A Call For Action, Not Symbolism
January 14, 2007
By JESSE LEAVENWORTH, Courant Staff Writer, Connecticut News
After thrashing the Bush administration as arrogant and lawless, former state House Speaker Irving Stolberg held up an "Impeach Now" flier Saturday during an anti-war rally in Hartford.
The crowd of about 300 people who had jammed into the cafeteria of the Legislative Office Building cheered loudly.
Later, however, state AFL-CIO President John Olsen also received a big hand when he told the crowd and three Connecticut congressmen not to waste energy trying to impeach President Bush.
"We got the guy neutered!" Olsen said, referring to victories in November that gave Democrats control of Congress.
The rally, organized by Connecticut Opposes the War, a single-issue coalition of political, religious, community and labor organizations, focused on two themes: the Iraq war's continuing cost in lives, money and American ideals and the need for the new Congress to say no more, particularly to Bush's recently announced plan to send about 20,000 more troops to Iraq.
U.S. Reps. Joseph Courtney, Chris Murphy and John Larson, all Democrats, were on comfortable turf. Newcomers Courtney and Murphy had criticized Bush and his handling of the war during their campaigns, and the veteran Larson was an early war opponent.
"What we need to do is escalate diplomacy in the [Mideast] region," Larson told the crowd.
Still, several speakers said Congress has been a rubber stamp for Bush. They called on lawmakers to meet the anti-war mandate of the elections.
"Symbolic acts are not enough," said Tom Mattzie, Washington director for Move-On.org, which provides support for progressive candidates.
Democratic leaders in Congress have said recently that they hope to force a vote on Bush's "surge" plan in the House and Senate. The vote would be nonbinding, but could isolate the president politically. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., has led an effort to cut off funding for new troops, but some policy analysts and legislators say Congress can do little to thwart the president's war strategy.
In any case, the surge has already started. The first of five additional brigades was set to arrive in Baghdad within days, according to news reports on Saturday.
Bush said any consideration of stopping funds undercuts soldiers, according to a Reuters story Saturday. "Our brave troops should not have to wonder if their leaders in Washington will give them what they need," he said.
But Peggy Gray of West Hartford told the crowd that those funds would be better spent on bringing service members home and providing for their health care and other transition needs. Gray's son returned from Iraq last year and is having trouble adjusting, she told the crowd.
"Democratic leaders in Congress cannot oppose the war and continue to fund the war," Gray said.
She received a standing ovation.
Contact Jesse Leavenworth at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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