. Thank you for joining us in this struggle to end the war and also for joining us in our struggle to regain our country and the principles upon which it was founded.

For Jonathan Hutto and others fighting in this illegal war, it is time to come home.