Why I Went to D.C.
I think it was the applause: all those newly empowered Democrats jumping to their feet to applaud Bush at the State of the Union Address. The man deserves derision, not an ovation, for all the damage he has done. It was especially galling to see him roundly applauded by the very representatives just put in office specifi- cally to rein him in. Obviously, I thought, giving Congress back to the Dems wasn't enough. Although they now have the power to counter this dangerous man, sadly they lack the will. It's up to us - the people who put them in office - - to help them find it.
So I drove down to D.C. to join the protest on the National Mall. I wanted Congress to see a massive crowd of citizens demanding real change at last. I wasn't disappointed. News reports that there were "tens of thousands" of protesters made the event sound much smaller than it was. The event organizers claim there were a half million marchers. Veteran protesters I spoke with believed a reasonable estimate was at least a quarter million, a figure I find credible based on the huge crowd I saw there. That's a lot of people to take the time and expense to travel all the way to the capital to express their disgust and dismay at what their government is doing in their name. An event of that magnitude is clearly an important statement of discontent in our land. It should have received a lot more press than it did.
I brought my oldest daughter with me to D.C. so she could see firsthand that there are a great many likeminded people from all over the U.S. who are as distressed and outraged as her parents are by this war and the litany of other abuses perpetrated by this administration. Officially sanctioned torture, secret prisons, arbitrary and indefinite detention of people without trial or even access to a lawyer, a special kangaroo court convened on the president's whim, illegal wiretapping, a stubborn insistence that the executive is above the law - not to mention the toleration of outrageous war profiteering and mind-boggling incompetence - these things are not normal for the United States of America. I don't want my children to accept them as such.
When asked by a reporter what the American people have been asked to sacrifice for the war in Iraq -- a war that he claims is the "defining ideological struggle of the 21st century" and that we must wage to safeguard civilization itself - President Bush said that, well, we've all had to give up our peace of mind. On the Mall, I heard from military families who've had to give up so much more than that - more, I believe, than this president is capable of even grasping. Along with the unfortunate people of Iraq, our military members are the ones who have truly suffered in this great misadventure. Bush has asked far too much of them and given them far too little. The fathers and mothers of servicemen and women who spoke at the protest made this quite clear. The families of the dead and maimed U.S. soldiers this war has produced will continue to pay for this policy for many years to come. Their voices of protest were especially poignant.
If you oppose the war, please write to Senators Whitehouse and Reed and Representative Kennedy and tell them to de-fund it. Tell them that a nonbinding resolution opposing the troop escalation is simply not enough. Such a resolution is worse than useless, because it will allow politicians to say they oppose the war without actually doing anything to stop it. It's not possible to both oppose the war and continue to fund it. The fact that Bush has placed the troops in harm's way should not mean he gets a blank check to keep them there. The founders gave Congress the power of the purse for just this situation - to counter a president bent on waging an unwise, unjustified war. If Congress de-funds the war and Bush still insists on leaving the troops in Iraq, it will be Bush not Congress that imperils them. And the American people really wouldn't stand for that.