Sunday, March 25, 2007

More on Babara Lee's meeting on the Iraq War

A few additional thoughts from the Barbara Lee Townhall meeting on the Iraq War.

I learned a new phrase, at least one new to me: "street heat", referring to pressure from public opinion and from activists in particular. "Street" hear means people, voters, constituents, in much the way the English phrases "street cred" or "Arab street" use the word.

Barbara Lee and Daniel Ellsberg both emphasized how important it is that Congress also take a stand against the Cheney-Bush administration launching a preventive war against Iran. In the military appropriations bill that the House passed last week with its anti-Iraq War provisions, a specific prohibition against using funds to launch a war on Iran without Congressional approval was removed with the agreement of the Democratic leadership, a decision on their part that Ellsberg called "execrable".

But he also seemed to think that getting a veto-proof (two-thirds) vote for a measure banning an attack on Iran without Congressional approval was a feasible goal already. He didn't really elaborate on that, but his assumption seemed to be that there is substantial sentiment among Republicans for such an action. I haven't seen it yet.

Barbara Lee's
official Web site has quite a bit of information on her positions on the Iraq War. For instance, her Statement on the Passage of the Iraq Accountability Act of 03/23/07, with video:

As we begin the fifth year of the occupation of Iraq, it is clear that the President has staked his legacy on an unnecessary war that his administration has botched at every turn. By refusing to take responsibility for their failed policy in Iraq, the administration has effectively forced Congress to intervene to bring it to a responsible end.

Speaker Pelosi, Chairman Obey, Jim Clyburn and the Democratic leadership deserve credit for recognizing this and for doing something that the Republican Congress refused to do for the last four years, namely to confront the Bush administration over their failed policy in Iraq and to commit to bringing that policy to a responsible end. That is a very important step.

As someone who opposed this war from the beginning, I have voted against every single penny for this war and found myself today in the difficult position of having to choose between voting against funding for the war or for establishing timelines to end it.

While as a matter of conscience I cast my vote against the funding, I hope that this passage of this bill marks the beginning of the end of the Iraq war, but the real fight still lies ahead. Congress will continue to have to confront the issue of this war and occupation, and I am committed to continuing to push to fully fund the safe withdrawal of our troops from Iraq at the earliest practicable date and for timelines for withdrawal that are backed up by the appropriations power that the Constitution grants to Congress. (my emphasis)
I guess I can say on this issue, "Barbara Lee speaks for me" in more than one sense, since she's my Congressional Representative and I've voted for her several times now. Someone asked in the meeting is she ever plans on running for President. She replied, "I'm not going to answer that question." Then she added with a grin, "But thanks for the question".

Two of the antiwar measures which are top priorities for her right now include:

HR508 (Bring the Troops Home and Iraq Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2007):

Congress declares that it is the policy of the United States--

(1) to end the occupation of Iraq on the basis of the findings specified in section 101;

(2) to accelerate the training and equipping of themilitary and security forces of the Government of Iraq;

(3) to pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy;

(4) to help preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq as a nation state;

(5) to take all appropriate measures to account for any missing members of the United States Armed Forces or United States citizens in Iraq; and

(6) to turn over all internal security activities and military operations in Iraq to the elected Government of Iraq not later than the end of the six-month period beginning on the date of the enactment of this Act.
HR 770 (Iran Nuclear Nonproliferation Act):

To prohibit the use of funds to carry out any covert action for the purpose of causing regime change in Iran or to carry out any military action against Iran in the absence of an imminent threat, in accordance with international law and constitutional and statutory requirements for congressional authorization.
I wasn't able to locate the text of these bills on her Web site. You can go to the search page for and search for the bill with HR specified before the number and see the full text.

It's always interesting to me to see the coverage in the newspapers of local stories on events at which I was present, e.g.,
Sean Penn, Rep. Lee rally against Iraq war by Carolyn Jones and Cecilia M. Vega San Francisco Chronicle 03/25/07; Actor joins anti-war gathering: Sean Penn takes part in rally against Iraq conflict held in Oakland by William Brand and Erik Nelson Oakland Tribune 03/25/2007.

The Chronicle print edition featured the first of the photo that appears at the upper left of the one on the Web version, the one that has Sean Penn looking like Leon Trotsky rallying the masses. The one of him and Barbara Lee bowing their heads and observing a moment of silence for those who have lost their lives in the Iraq War was more characteristic of the mood of the meeting and of Sean Penn's speech.

