Congressman yields to antiwar groups heat

BALTIMORE — Members of Baltimore Pledge of Resistance went to the district office of Rep. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) June 17 to demand that he speak out against the Iraq war. The group met for several hours with Cardin’s chief administrative aide Chris Lynch.

Cindy Farquhar told Lynch she was “disappointed” that Cardin did not sign on to the Woolsey Amendment, named for Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) requiring President George W. Bush to announce an “exit strategy” to bring U.S. troops home from Iraq.

“We’re long past the idea that providing a better helmet is ‘supporting the troops,’” she said. “We are also asking him to join in pursuing the investigation of the Downing Street Memo. There are 120 House members who have signed Conyers’ letter to Bush on that memo.”

Lynch asked, “What does the Conyers’ letter do?”

Maria Allwine, a Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate replied, “It asks Bush to answer the Downing Street Memo’s allegation that he ‘fixed’ intelligence on Iraq. Mr. Bush doesn’t feel he needs to answer it.” Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) is the leading Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee.

If Cardin “can’t even put his signature on a letter demanding that Bush answer those questions, I can see that Cardin doesn’t represent me,” Allwine said.

As the meeting proceeded, other Pledge of Resistance members began reading aloud and attaching to a mock “memorial wall” the names of the 1,700 U.S. soldiers and thousands of coalition troops and Iraqis who have died. “Presente,” they said after each name.

When 5:30 p.m. arrived, another Cardin aide announced that the office was closing. Those who refused to leave would face arrest, she warned. Many departed but Farquhar, Allwine, Baltimore Veterans for Peace leader Ellen Barfield, and peace activist Max Obuszewski made clear they would not leave until they heard from Cardin.

Finally, Lynch telephoned Cardin. The aide returned about 7 p.m. to tell the POR delegation that the congressman had agreed to three of the four proposals: He would sign on to Conyers letter, endorse Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) “timetable” for withdrawal from Iraq; and would call for the closing of the U.S. Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Cardin conveyed that he wants to meet with the delegation on the fourth proposal: voting against future funding of the war.

“Everyone believes it was a clear victory,” Obuszewski told the World. “One reason we went to Cardin’s office is that he is running for the U.S. Senate. We want to get the dialogue going right now.”

Their success, he added, dramatizes the importance of individual and organized group visits to lawmakers during the upcoming July 4 congressional recess. With public support of the war plummeting, he said, many lawmakers, even those who supported the war, can be convinced to support peace initiatives.

Cardin is the leading candidate to replace Democratic Sen. Paul Sarbanes who is retiring. The Republicans are pinning their hopes of picking up that Senate seat on Michael Steele, Maryland’s first African American lieutenant governor.