LOS ANGELES – Clad in white peace bibs, an American watchdog group called Global Exchange (search) tours schools and hospitals in Baghdad, chronicling what they claim is a U.S.-led occupation and arguing for U.S. troops to leave Iraq.
But thousands of miles away, mothers like Barbie Aston offer a different perspective. They are part of a congressionally chartered, non-profit military support group called Blue Star Mothers (search). Aston, whose son Matt recently earned a two-week leave from Tikrit, said Global Exchange offers "leftists tours" of Iraq.
"This group has an agenda," Aston said. "And my feeling is, it is to destroy the morale of our soldiers over there so it can hamper or destroy our mission."
According to representatives of the San Francisco-based human rights group, they are concerned about the health and well-being of troops, which is why they want the troops to leave.
"We take people there to learn, to make up their own minds and to come back here and talk about what they've seen," said Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Global Exchange.
Benjamin said Global Exchange's trips chronicle the U.S.-led occupation. The group, which insists it doesn't actively recruit anti-war travelers, is willing to take to Iraq anyone who wants to go with them, including mothers and fathers of soldiers.
"The soldiers love us," Benjamin said. "They give us high fives every time they see us walking down the street with our peace bibs on because they know we're trying to get them home."
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