Neither Penn nor Rep. Barbara Lee, the Oakland Democrat who has opposed the war since before it began four years ago, offered much in the way of specifics for ending the conflict, and they were largely preaching to the choir. The enthusiastic and occasionally boisterous crowd of 800 or so crammed into the Grand Lake Theater wildly cheered as Penn excoriated President Bush.

"You and your smarmy pundits - and the smarmy pundits you have in your pocket - can take your war and shove it," Penn said. "Let's unite not only in stopping this war, but in holding this administration accountable."
Actually, I wouldn't say the crowd ever "wildly cheered", although there were a number of standing ovations, the most enthusiastic one probably being when Daniel Ellsberg took the stage. The crowd was enthusiastic. But if Jones and Vega thought what they heard yesterday was wild cheering, I wonder what they would make of the home crowd at an Oakland Raiders game!

I think they got this part right:

Penn reiterated a point often made by opponents of the war when he said he supports the troops but opposes the war.

"Let's make this crystal clear: We do support our troops, but not the exploitation of them and their families," he said. "The money that's spent on this war would be better spent on building levees in New Orleans and health care in Africa and care for our veterans. Iraq is not our toilet. It's a country of human beings whose lives that were once oppressed by Saddam are now in 'Dante's Inferno.' "
I didn't take detailed notes in the meeting. But I'm pretty sure they abridged this quote:

"We can't afford to spend one more dime or lose one more American or Iraqi life on this illegal and unwinnable war," Lee told the crowd.
As I recall, she said at that point that the war was "illegal, immoral, unwinnable" and something to the effect of having been started based on lies, as I recall.

Their report on the march and rally afterward includes this
"My Name Is Liza Kavelage" moment:

"The only thing this government needs is for the people to be silent and then they can do whatever they want," said Joan MacIntyre, a 74-year-old great-grandmother from Oakland.

MacIntyre, like many who attended Saturday's events, was no stranger to war protests. She has marched in numerous rallies since the Iraq war started in March 2003 and was arrested Monday during a San Francisco protest. It was her 41st arrest, she boasted proudly.

"At least I can hold my head up and say that I tried," she said.
Brand and Nelson give a longer quote from Sean Penn:

"You have broken our country; you have broken our hearts. The needless blood on your hands ... is drowning the freedom, the security and the dream that America might have been, once healed up from Sept. 11, 2001," Penn said.

"But now we are encouraged to self-censor any words that might be perceived as inflammatory, if our belief is that we should stop this war today. We cower as you point your fingers telling us to support our troops — well, you and the smarmy pundits in your pocket — those who bathe in the moisture of your blood-soaked underwear can take that noise and shove it, because we will be snowed no more."

Penn, who lives in Marin County, told the audience, "Let's fight this president and put him in f—ing jail."
Not to nitpick, but I did write down that last sentence seconds later, because I wanted to use it in the blog post I made yesterday. And I got it as, "Let's show the world we can fire this administration and put them in [Cheney]ing jail!"

They estimated the crowd at 600. I couldn't really argue with either of their number or the Chronicle's, because I'm frankly terrible at estimating the size of a crowd that I'm part of. The Chron's reporters also apparently left before Daniel Ellsberg showed up. Brand and Nelson write:

Another speaker at the Grand Lake was Daniel Ellsberg, a longtime Kensington resident, who won fame when, in 1971, he leaked a top secret study of the Vietnam War showing the missteps and deception of the American government. Ellsberg, whom Lee called to the podium from the audience, suggested the Democratic majority launch an investigation of Bush misconduct in the war leading to a motion for impeachment.

"Congress cannot let these two years ago pass without defining what Bush, (Vice President Dick) Cheney and others have done as high crimes and misdemeanors," Ellsberg said to a burst of applausefrom the highly partisan audience.
They also reported this from the rally afterward:

Alan Howe, 55, rode his bicycle to the demonstration to vent his frustration with his fellow evangelical Christians, including Bush, who have supported the war.

"He says he's a brother in faith, but I don't see how he's applying that," said Howe, a former Baptist pastor who is now a senior librarian at the Oakland Public Library.

But Howe wasn't always anti-war. He said he was a hawkish conservative on the Vietnam War until shortly after the secret U.S. invasion of Cambodia in 1970. He attended a similar rally in Santa Barbara, where he was a student at the Christian-oriented Westmont College. "I remember hearing an Episcopal priest speak and thinking, if half of what he's saying is true, I can't support the war."
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