February 25, 2007

Seizing Congressional Offices And What's Next For The Anti-War Movement

[crossposted at DailyKos, w/some intresting comments]

I, rep. Edward Markey, pledge to vote against the supplemental spending measure that President Bush will seek in 2007 from Congress to fund the war in and occupation of Iraq. I will take leadership in getting other Representatives to also vote against the supplemental.
These solemn words, as recorded on the front page of the Woburn [MA] Daily Times Chronicle, highlight a most important tactic in the uphill battle to stop the $93 billion "emergency appropriation" Bush wants Congress to pony up so he can continue the war in Iraq. Markey's pledge was wrested by a two-day occupation of his office, spearheaded by the Smedley Butler Brigade of Veterans For Peace. Nate Goldshlag of VFP says Senator John Kerry is next!

Similarly, Representative Lacy Clay (D-MO) told an assertive audience in St. Louis last week
that he would continue to vote against escalation of troops and “against additional funding.”
This diary will update my overview from earlier this month, "Wave of Congressional Office Occupations Builds, Below the Radar." It will highlight some of the particular battles, talk about the inadvertent role MoveOn .com is playing in the campaign, and try to set everything in the context of the upcoming Congressional appropriations battle and the anti-war movement today.

According to the Update page at the website of the
Occupation Project, the group at the center of the ongoing wave of seizures of Congressional offices, last week saw at least four actions resulting in the arrest of protesters (which means the Smedley Butler crew don't even make the cut for this unofficial list).

Portland--Senator Tom Allen (D-ME): 13 arrested
“We need to ratchet things up a bit,” said protester Phil Weyenberg of Old Orchard Beach. He said the campaign reflects a tactical shift for activists frustrated by a Democratic Congress unwilling to cut funding for the Iraq war.
Denver--Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO): 7 arrested
Now known as the Salazar seven
Toledo--Representative Marcy Kaptur (D-OH): 4 arrested
Klein, a truck driver, said he was willing to be arrested because he believes in the group’s message.

“Cut the funding and end the war,” he said. “Not cut it down lower, but cut it off. That will force them to bring the troops home.”
Fairbanks--Senator Ted Stevens (R-AK): 2 arrested, 1 cited
Senator Steven’s staff worker in the Fairbanks office assured the nine peace activists occupying the office that their efforts were worthless. “The Senator’s aide told us that our action wouldn’t do any good,” said Rob Mulford, “but when we were locked up I knew we’d done something good because a woman jailer spotted us in our cells and she said, ‘Oh! You guys are my heroes!’”
There are all kinds of other lobbying efforts going on simultaneously, from the deadly serious push by Military Families Speak Out to MoveOn.org's online "Virtual March." I focus on these seizures for several reasons:
  • they are the most dramatic form in which the demand to cut off funds to the occupation is being presented;
  • despite good local coverage in most cases, they are being ignored in the national mainstream media;
  • they reflect a growing sense that the anti-war movement has to amp up the struggle in these difficult times:
  • and most of all, because they are changing the terrain on which the whole broader lobbying effort is taking place.
This last was apparent in an Occupation Project effort in Chicago. A contingent of 25 clergy and supporters tried last week to deliver a letter to the offices of Senators Obama and Durbin. Authorities locked down the whole Federal building in Chicago to prevent them getting inside. There have been other instances of delegations being refused admission to the offices of their elected representatives.

Oklahoma City saw an even more startling incident last week. As blogged here, a group organized by MoveOn.org, went to the office of Representative Mary Fallin (D-OK) to deliver letters demanding she take a stand against the escalation, not even the war as a whole.
OKLAHOMA CITY -- A group opposed to the war in Iraq on Thursday was ordered to leave the building where Rep. Mary Fallin's office is located after members delivered protest letters opposing President George W. Bush's plan to send an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq.
In the comments responding to that post, a Kossack whose nom du blog is FeelingsickinMN, reported that there's a crew of MoveOn.org members who occupy the office of Betty McCollum (D-MN) every Tuesday! It's not, he says, an official MoveOn.org operation. No kidding. McCollum speaks fiercely against the occupation, but they want to hold her feet to the fire to defund:
The object of our being in her office Tuesday after Tuesday is to demonstrate that we are not going to settle for less than a quick end to the war. Ms. McCollum's view is that cutting off the funding right now would put a lot of Dem House seats in jeopardy in '08 and that the most important element in getting out of Iraq is keeping Dems in elective office.
And there's the problem of the day in a nutshell! Last week I analyzed Representative John Murtha's plan (formally) to block escalation and (actually) to gradually end the war through attaching stringent conditions to the emergency appropriation that Bush is requesting. This approach would also give Democratic pols cover to resist the growing pressure coming up from the people of this country and lensed by the anti-war movement to flat-out stop funding this murderous fiasco. It posed some real challenges to the anti-war movement.

