Today I went on lobby visits to speak with Rep. Tom Allen (Maine), Rep. Chandler office (Kentucky), and Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine)along with some young people who are doing the Iraq Action Camp this week. I had signed up for the camp, but ended up getting too immersed in CODEPINK stuff to go. I did go to the kick-off party last night where I met Alex, an Iraq War veteran who goes to school at Bowdoin in Maine and he invited me to go along with the group on lobby visits today. I had actually met Alex before when he came to speak at the Iraq Film Festival that I helped organize at my school. He talked about the the hopelessness of the US mission in Iraq and the low morale of the troops that was making their presence increasingly damaging. Hearing a first hand account of the situation in Iraq was much more real for me than anything I'd heard or seen in the news and it inspired me to become more active in the anti-war movement.
We visited Tom Allen's office first. This meeting went well. Tom Allen is very approachable and he has voted the right way on Iraq all along. I asked him if he advocated a complete withdrawal of the troops. At first, he seemed to be arguing that we should leave about 20,000 troops in country, but I argued that US troops have lost credibility in Iraq and any american soldiers, regardless of how many there are, will be viewed as the enemy and will be targeted. I also pointed out that I thought it would be viewed as an occupation, even if few american troops remain. He seemed to listen to what I said and said that he thought I might be right, but that there didn't seem to be any good solution.
Next, we went to speak with Rep. Chandler from Kentucky to support an Iraq Action Camper and veteran from Kentucky who didn't want to make the visit alone. Rep. Chandler is a "democrat" but has voted for EVERY SINGLE SUPPLEMENTAL BILL!!! He had a very arrogant attitude and wanted to spend the entire time talking so he didn't have to listen to what we had to say. He kept complaining about president Bush and talking about how horrible the war was, but he wouldn't pause for a moment to let us get a word in edgewise, so I finally asked him why he had voted for all the supplemental bills if he was so against the war. "Suddenly he was on the attack. What would that have done?" he wanted to know. "That would just have been a symbolic gesture." I'm not exactly sure what he meant by that. I told him that 70% of the American public was against the war and that the democrats had the majority in congress now because of this reason. I was very calm, but he was getting all hot around the collar, it would have been kind of funny to watch him work himself into a sweat, except that I was offended by his disrespect for my concerns. I noticed that he seemed to calm down every time a boy said something to him, but every time I spoke up again he got all upset again. The other girls in the room didn't dare to say anything.
He said that leftist groups like moveon.org needed to stop attacking democrats and focus on the real people in power, which is the president and the other republicans in Congress. He was very quick to point out how powerless he was. A perfect example of a democrat who is giving away his power in fear of the political consequences of standing up. It is so ironic because he doesn't understand that the american people are screaming for him to stand up and do something about the war. He's probably making more enemies that supporters by voting for more money to fund the war. I know I left his office disgusted today.
I was beginning to think that he was just a misguided coward, when I asked him how he felt about giving reparations to the Iraqi people so that they can rebuild their country after the troops withdraw. His response? "How do you feel about bankrupcy? Where do you think that money is going to come from?” I suggested that the billions of dollars in war spending could be put to much better use as reparations, but he said that the war spending was borrowed money. I wanted to ask, so why the hell did you vote for it?!!! But I could tell that the other kids in the room were getting a bit uncomfortable and decided to back down. By then it was almost time for our next appointment anyway, but he continued to garble on about global warming and the environment, which I’m willing to bet he hasn’t done anything about either. At the end, he shook my hand and thanked me for visiting with a slick smile and I made myself smile and pretend that I didn’t want to throw up.
The next lobby visit was pretty uneventful. Olympia Snowe didn’t show, but we talked to two of her staffers. I had spoken with one of them before. They were very friendly and took notes about what we said, even though Snowe is a republican. They said that she supported pulling the troops out if the Iraqi government does not comply with benchmarks that Snowe had crafted in her own bill, a bill that never passed. They admitted that it was not likely that the Iraqi government would comply. I pointed out that it was wasting time, money and precious lives to wait for the government not to comply with benchmarks that we know they won’t agree to. The staffers seemed to agree with me and they said that Sen. Snowe probably agrees with me as well, but had only added these benchmarks so that it have a better chance of passing. I wish one of these legislators would stop putting politics over what they know is right. All of these political concerns are so petty when you consider how many lives are being wasted while they thinking it’ll help them stay in power. Isn’t it interesting that they seem to think that in order to stay in power they must give it away?
It was a frustrating day, but it was probably as successful as it could be. I doubt my statements alone will shake these legislators out of their little world of politics, but it will add to the chorus of voices around the country that are speaking out against this illegal and devastating war, and hopefully these legislators will summon up the courage to carry out the will of the american people.