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Ashland veteran returns Bronze Star as Iraq protest

Jim Sims sent a letter to President Bush to express his opposition to a war with Iraq.

The Ashland resident also tossed in the Bronze Star medal he was awarded for bravery in Vietnam in 1971.

As I cannot share the blood that will be on your hands, the terrorist consequences you invite, knowing that we can still isolate Iraq and selectively deter such consequences, I am returning my Bronze Star as the strongest statement I can make, wrote the attorney and former Ashland City Council member.

In his short letter mailed Friday, Sims expressed concern that any weapons of mass destruction now in Iraq would likely be used by the Iraqi leader if there is a U.S.-led attack. Iraq also would disseminate those weapons to terrorist groups if a war erupts, he wrote.

He noted that a conservative estimate by the American military indicates that more than 100,000 innocent civilians in Iraq would be killed in the first 48 hours of the war. That doesn't include American casualties, he added.

The letter is not meant to be anti-military, Sims stressed.

There are very legitimate people who support the military that are highly concerned about this (war), he said, referring to retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and other former generals who have spoken out against a war now.

Having been an officer in the military and knowing the military serves the commander-in-chief (Bush), I would not expect them to stand up and say, 'Excuse me, Mr. President, but your thinking is faulty,' he said.

Citizens concerned about the future of the nation need to speak out for those in uniform who cannot, he said.

Sims did not want to dwell on the Bronze Star he was awarded for action while he was an Army officer in Da Nang.

What I want is for the people who make the decision about whether we go to war or not to know that opposition is not just about fringe groups, he said.

Noting that he doesn't have any love for Saddam Hussein, Sims said there are alternatives to waging war now.

We need to revisit this, he said. We are moving forward aggressively with blinders on.

There wouldn't be any more risk to life to continue to cordon this guy off, to keep him isolated, he added. We have other options.

Launching what amounts to weapons of mass destruction on Iraq, in the face of growing opposition around the globe as well as in the states, will undermine what the nation stands for, he indicated.

The precedent we set now is not just for ourselves but for generations to come, he said. This will be an example we set to the rest of the world.

During the Gulf War in 1991, Iraq had invaded Kuwait, he said.

But this will be a pre-emptive strike, he said, reiterating that he feels there is yet no justification for the action.

The administration wants to take this action irrespective of the reasoning against it. They think it will be over in matter of a few days and opposition will dissipate.

Ignoring the opposition will not make it go away, he concluded.

If we do this, I can see every tin-pot dictator in the world set to do a pre-emptive strike on a neighbor, he said, noting that India and Pakistan, both with nuclear weapons, could very likely be among the first to follow suit.

This war would be a very, very bad precedent for the United States, he said. It makes me very sad.

Reach reporter Paul Fattig at 776-4496 or e-mail him at