Anti-war T-shirt stirs controversy

Flagstaff, AZ – The T-shirt reads Bush Lied They Died in big letters. On the front and back T-shirt creator Dan Frazier added in very small print a list of about 1,700 U-S soldiers who died in Iraq.

FRAZIER: The whole point was to draw attention to the horrific toll that the war was taking on these young people I think it's easy to sorta become numb to the reality of what's going on in Iraq. And it's hard to put your mind around statistics especially numbers especially as they grow bigger and bigger and so I wanted to try to illustrate that somehow.

When Judy Vincent saw the T-shirt online she says she was appalled.

VINCENT: It's very offensive to somebody that has lost a child to see a shirt that says Bush lied they died'. We live with that daily. We don't we don't need to see reminders of it.

She and other parents of soldiers have called and emailed Frazier to tell him to stop selling the shirts.

VINCENT: I do not think he needs to use my son's name to make a personal profit.

But Frazier says unfortunately he wasn't making a profit.

FRAZIER: The fact of the matter is that there hasn't been much profit to speak of there really hasn't been any profit to speak of because of the design cost and expense of producing the products.

Frazier admits he'd like to be making a profit. He says he is a businessman as well as a political activist.

Frazier says he's even sold a couple T-shirts to family members of soldiers.

Judy Vincent wasn't one of them.

VINCENT: My son needs to be remembered for what he was and what he stood for. I don't think he needs to be on any item that we don't give permission for.

Earlier this year Vincent persuaded Oklahoma legislators to pass a law making it a misdemeanor to use a soldier's name or likeness without permission. Louisiana signed a similar bill into law. But neither law has any impact on Frazier who lives in Arizona.

Now Oklahoma Congressman Dan Boren has introduced a bill to federal lawmakers.

BOREN: Basically what the bill will do it will stop people from profiteering off of the lives of our soldiers When you're not seeking permission of the family of someone whose gone and sacrificed for the freedoms we have. It's just it's disgusting frankly.

T-Shirt creator Dan Frazier feels he's exercising one of those freedoms.

FRAZIER: I have a Constitutionally protected right to free speech which enables me to express my view my concern this way and I don't want to give that up so I have no plans at this point to discontinue the products under pressure.

Boren argues it has nothing to do with freedom of speech.

BOREN: You can support the war. You can be against the war and you can put that on a T-shirt that's fine. But when you use someone's name without their permission especially the name of someone who has served in combat for us to have these freedoms without any permission is inherently wrong.

Wrong or right Frazier is still selling the T-shirts.

And he says now the shirts are outdated. The T-shirt lists 1,700 U-S soldiers who have died in Iraq. That total is now more than 2,500.

For Arizona Public Radio I'm Laurel Morales in Flagstaff.