by James O'Donnell
Code Pink continues to offer rare opportunities to explore DC as a citizen activist. Here's a brief rundown of recent events:
Yesterday I went to the Hart Building with a small delegation of Code Pink stalwarts to register our dismay at the recent -- colossal -- capitulations by House Democrats:
1) They will unconditionally fund the Iraq War throughout the remainder of George Bush's presidency and beyond; and
2) They will grant “retroactive immunity” to the giant telecoms who knowingly broke the law... starting in February of 2001, seven months BEFORE the attacks of September 11th.* With the FISA bill they just passed, the Dems will also permit the expansion of the government's power to spy on Americans -- IN AMERICA -- with NO court order (from 72 hours to “AT LEAST” 7 days).**
Clearly, this is not the kind of leadership most Americans voted for in 2006.
Led by Code Pink co-founder Gael Murphy and “House Momma” Desiree Fairooz, we visited the offices of several Democratic senators, from Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) to Florida's Bill Nelson to Maryland's Barbara Mikulski to Wisconsin's Russ Feingold (a rare source of courage and integrity in the current body politic... who we would LOVE to see mount a filibuster or two... ASAP! Do your best impression of “Mr. Smith,” Mr. Feingold... PLEASE! Make Jimmy Stewart proud, wherever he is!)
Code Pink made the case that these policies threaten both our Constitution AND our national security. We also argued that, from the perspective of the Democratic Party's political fortunes, this constant capitulation is not just bad policy, but peculiarly inept politics (what we have come to expect from the Dems).
But the Democrats should realize by now that preventive war, one-branch, police-state government, and “legalized” torture have diminished America and made us weaker -- NOT stronger -- and they should take that waterproof case to the public.
But these Dems, it seems, are way too afraid of the Dittoheads and other Limbaughts...
Still, Code Pink would like to take advantage of this opportunity to thank the staff at Senator Claire McCaskill's office, and especially Senator Kent Conrad's Legislative Director, Tom Mahr, for taking the time to meet with us personally and hear our concerns. Thank you, sincerely.
(Now, please do more...)
Once we had finished handing out our pink-highlighted copies of the Constitution (and Code Pink's attached exhortation to stand up for that once-cherished document), it was off to the Rayburn Building and the office of New York Congressman Gary Ackerman.
Although nominally a Democrat, Rep. Ackerman, the chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, has been pushing a bill with Indiana Republican, Mike Pence, that is tailor-made for the NeoConservative agenda: HR 362.
The bill essentially calls for a blockade of Iran... which is, of course, an act of WAR.
With Democrats like these, who needs Republicans?
Doesn't Congressman Ackerman know what kind of folks currently occupy the White House? Do they need any more encouragement to wreak havoc?
Thanks to carte blanche congresses past, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney already have the profligate language of the USA PATRIOT Act and the Legislative Branch's virtual abdication of their exclusive Constitutional authority to declare war (implicit in the 2002 Iraq war resolution). And they've spent the past few years ratcheting up the rhetoric, spinning the facts to present a case for war as politicized and riddled with inaccuracies as was their case for war in Iraq.
They've clearly signaled their keen interest in targeting the nuclear weapons sites in Iran that America's 16 intelligence agencies have concluded DON'T exist...
Why give this administration the least encouragement, the smallest shred of legal justification for further bloodshed? Why do anything that will increase the chance of an expanded (failed) war and greater instability in a region we've already hurled into chaos?
On a related note, I had the honor last night of doing a little howling at the moon (Ok, the White House) with two bona fide American patriots: Col. Ann Wright (ret.) and FBI whistle-blower Coleen Rowley.
Col. Wright's principled opposition to the Iraq war inspired millions during the buildup to that unfortunate war, and Coleen Rowley's strong voice (like that of Sibel Edmonds) clued in Americans to the fact that our premier domestic law-enforcement bureau is institutionally unwilling to take its job seriously.
Oh, they'll harass peaceniks, Muslims (including Oregonian lawyers), and environmentalists -- and they'll abuse National Security Letters to their hearts' content -- but pursue real threats to America? Get a handle on their backlog of documents in need of translation? Expose congressional lapses on national security (I'm lookin' at you, Denny)?
Not this FBI...
Coleen told us that in the days following September 11th, her superiors unfathomably -- repeatedly -- refused to allow the questioning of Zacarias Moussaoui, the alleged 20th hijacker. Questioning Moussaoui, she told us, might well have led to the apprehension of his friend, the “shoe bomber,” Richard Reid -- long before he boarded the airplane full of Americans that he very nearly blew up.
Coleen also shared with us a little known fact about how concerned our nation's leaders where in the aftermath of those horrific attacks: On September 12, 2001, Dick Cheney took time out to go... pheasant hunting (no wonder they didn't disclose that location!).
So Ann, Coleen, Joe, Liz, and I headed to Pennsylvania Avenue to conduct a little midnight vigil with Code Pink banners on the President's doorstep, shouting “No More Wars” and “Don't Bomb Iran,” until the growing police presence (and niggling) convinced us it was time to call it a night... sometime after 1am, I'd guess.
On the way back, Coleen told us of the “Faustian bargains” cut by the FBI director Robert Mueller and then DCI, George Tenet: Either play ball and support the policy or face the consequences. Like Colin Powell, Larry Thompson, and countless others -- including the Democrats in power today -- they played ball.
Washington, DC, it seems, has a dramatic SPINE shortage, these days.
* “Wider Spying Fuels Aid Plan for Telecom Industry,” 12/16/07, New York Times
** “Congress Strikes Deal to Overhaul Wiretap Law,” 6/20/08, New York Times