State Department Meets with Families of Hostages With AM-Gulf-Hearings, Bjt
HOUSTON (AP) _ Nearly 40 relatives of Americans held hostage in Iraq met with State Department officials Tuesday in sometimes heated discussions about the Bush administration’s policies in the Persian Gulf.
Daryl Watley, son of hostage Donald Watley, said talks were tense as some family members argued about Bush’s decision to send an additional 200,000 troops to the region to provide an ″offensive military option.″
Relatives often ″disagreed with the hotheadedness of the Bush administration’s policies″ and the rapid escalation toward war.
In the fifth of seven sessions with families nationwide, State Department officials avoided discussing Bush’s policies and discouraged family members from visiting Iraq, said Watley, who is from Tomball.
For many of the hostages’ families, the main topic was whether to go to Baghdad to help free their loved ones following the release Tuesday of three American hostages whose wives had come to visit them.
″They just said that after you leave Amman, Jordan, they can’t ensure your safety,″ said Lynda Parker, who still plans to visit her husband, hostage Bobbie Parker.
″My children need their father home,″ said Mrs. Parker, who lives in Vidor. ″I am going with the assumption I will get him. If that’s my only chance to get my husband back, I will risk it.″
Freed Americans whose families had pleaded with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for their release told reporters at the Amman airport that the Bush administration had ignored their plight.
″I was not released with help from my government,″ said John Stevenson of Panama City, Fla. ″It was my family who did it.″
″It’s a very difficult decision for anyone to make,″ said Bill Schaub, OGE Drilling’s coordinator for Kuwait, after the meeting ended. Schaub’s company has six employees held in Iraq and Kuwait.
″Women want to do anything they can to help their husbands, but it’s risky and the husbands don’t always want them to come. They’re also worried that they may play into the hands of the Iraqis by going,″ he said.
Most of the families of hostages taken since Iraq invaded Kuwait on Aug. 2 refused to talk to reporters as they left the meeting, which began Monday.
Donnita Cole of Odessa said she plans to visit Iraq next week and was heartened by the release of the Americans on Tuesday. She is the wife of hostage Johnny Cole.
″Fantastic 3/8″ she said. ″I mean, it’s the best news since the invention of peanut butter as far as I’m concerned.″