Last Sunday, at the Riverside Church, where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once eloquently opposed the Vietnam War, Presidential candidate and former Senator John Edwards urged Congress to deny funding to President Bush's escalation in Iraq: "If you're in Congress and you know this war is going in the wrong direction, it is no longer enough to study your options and keep your own counsel. Speak out, and stop this escalation now. You have the power to prohibit the president from spending any money to escalate the war – use it."
Yesterday, on Capitol Hill, three Congresswomen not only spoke out powerfully on the issue of escalation, but also – with characteristic leadership, courage and determination – laid out a principled alternative to the Bush Way Forward into continuing human catastrophe. And, at this critical moment, it offers all citizens who care about peace the opportunity to rally around a single, rational proposal for withdrawal.
Rep. Lynn Woolsey stood with fellow Congressional Progressive Caucus co-Chair, Rep. Barbara Lee, and the Chair of the Out of Iraq Caucus, Rep. Maxine Waters, to introduce the Bring Our Troops Home and Sovereignty of Iraq Restoration Act.
"We are a triad to be dealt with," Rep. Woolsey said. "And we will be heard from."
The three Representatives outlined the first bill to comprehensively lay out the cost and framework for a withdrawal from Iraq. It calls for bringing the troops home within six months of enactment and describes in detail US involvement to help stabilize Iraq following withdrawal. It accelerates the training of a permanent Iraqi security force during the six month transition and provides funding as necessary to ensure the safety of the troops and contractors during withdrawal. It also authorizes – if requested by the Iraqi government – US support for an international stabilization force. Finally, it guarantees full health care funding – including mental health benefits – as our veterans deserve. And it does all of this for pennies on the dollar compared to continuing the occupation which is draining the nation of needed resources.
"This will be the centerpiece of advocacy for all of the peace groups that will converge on Washington on January 27," Rep. Waters said.
Rep. Woolsey added, "President Bush may not want to listen to the American people, but they are going to be here in the streets of Washington, DC and in the halls of Congress toward the end of the month."
All three Congresswomen cited the President and Tony Snow's challenge to come up with an alternative to the Bush plan – which, as Rep. Lee noted – is opposed by the American people, members of Congress, and the President's own former military advisors.
"They have said that the critics of escalation have a responsibility to offer an alternative, so here we are," Rep. Lee said. "And the word has to get out that there is an alternative. Yes, the administration and the President made a mess out of this war – it's illegal, it's immoral, it's wrong – and if they don't know how to bring our troops home and end it, well, we have some very concrete, practical, realistic suggestions."
"They are saying if you have a better plan come up with it," Rep. Waters said. "First of all, it is absolutely unthinkable that this President who led us into war under false pretenses, misleading information, distorted information… would now try to put the responsibility on someone else's shoulders to stop it. But we're up to it. Because we never believed in this war. We all voted against this war. And we are committed to ending this war."
Rep. Woolsey – who as Rep. Lee pointed out was the first member of Congress to introduce a plan for withdrawal – also reflected on their shared determination to stop the Bush administration's war: "When the three of us voted against going into Iraq in the first place we were considered anti-American, virtually. We were so criticized. And now the American people are with us, and Congress is lagging behind the American people and must catch up with them."
Rep. Woolsey said the bill now has 16 original co-sponsors and she is confident that it will gain further momentum as representatives continue to hear from their constituents and the co-sponsors press to recruit their colleagues.
Rep. Waters, too, believes that the "well thought through" plan will attract support – in the streets and then the suites of Congress. "Many of our new members were elected, and some old members re-elected, because of our commitment to end this unconscionable and immoral war in Iraq," she said.
"It's time to support the troops in a real way, and that's by bringing them home – bringing them out of harms way," Rep. Lee said. "Remove them from being the targets of a violent civil war. And then we can move forward as the legislation proposes to engage in regional stability efforts, reconstruction efforts, and diplomatic efforts."
You want to see real courage, leadership and seriousness of purpose in the Democratic party? You want to celebrate women who are excelling in positions of power (while the mainstream media obsesses over the Boxer-Rice exchange)? Look no further than the Triad.
And then read their plan. Come to Washington on January 27. And work to bring our troops home.