As part of our Turn Up the Heat campaign this summer, Peace Action West has identified targets from both sides of the aisle who have consistently voted against withdrawing our troops from Iraq. Rep. Jim Matheson is one of a small number of Democrats who has not once supported setting a concrete date for withdrawal. To make sure he heard our message loud and clear, I decided to head out to Salt Lake City to meet with his District Director. I spent the weeks before researching active groups in the area, reaching out to organizations in Salt Lake City, and preparing resources to help us craft the most effective message possible to persuade Jim Matheson to support a timeline for withdrawal.
Near the end of August, I hopped on a plane to Utah the night before our meeting. Despite the fact that our meeting was moved up by half an hour at the last minute, and the meeting place I chose turned out to be a coffee warehouse rather than a coffee shop, we had a spectacular turnout. Bill Lee of the Democratic Progressive Caucus pulled together a wonderful delegation that included representatives of Progressive Democrats of America, Veterans for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, US Labor Against the War, Mormons for Equality and Social Justice, and others.
The group had a strong, clear message for Rep. Matheson that he needed to vote in favor of a timeline for withdrawal and fund nothing but the safe, orderly withdrawal of US troops. I reminded Mr. Reberg about the piles of letters our canvass delivered to the office every day they were there in March. Carla Hitz of Military Families Speak Out spoke movingly about her son’s two tours of duty in Iraq and her frustration with the inability of politicians to make progress toward ending the war. We made a strong case that setting a timetable for withdrawal was the moral, fiscally responsible, pragmatic, and politically viable thing to do. We also left him with information to take to Rep. Matheson, including the costs of the war to the state of Utah and the recent OpEd by active duty soldiers in Iraq saying the surge is not working.
While we will have to wait and see what Rep. Matheson will do next, this meeting was an important step in building our relationship and showing that Peace Action West has strong ties to his district and can mobilize people around key issues. It has been exciting and inspiring to keep in touch with folks in SLC and hear that the meeting has sparked lots of conversations and plans, and I look forward to collaborating on more great work!