Time for Congress to Stop Copping Out

Some of the comments in response to a recent essay I published shared our recognition that the promotion of peace in the United States needs to intensify. My response below provides an action for antiwar activists to consider as they gather to protest the occupation of Iraq this weekend on the two-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion.

The current level of intensity is not sufficient to stop the war and bring the troops home. Activists focus on their neighbors and friends, to be sure, but the goal is to get Congress and President Bush to feel the heat and light of the peace drives to end the war/occupation in Iraq. Right now, the biggest gap to fill is the Congressional cop-out gap.

Congress forsook its Constitutional authority to declare war by assigning it to President Bush in October 2002. Since then, many members of Congress have expressed private fury with Bush’s warlordism, the fabrications, the cover-ups, the tens of thousands of horrific casualties, the vast waste of resources, and our loss of respect throughout the world, but they keep quiet or falsely garble their public comments with evasions.

A few – a very few – have said publicly what’s on their mind. For the great majority in Congress – Democrats and Republicans – Bush has intimidated them because they signaled in various ways that they could be intimidated.

So let’s start getting smart about holding our members of Congress accountable. Below is a penetrating letter you can modify for your member of Congress to let them know that you see ending the war as a high priority they must attend to. Let us know what you think. And if you take this approach, let us know how it turns out.

Dear Member of Congress,

According to a Harris poll last month, 59 percent of Americans want U.S. troops brought home within the next year. We are among them. You are not listening to us. Here is what we propose: To meet with you in a public auditorium with the media invited on [insert date], when you say you will back in your state [or district]. We wish to discuss specifically with you the following issues:

  1. Do you support continued funding of the Iraq War and occupation without a specific exit strategy and timetable?

  2. Will you announce an exit strategy for Iraq?

  3. Will you investigate contracting abuses found by DoD auditors regarding the reconstruction of Iraq?

  4. Will you investigate the $9 billion dollars unaccounted for in the Coalition Provisional Authority budget in Iraq?

  5. How will you hold President Bush accountable?

If we do not hear favorably from you within a week of your receipt of this e-mail [or letter or fax], we will double the number of signatures and renew the request.

If one week later we do not hear from you, we will again double the number of signatures and visit your local office so you and your staff can meet your constituents.

If a week later we do not hear from you, we will peacefully and diligently march in front of your local office to secure your attention.

You have often said how much you enjoy hearing from your constituents – well, here we are. Please do not take this as a hostile message; rather, it is an effort to indicate to you the urgency we place on ending the occupation of Iraq and bringing U.S. troops home as soon as possible. Civilians, children, and soldiers are dying or being seriously injured every day.

In the meantime, we would appreciate answers to the following questions:

  1. Do you have a summary of Paul Bremer’s vast directives, which are still the governing authority of Iraq? These include extending Saddam’s ban on trade-union organizing and allowing a U.S. takeover of Iraqi businesses.

  2. Have you protested to President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld that they do not officially disclose the injuries, diseases, and severe mental trauma suffered by our troops when they do not occur in combat situations – even if the soldiers are evacuated from Iraq? If yes, send us a copy of your letter. If not, why not?

  3. Will you sign a simple pledge that henceforth you will vote against any attack on another nation unless Congress itself declares war as required by the U.S. Constitution? See: The United States Constitution’s War Powers Clause, Article 1, Section 8, Clause 11.

  4. Finally, would you propose a very selective service draft just for the children of members of Congress? The purpose of this request is that such a draft will focus the attention of Congress on the realistic risks and consequences of initiating hostilities.

Sincerely,

(signed by a group of constituents)

cc: members of the press and any other interested parties

Why don’t you try this out today? The sooner we get serious about pressuring Congress, the sooner the occupation of Iraq will stop and our troops will come home.

Read more by Ralph Nader