WASHINGTON — More than 1,000 antiwar lobbyists from 48 states visited hundreds of lawmakers’ offices on Monday, Jan. 29, to urge them to pass a Senate resolution opposing the Iraq war and to use the “power of the purse strings” to terminate the deadly four-year conflict.
The grassroots lobby came on the final day of a three-day mobilization sponsored by United for Peace and Justice that brought half a million antiwar protesters to the nation’s capital, according to organizers. They rallied on the Mall and then marched up Capitol Hill, completely surrounding the Capitol building.
More than 40 from Illinois crowded the office of Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), second ranking leader of the Senate, during the “Lobby Day.” The Rev. Findley Cambell, an African American minister from Chicago, told Durbin’s aide, “We understand that the Democrats have a slender majority. We are not unrealistic. We’re looking on this nonbinding resolution to hear a powerful debate against this war.” He urged Durbin to continue working with Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel and other moderate Republicans to pass the resolution with a strong bipartisan majority.
Ultimately, Cambell said, we have to stop the funding. “We’re tired of funding the war profiteers, corporations like Halliburton,” he said.
The peace mobilization was not limited to D.C. Americans Against Escalation staged a seven- state “fly around” Jan. 29-30 urging moderate Republicans in Maine, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana and Minnesota to vote for the bipartisan Hagel-Biden resolution condemning Bush’s plan to deploy 21,500 more troops. The White House has unleashed a frenzied drive to block the resolution.
Iraq war vet Jon Soltz, national chairman of VoteVets.org, charged that Bush’s escalation, backed by Sen. John McCain
(R-Ariz.) and Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), “would place more troops in the cross-hairs of a civil war.” Soltz, of Pittsburgh, served as an Army captain in Iraq from May to September 2003.
George Martin of Milwaukee, co-chair of United for Peace and Justice, had just visited the offices of Rep. Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and Republican James Sensenbrenner. He was on his way to visit Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold, who has announced he will introduce a bill to “use the power of the purse to end funding for the war and safely redeploy our troops from Iraq.”
“We’re looking for the details of Feingold’s bill,” Martin told the World. “We had 700 people who traveled from Wisconsin on seven buses and by plane and car” for the march.
He had just returned from the World Social Forum in Nairobi, Kenya, where people from more than 50 nations signed a pledge to stage a “Global Day of Action” on the fourth anniversary of the Iraq war in March. “I presented the pledge on the final day of the forum and it met with resounding applause from the entire assembly, 15,000 people,” he said. “The world has never been so united against a war as it is against this one.”
Clayola Brown, vice president of Unite Here, summed up the message in her fiery rally speech. “We told Bush with our votes that we didn’t want this war to continue but he was deaf,” she said. “So we say again: End this war NOW!” She led the crowd in a chant, “Not one more death; not one more dollar; not one more day!”
Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), chair of the Out of Iraq Caucus, said lawmakers must stand and be counted. “The proof of the pudding is when the administration comes asking for more money,” she told the World. “These nonbinding resolutions on the Senate side are fine. But the American people are way ahead of that. It’s time to get to the real question: cutting off the money.”
Actor Susan Sarandon told the World, “President Bush lied about the weapons of mass destruction and about who was behind 9/11 to get us to support a war we would not otherwise have supported. He says we are in Iraq to spread democracy and freedom. How do you spread freedom with lies?”
The marchers poured up Constitution Avenue led by a contingent of active duty soldiers called “Appeal for Redress” and Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). While a tiny group of Bush supporters stood with a banner, “God Bless the Troops, Support President Bush,” the antiwar soldiers chanted, “Support the troops, bring them home.”
IVAW President Kelly Dougherty said, “If it were up to the privates and sergeants, we would all be home by now. Obviously, Bush is determined to continue the war. It is up to Congress to stop funding it and bring all our soldiers home.”
Brian Hill, a medic with the National Guard at Corpus Christi, Texas, said 1,200 active duty, reserve and National Guard soldiers have signed the Appeal for Redress calling for an end to the Iraq war. “We’re in the fourth year of the Iraq war and the antiwar sentiment has grown steadily,” he told the World. “What got soldiers really mad was the ‘surge,’ the plan to send another 21,000 soldiers. That was the tipping point. Now I’m at risk of being deployed to Iraq.”
Sam Webb, national chair of the Communist Party USA, was marching with the CPUSA contingent. “Passing the nonbinding resolution in the Senate is of overriding political importance to the struggle to cut off funds and withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq,” he told the World. Webb pointed out that the Bush administration has unleashed a drive to block the resolution in the Senate even though its sentiment is supported by a clear bipartisan majority.
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John Wojcik contributed to this article.