At Capitol Hill hearing, talk is not ‘if’ but ‘how’

WASHINGTON — With thousands of people across the nation protesting the Iraq war, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.) convened a Capitol Hill hearing Sept. 15 to air “exit strategies” to bring the troops home.

A postage-stamp sized hearing room was the largest the Republican leadership would allow, so the crowd spilled out into the corridor as witnesses assailed administration lies in dragging the nation into a quagmire.

Woolsey said the pro-war House leadership has “very little appetite for an open discussion about how we might end the war in Iraq. So we’ve taken matters into our own hands.” Greeted with applause was Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, the sole Republican who joined the hearing.

Susannah Cernojevich, Woolsey’s press secretary, told the World the congresswoman’s aim was to “break the ice on Capitol Hill, to start the discussion not about ‘if’ but ‘how’ to exit Iraq.”

The session opened with the nation at a profound turning point — a sharp plunge in support for the Bush war policy, and alarm that Hurricane Katrina has proven the nation less secure than ever, despite billions poured into the Homeland Security Department after 9/11. Gold Star mother Cindy Sheehan and her “Bring Them Home Now” bus tour were headed to Washington from her vigil at Bush’s vacation ranch in Texas. She was to speak at the antiwar rally in the capital Sept. 24.

Former U.S. Sen. Max Cleland (D-Ga.), a triple-amputee Vietnam veteran, testified at the hearing, “Iraq is a no-win, no-end war. It is time for an exit strategy. More than 100 members of the Iraqi Parliament have urged the U.S. to fully withdraw its military forces from Iraq.”

He added, “We are spending more money in Iraq than rebuilding New Orleans, Biloxi, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.”

The National Guard, he continued, “was created to guard America and to deal with disasters in our own country rather than being sent to die in the deserts of Iraq. We’re bleeding ourselves to death. You don’t support our troops that way. That’s Vietnam all over again.” Cleland voted for the Iraq war resolution in October 2002. His views now mirror the sharp decline in support for Bush’s war policy.

Retired Marine Gen. Joseph Hoar told the hearing pre-emptive war on Iraq was “the wrong war at the wrong time waged with an extraordinary incompetence by the civilian leadership.”

Rep. Maurice Hinchey (D-Continued from page 1

N.Y.) charged that Bush’s aim is “occupation of the entire Middle East using Iraq as a staging ground.” Hinchey added, “This is one of the most corrupt and incompetent administrations in the history of our country.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said that she, Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) and 41 other lawmakers have introduced House Resolution 197, titled “No Permanent Bases in Iraq.” Since Bush says the U.S. plans no permanent occupation of Iraq, “why isn’t the overwhelming House majority flocking to this resolution?” Lee asked. One answer, she suggested, is “privatized commercial interests are so deeply entrenched in this war … making so much money.”

Gen. Hoar responded, “The only disincentive you will find is at the voting booth, voting these people out of office,” in the 2006 congressional elections.

Anas Shallal of Iraqi-Americans for Peaceful Alternatives said, “69 percent of Shia and 82 percent of Sunnis want to see an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops with a specified timeline.”

Suspicions are growing in Iraq that the Bush administration is scheming to “split Iraq up” into three or more mini-states under U.S. domination, Shallal warned.

As the hearing room erupted in applause, Shallal concluded, “Let’s call for the withdrawal of all U.S. troops and war profiteers by the end of the third year of occupation. Let’s call for April 9, 2006, to be Iraq’s true Independence Day.”

Former U.S. Ambassador David Mack called for appointment of a “high-profile international mediator” to negotiate U.S. withdrawal. Antonia Chayes, a former Air Force undersecretary, said, “I know of few situations historically in which a third-party, neutral mediation process could be more important.”

Former California state Sen. Tom Hayden and Tim Carpenter of Progressive Democrats of America presented to Woolsey petitions signed by 25,000 people headlined, “A People’s Petition for an Iraq Peace Process.” The petition, circulated by Peace Action and other national organizations, urges that the U.S. government “declare that it has no interest in permanent military bases or the control of Iraqi oil or other resources” in Iraq, and calls for the U.S. to “set goals for ending the occupation and bringing all our troops home, in months, not years, beginning with an initial withdrawal of troops by the end of this year.” The U.S. must compensate Iraqis for damages, cease privatization schemes and end domination of corporations like Halliburton in reconstruction, the petition says. It is available on the web at .

Rep. Schakowsky blasted Bush’s indifference to the plight of New Orleans’ poor. “The only difference between Katrina and a terrorist attack is that the hurricane actually gave us some advance warning,” she said. “The fact that Bush has admitted some ‘responsibility’ for failure to respond underlines the importance of hearings like this.”

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