The congressional strategy to end the occupation of Iraq seems to be changing daily, with calls for compromise one day and votes on tougher measures the next. In our continued efforts to push the congressional leadership to pursue a strong strategy, Peace Action West brought together fifteen other groups representing thousands of voters to send this letter to Representative Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid:
We would like to thank you for your leadership in the House on ending the war in Iraq. In the face of many challenges, the new Congress has made progress toward setting a timeline for withdrawal. We are writing to you today to urge you to continue to aggressively pursue the goal of setting a date for withdrawal, and to ensure that the House approves funding for nothing but the safe and orderly redeployment of US troops from Iraq.
The proactive strategy taken by the leadership this summer provided momentum for the August recess, in which supporters of the war would have to face the ever-growing support for a timeline for withdrawal and frustration with Congress’ lack of action. Many of our members poured their time, energy and resources into creating the necessary pressure on those members of Congress who have not supported a withdrawal plan.
The recent indications that the leadership is willing to retreat from its commitment to a timeline for withdrawal have been troubling. Our members fully understand the limitations of the legislative system and the difficulties presented by the slim majorities in both houses. These limitations do not extend, however, to the ability to exert bold leadership and keep intense pressure on the Bush administration.
This is an extraordinary time for our country and it calls for extraordinary leadership. We urge you to draw the line at ensuring that any funding for the president’s war is tied to bringing our troops home. When compromise becomes necessary we urge you to be strong, creative and dogged in forging a compromise that—through whatever legislative means—does not abandon the fundamental goal of a fully-funded withdrawal plan.
If Congress again passes war funding without a fully-funded withdrawal plan, it will become difficult to argue that this Congress has not, on a fundamental level, affirmed or embraced the president’s war policy. A historic opportunity to begin to fix perhaps the greatest US foreign policy mistake in our history will have been missed. Millions of Americans will feel greatly disappointed, more cynical about the political process, and even betrayed. And more Americans will lose their lives or loved ones in a conflict that is making us less, not more, safe.
While the recent testimony of General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker has attempted to convey optimism about the situation in Iraq, that optimism is unlikely to carry through to the American public. In a recent Washington Post/ABC News Poll, 53% of Americans believed that the report would try to make things look better than they are. Congress’ approval ratings are at a low ebb due to the lack of concrete progress on Iraq.
The facts on the ground and public opinion are behind you; there is no necessity for opponents of this war to be on the defensive. President Bush is ready and willing to exploit any signs of weakness, and the leadership must respond with an aggressive, decisive strategy to end the war, and a vision for using political and diplomatic means to repair the damage that has been done.
Thank you again for your leadership and the progress you have made thus far. We know you share with us the goal of ending this war and getting our foreign policy back on track. We urge you to abandon weaker alternatives and continue to work for a timeline and fully-funded plan that withdraws US troops from Iraq.
Jon Rainwater, Executive Director
Peace Action West
Stephen Funk, United States Marine
Iraq Veterans Against the War (Bay Area Chapter)
Rev. Dr. Rick Schlosser, Executive Director
California Council of Churches
Elizabeth Sholes, Director of Public Policy
California Church IMPACT
Alan Lessik, Regional Director
Pacific Mountain Region- American Friends Service Committee
Robert M. Gould, MD, President
SF-Bay Area Chapter
Physicians for Social Responsibility
Tom Gallagher, President
Bernal Heights Democratic Club
Deborah Burger, RN, President
California Nurses Association
Martin Hittelman, President
California Federation of Teachers
Carole Mills and Pat Kunstenaar, Co-Chairs
Democracy for America- Marin
Luke Klipp, President
San Francisco Young Democrats
Judith Corbisiero, Chair
Nevada Stonewall Democrats
Gim Hollister, Chairman
Douglas County Democratic Central Committee
Jill Switzer, President
Stonewall Democrats of Northern Nevada
Chair, Democratic Women of Washoe County
Vice Chair, Washoe County Democratic Party
Jason Fromoltz, President
Young Democrats of Nevada
Lynn Goya, Chair
Boulder City Democratic Club