(Originally published in the Guardian, October 25 2006)
A US marine will today go public with his opposition to the war in Iraq as part of a campaign to petition Congress to bring US troops home.
Sergeant Liam Madden - who was against the war even before being sent to Iraq with his unit in late 2004 - is one of more than 100 soldiers on active duty who have organised the petition drive through a website called Appeal for Redress
The move, which reflects growing US domestic opposition to the war, could present the Bush administration with a serious problem if it undermines morale of already hard-pressed armed forces in Iraq.
Appeal for Redress claims many active duty members are concerned about the war and support the withdrawal of US troops. There are 1.4 million troops on active duty, including members of the National Guard and reserves.
The site says it provides a way for individual service members to appeal to Congress to urge an end to "US military occupation".
The petition is to be delivered to members of Congress on Martin Luther King day, a US national holiday in January.
Appeal for Redress asks dissenting servicemen to add their name to the petition, which says: "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 US troops to come home."
A number of troops, including at least one officer, have been charged for refusing to serve in Iraq and dozens more have deserted - but this is the first time serving soldiers have publicly petitioned Congress to end the war.
Appeal for Redress says members of the military have a legal right to communicate with their member of Congress.
Lawyers advising the dissident troops say those speaking out against the war are exercising their first amendment right to free speech.
Under military regulations, troops are free to speak their minds as long as they are not on duty, not in uniform and not saying anything disrespectful to their chain of command or the president.
Backers of the website also cite a "whistle-blower protection" law under which service members can file complaints to Congress without reprisal.
Sgt Madden is making his opposition public less than two weeks before the midterm elections, in which the Republican party has been thrown on the defensive as public support for the war evaporates amid mounting US casualties and sectarian violence.
"The more informed I got, the more I opposed the war," he told the San Jose Mercury News. "The more people who died there, the longer we stayed there, the more I opposed the war. The more I know, the easier it is to support withdrawal."
Top US officials in Iraq yesterday insisted that success was still possible within a "realistic timetable". General George Casey said he could call for more troops to be sent to Baghdad, possibly by increasing the overall US presence in Iraq.
He also said he believed Iraqi forces would be ready to take over responsibility from the US no sooner than late 2007 or early 2008, which would push back withdrawal of most of the 145,000 US troops in Iraq.