Sue Niederer is a mother on a mission. The message she gave in the New Library Auditorium last Wednesday, which will broadcast on The Green View, a public access television show, was loud and clear: “President Bush, You Killed My Son.”
Since her son, 1st Lt. Seth Dvorin, was killed in Iraq on Feb. 3, 2004, Niederer has toured the nation to speak out against the war, now in its fourth year.
The Hopewell resident’s most well-known encounter was with Laura Bush in October 2004, when Niederer went to a Bush rally in Hamilton and asked the First Lady if she would send her daughters to Iraq.
In an interview with The Signal before the television session, Niederer said she was motivated to start her activism 10 minutes after her son’s death.
Niederer remembered her son as her “best friend.” She described Dvorin as a child who had encountered adversity but always bounced back.
Niederer did not support her son’s enlistment in 2002 or the war in Iraq. The mother recounted her son’s wedding and his determination to return to Iraq after a Christmas recess despite his own questions about the war’s direction.
Down to her dress, Niederer was sharp in her criticism of both the president and military recruitment agencies. She wore a shirt labeling Bush “a chicken-hawk-in-chief on a world domination tour,” an allusion to questions over the president’s Vietnam-era draft record and criticisms that he is a warmonger.
Niederer said Bush had planned to go to war before Sept. 11, 2001, and that business interests connected to him, including Halliburton and Bechtel, sought to profit from it.
“Bush is going to line his pockets with this war,” she said.
Niederer also criticized the military recruiting agencies for supposedly deceiving applicants by not fulfilling promises regarding educational commitments and assignments.
She said the military started pursuing her son for recruitment in his junior year of high school. She had invited the recruiter over for dinner and said she was displeased with him. Niederer asked him to never contact her son, but the recruiter continued to pursue him through college and eventually convinced Dvorin to sign up.
The first half of the program was a television interview and the second half was an audience question-and-answer session.
In the question-and-answer session, Niederer specifically asked for opinions contrary to hers. Much of the audience seemed somewhat sympathetic, though she debated intensely with a few members of the crowd.
Steven Link, sophomore business major, said he is a Republican and asked Niederer why she singled out Bush for criticism when prominent Democrats such as Sen. John Kerry and Link’s representative in Congress, Bill Pascrell Jr. of Paterson, supported the war.
Niederer said she was nonpartisan but challenged Link to enlist if he supported the war. Link said that the Army was a volunteer force and that he did not have to enlist to support the war, to which Niederer responded that Link had “no courage.”
Niederer continued to debate with Link periodically for the remainder of the lecture.
The Green Party of Mercer County and Progressive Student Alliance sponsored the talk.
Mercer Green Party Chair Nick Mellis said he saw the event as promotion for his organization. Mellis said that the Greens invited Niederer to speak, even though she is not affiliated with them.
Niederer differs with two Green Party positions pertinent to the discussion -she opposes the war in Afghanistan and wants to ban Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) from recruiting on college campuses.
The Green Party supports counter-recruitment measures.
Mellis expressed his desire to start a Green group on campus and said his party criticized the Republicans and Democrats as “one corporate party.” He said he was a founding member of the party in 1996 because he believed the Democrats had veered from traditional liberal goals.
Mellis thanked Progressive Student Alliance member Matt Richman for organizing the event. Richman declined an interview.