OBERLIN, Ohio — Voicing alarm that basic democratic rights are in danger, Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) charged that the Bush administration has “hijacked Congress” through use of fear and “personal destruction campaigns” in order to pursue the war in Iraq.

Speaking to 300 war protesters at a rally here Sept. 15, Kaptur charged that top administration officials had launched vicious attacks on members of Congress, including herself and Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.), when they spoke out against the war. The administration’s fear tactics, she said, are the reason it has not been possible to get majorities to vote for troop redeployment and cutting war funds.

Similar tactics, she charged, are being used against Ohio Rep. Dennis Kucinich, “the strongest voice against the war among the candidates for president.” The corporate media, his primary opponents and sections of the Democratic Party are seeking to silence and marginalize Kucinich, she said.

“Regardless of how you feel about Kucinich as a candidate, he should not be marginalized. His voice should be heard,” she said to loud applause.

Kaptur thanked Oberlin College students for their research on the activities of military contractors in Iraq and charged that the Bush administration had also “hijacked the military through use of private mercenaries.”

“The reason for this is simple,” she declared. “The reason is oil. Over 125,000 mercenaries have been deployed in Iraq, mainly to guard oil facilities. There has never been anything like this in the history of our country. It is dangerous to say it, but we must get rid of the contractors in the military.”

Despite repeated efforts by Congress, the administration refuses to provide lawmakers with the names of the contractors or account for their activities, she said.

Kaptur said that when she visited Iraq, Generals Petraeus and Odierno expressed grave concerns about the policies of the Bush administration.

“They said the goals in Iraq cannot be achieved militarily, but depend on diplomacy and political leadership. But they said there is no diplomacy and no political leadership.”

The progress claimed as a result of the troop surge is an illusion, she charged. Noting that suicide bombings have actually doubled in the last year, she said, “What they claim in Anbar Province is temporary at best. Basically we are renting tribes. How long can that last? The problem remains. The Iraq people do not want to be occupied.”

The American people, she said, have no idea of the extent and nature of the U.S. presence in the Middle East. She described the U.S. embassies in Lebanon and Pakistan as “huge underground fortresses,” and said the U.S. military base in Kuwait is “a vast complex with many football fields full of equipment and supplies.”

Kaptur told the audience, “You’ve got to get organized.”

She said, “We have to break the control the oil companies have over foreign and energy policy. And we have to resolve the Israel-Palestine issue. It is central to peace in the Middle East.”