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Making Democrats Pay the Price

Tina Richards son, Cloy, is a corporal in the U.S. Marines. He is facing his third tour of duty in Iraq. He and his mother oppose the war. Ms. Richards is living in Maryland lobbying Congress to end the war. She has joined Maryland voters who are occupying the office of Maryland’s senior senator, Barbara Mikulski.

Tina saw Sen. Mikulski leaving a hearing recently going to the women’s room. She followed her and mentioned that protesters were occupying her office to protest the war. Mikulski said she did not understand why they were protesting her saying “I voted against the war.” Tina answered “That is no longer enough.”

She’s right. Now, as we approach the fourth anniversary of the war it is time for the Congress to end it. Senator Barbara Mikulski, like most Democrats, has been a critic of President Bush, describing him as a reckless and irresponsible commander in chief. But she has voted to give this reckless commander in chief more than $420 Billion, as have almost all Democrats.

That is the problem ­ Democrats like Mikulski say they are opposed to the war but keep appropriating more money for the war. They need to realize that if they pay for it, it’s theirs.

Maryland voters have occupied the office of Senator Mikulski twice so far in what will be a series of efforts to convince Mikulski to lead efforts to end the Iraq War. At the second occupation Sen. Mikulski had four of her constituents arrested after they occupied her offices for three hours placing photographs of all the Maryland soldiers who had died around her office, and reading the names of soldiers and Iraqis killed in the war. (Links to videos of the two occupations are at the bottom of this article.)

Her constituents are holding Sen. Mikulski accountable for her actions. When she votes to fund the war she is putting U.S. troops in harms way and adding to the quagmire of the Iraq War. If Mikluski votes for this next supplemental she will be sending under-trained troops with inadequate equipment and an unclear purpose into an unwinnable quagmire. Real support for the troops requires more than criticizing Bush, it requires acting to remove the troops from harms way.

It would take only 41 votes to stop the war in the U.S. Senate. A filibuster of Iraq funding would not even require all of the 51 Democrats in the Senate to support it in order to succeed. If the Senate filibustered the president’s $99 billion request it could then pass an alternative that would really support the troops by bringing them home safely, reduce the violence in Iraq by providing funds to allow Iraqis to re-build their own country and underwrite a regional peace keeping force. If this exit were combined with a diplomatic surge in the region the U.S. could bring greater stability to the Middle East. Those steps would restore U.S. leadership and prevent further U.S. and Iraqi casualties. This approach would also save tax payers tens of billions of dollars in 2007 alone.

The Iraq war has resulted in more than 50,000 U.S. casualties and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths, but it has also cost more than $420 billion, $8.8 billion of which has been paid for by Mikulski’s constituents ­ Maryland’s taxpayers. This comes at a time when our citizens cannot afford health care, school systems are failing and there is an affordable housing crisis. What could that $8.8 billion have bought for Maryland? Four million children could have received a full year of health insurance, more than 122,000 public school teachers could have been hired, 342,000 students could have received four year scholarships to public universities or 63,000 public housing units could have been built. (Link below to find out what the Iraq War has cost your community.)

Sadly, Senator Mikulski’s voting record forces us to ask whether her inconsistent position ­ voting to fund the war while saying she opposes it ­ are because of campaign contributions. To date, she’s received $369,000 in contributions from the defense industry and her third and fourth largest campaign donors are Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Further, she received more than $362,000 from the hard right Israeli lobby that supported the Iraq War and currently supports military action against Iran.

Her funding reflects the funding of the Democratic Party. The Defense industry has donated $110.6 million in campaign contributions since 1990, $43.7 million to Democrats. And, the pro-Israel lobby has donated $55.2 million, $37.4 to Democrats.

Is the conflict between the interests of their donors and the views of their voters who oppose the war making it difficult for Democrats like Sen. Mikulski to take action to end the war?

In a sign of how widespread support is for ending the war ­ polls show a majority of Americans want troops out within the year as do the vast majority of soldiers. Jean Athey one of those arrested in Sen. Mikulski’s office reported a policeman stopped by to talk while they were incarcerated. He said, “Anyone who thinks that the war is wrong and people are being killed needlessly, has a moral imperative to do everything in their power to stop it.” And, on one of the van trips the prisoners saw some police standing outside, one of them, an African-American policeman, came over and gave them a power salute. At first, Jean was not sure of his intent. Then, he said to them, “I really respect what you guys are doing.”

When I was in law school, then Congresswoman Mikulski co-sponsored a bill I was working on regarding the advertising and labeling of contraceptives. I want the old Barbara Mikulski back ­ one who was more consistent and reflected her values. That Barbara Mikulski would say to President Bush ­ “Not one more dime, not one more death for your reckless war. It is time to support the troops by bringing them home.”

KEVIN ZEESE is Director of Democracy Rising and a founder of VotersForPeace.US.

For more information:

Videos of the occupation of Senator Mikulski’s office(this is the second occupation that results in the arrests of four of her constituents, it is 9 minutes long). (this is the first occupation, it is 12 minutes long).

The Mikulski action is part of a nationwide campaign to end the occupation. Visit the Occupation Project to see similar actions occurring around the United States and to join this effort.

To get information about what the Iraq War is costing us at the national, state and local levels visit: www.CostOfWar.com a project of the National Priorities Project.

Tina Richards website is http://grassrootsamerica4us.org/.

 

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Kevin Zeese is an organizer at Popular Resistance.

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