You’ve probably seen the T-shirt around.
On the front, in huge capital letters, are the words ‘Bush Lied.’ And on the back, also huge, the words, “They Died.”
In tiny type, on both sides, are the names of all of the U.S. soldiers who have fallen in Iraq.
Dan Frazier of Flagstaff is the maker of the shirts, and you can find them at his website, carryabigsticker.com.
“My idea was to show dramatically the toll that the war was taking,” he said. At the time of the original shirt, 1,600 U.S. soldiers had died, and he couldn’t get all of the names on a bumper sticker, so he opted for a T-shirt.
“It didn’t sell very well,” Frazier said. “It was kind of a flop, actually.”
He even thought about discontinuing the shirts.
But then some state legislators, urged on by family members of fallen soldiers, got the idea into their heads to essentially ban the shirt.
In 2006, Louisiana and Oklahoma both passed laws prohibiting the use of the names of dead U.S. soldiers on commercial products without the permission of their families.
Arizona, Texas, and Florida passed similar laws last year. Arizona’s passed unanimously.
“I was kind of surprised they were being passed, or even being considered,” says Frazier. “I’m trying to get more people from being killed, and her the families of fallen soldiers are trying to prevent me. Strange.”
He also was stunned by the ignorance of the state legislators.
“I thought they would know better than to pass laws that are unconstitutional,” he says.
Nevertheless, the attention was good for business.
“It generated sales, and before too long we were sold out of shirts,” he says. “We’ve continued to print them and update them. We’ve now sold about 4,249.”
But he has had some worries.
“Right after they passed the law here in Arizona, I got a phone call from someone who identified himself as a local police officer,” Frazier recalls. “He asked me if I was going to continue to sell these shirts and if I was aware of the new law. I said I was aware of it, and I do plan to keep selling them. And he said, ‘OK, I’m going to take a report here and pass it on to the attorneys, and they’ll decide if they’re going to prosecute.’ ”
Frazier hooked up with the Arizona ACLU, which won a preliminary injunction against the state, prohibiting it from enforcing the new law.
On August 19, Federal Judge Neil Wake, appointed by George W. Bush, ruled in Frazier’s favor.
“Frazier’s T-shirts are themselves core political speech fully protected by the First Amendment. . . . His website is like a street-side table used to disseminate anti-war and political messages.”
Frazier is not out of the woods yet. No judge has ruled on the laws in the other states.
And he faces a $40 billion class action suit started by the family of one of the soldiers who died. The ACLU is helping him with that one, too.
“I can’t overemphasize how grateful I am to the ACLU for working with me on this because I couldn’t have done this by myself,” he says.
Frazier remains unfazed and undaunted.
“We will continue to sell these shirts in all 50 states,” says Frazier, “and will do so until the troops come or they throw us in jail, whichever comes first.”