What I thought was pessimism appears, it turns out, to have been channelling Pollyanna. The Congressional Democrats are responding to Murtha's lifeline, carefully framed as a series of measures in defense of the troops, as stupidly and as short-sightedly as Bush did when offered the Iraq Study Group's proposal as covering fire to help him shuffle toward the exits. As reported in the Washington Post, the Murtha plan is being attacked as "a non-starter" that will undercut the troops. Attacked, mind you, by his fellow Democrats, some of whom have joined the Republicans in vowing to pass the emergency appropriation without any conditions.

Meanwhile too many "lefter" Dems, like McCollum have rallied around Murtha's plan and dropped their opposition to the appropriation. Even Ed Markey started tap-dancing the day after he signed his pledge to the veterans who seized his office.

What does this mean? In theoretical terms, I'd argue that it means that the ruling class in this country is still trapped in a box. They cannot afford to leave Iraq and they cannot afford to stay in Iraq. They are paralyzed and have found no satisfactory solution to their problems. Unless and until somebody convinces enough of them that their only choice is to cut their losses, that paralysis in going to be reflected in Congress.

In practical terms it means the anti-war movement has its work cut out for it. On the good foot, it's gonna be harder for some "moderates" to use the Murtha bill to split the anti-war movement and try to remove the "Now" from slogans like "Bring Them Home Now!" Overall, though, we need to figure out how to mobilize through the dismay and disheartenment many will feel if Bush gets his $93 billion, even with some strings attached. We need to come up with a strategic approach that can mobilize more of the huge reservoir of mass sentiment for ending the war and can take advantage of the freedom of moveement the enemy's paralysis gives us.

Some argue that impeachment should be the main thing we do now. I say: Iraq Moratorium. What say you, dear reader?


Anonymous said...

Shut down the country. Take over their offices. Put them under "citizen's arrest" for war crimes, that's my pick. Especially since many congresspeople seem to be keeping constituents from actually entering their offices these days, for fear of what they might do--what's the world coming to? I hear from folks in Austin, who weren't even planning anything but talking yet, that alleged war opponent Lloyd Doggett, who so far has not agreed to defund the war, sent staffers down to get the basket of muffins they delivered in the morning instead of allowing his constituents inside--then met with them later in a public place. Not in his office.

Impeachment takes a long time and is fuzzy and ambiguous, and it won't really end the war. He'll be out of office before it even gets rolling. End the war first, then punish the war criminals later.

But hey, there are a lot of goobers in this country who think that because the war doesn't affect them, they can go about their own business and not get involved. After all, wars come and go, right? Eventually the war will be over, but life must go on. No sense disrupting your whole life for someone else's misery. They are still stuck in the normalcy mode, still taking their cue from GB after 9-11. Ain't nothing normal going on here, certainly not in Iraq. A lot of those goobers have signed various petitions to impeach, and when they go out with their friends, or maybe during halftime, they talk about it a lot and complain about the war and GB. Hey, they've done their part. What do we do about them?


Anonymous said...

Jimmy, can you say more about what you mean by a moratorium? I know you've written a little about it before, but I'd like to hear more about what that would mean concretely -- who would organize it? -- what would the goals be? -- etc.

Bear in mind that I'm a young'un, and for me the words "Vietnam Moratorium" just summon up very vague pictures of big crowds on the national mall. I don't think that's what you have in mind, but laying out a little history might help explain the moratorium idea.

Jimmy Higgins said...

Thanks for the poke, Jesse. I've been tossing this around with folks in the anti-war movement, especially the vets/military families movement and USLAW, for a while and I guess it's time to float it out there, so watch this space!

And check out the response this piece when I crossposted it at DailyKos (linked above). Lotta interesting comments (interesting good and interesting oy, both).