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More on Sheehan v Pelosi; Bush Dogs of War

Readers made some good points about my post questioning the wisdom of Cindy Sheehan's decision to run to Congress against Nancy Pelosi. Really, what's the harm? I think my problem wasn't so much with this particular race per se as with the general penchant of the left for the electoral politics of theatre: runs that have no hope of success by people who have no serious interest in being in government. I know that sounds terribly square. But beyond generating (maybe) a few headlines and offering likeminded voters a chance to raise a fist in the air, what is achieved? Is an organization built? is the ground prepared for a more powerful bid next time? Are ideas put into the political discourse that weren't there before? Is the winner pushed to the left? Too often, in fact almost always, the answer to these questions is no.

If Cindy Sheehan wants to make an anti-war gesture, running against Nancy Pelosi is one way to do it, so good luck to her. Still, to me, it would make more sense for Iraq war opponents to run where they have a chance to win, and against a more reprehensible congressperson, too. Chris Bowers at openleft.com has compiled a list of the 38 Democratic congresspeople -- he calls them Bush Dogs -- who voted with the Republicans both on funding the Iraq war and on warrantless wiretapping.

Some of these got significant Netroots support in 2006 ( I donated on line to Stephanie Herseth (SD) --one of only two women on the list, I'm happy to report). That's more than a little depressing in view of the large claims being made for the blogosphere as representing a whole new way of doing politics. Obviously the " just elect Democrats" philosophy has its limits, if it means putting in office Democrats who vote with the Bush Administration on these crucial foreign policy and civil liberties issues , and who will likely vote for God knows whatever awful legislation emanates from the White House next.

Some of these Bush Dogs come from heavily Republican districts, but Bowers identifies 16 on the list as vulnerable to pressure, including a threatened or real primary challenge . If antiwar activists want to take the fight to the ballot box, Bowers' list is a good place to start.

How Super Was Our Power Anyway?

Pick up the paper any day and you'll find tiny straws in the wind (or headlines inside the fold) reflecting the seeping away of American power. The President of the planet's "sole superpower" and his top diplomats and commanders have been denouncing Iran for months as the evil hand behind American disaster in Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

So imagine, when President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan arrived in Washington a couple of weeks back and promptly described Iran as "a helper and a solution" for his country, even as President Bush insisted in his presence: "I would be very cautious about whether or not the Iranian influence in Afghanistan is a positive force." At almost the same moment, Iraq's embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki paid an official visit to Iran, undoubtedly looking for support in case the U.S. turned on his government. Maliki "held hands" with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, met with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini, and called for cooperation. In response, all President Bush could do was issue a vague threat: "I will have to have a heart to heart with my friend, the prime minister, because I don't believe [the Iranians] are constructive.... My message to him is, when we catch you playing a non-constructive role, there will be a price to pay." (Later, a National Security Council spokesman had to offer a correction, insisting the threat was aimed only at Iran, not Maliki.) Then, to add insult to injury, just a week after Bush and Karzai met in Washington, Ahmadinejad headed for Kabul with a high-ranking Iranian delegation to pay his respects to the Afghan president "in open defiance of Washington's wishes." Think slap in the puss.

What made this little regional diplomatic dance all the more curious was the fact that Karzai and Maliki are such weak (and weakening) American-backed leaders -- Maliki of a government in chaos whose purview hardly extends beyond the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, and Karzai, sometimes dubbed the "mayor of Kabul," as head of a government visibly losing control over even the modest areas it had ruled. In another age, each would have been dubbed an American "puppet" and yet, here they were, defying an American president in search of support from a hated regional power on whose curbing Bush has staked what's left of his presidency.

Meanwhile, the first joint Sino-Russian "military exercise" on Russian soil (witnessed by Chinese President Hu Jintao and Russian President Vladimir Putin) had barely ended when Putin announced late last week, not from Russia but from the former Central Asian soviet socialist republic of Kazakhstan, that "regular long-range air patrols that ended after the Soviet Union collapsed" would now be resumed--and not just over Russian air space either. The planes in these patrols are nuclear-armed and "capable of striking targets deep inside the United States." Think of this as one way in which the Russian President, thoroughly irritated with the Bush administration's decision to implant elements of an American anti-missile system in Poland and the Czech Republic, was using military symbolism to reassert his country's right to Great Power status -- a status earned in recent years, thanks to its enormous energy reserves. All a State Department official could say in response was: "If Russia feels as though they want to take some of these old aircraft out of mothballs and get them flying again, that's their decision."

Meanwhile, halfway across the globe, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's government was reportedly on the verge of announcing a new deal with Putin's Russia. Having already purchased Russian jets, helicopters, and whole plants to build Kalashnikov assault rifles (in the face of an embargo on American arms), it would now buy 5,000 advanced Dragunov sniper rifles. Again the deploring sounds from Washington were remarkably mild, though the frustration level is obviously high.

When it comes to discovering regular signs like these of the visible decline of American global power, you can actually do this exercise yourself. Just keep an eye on your daily paper--or start by checking out the latest sweeping piece, "America on the Downward Slope," by Middle Eastern expert Dilip Hiro, most recently author of Blood of the Earth, The Battle for the World's Vanishing Oil Resources. "When viewed globally and in the great stretch of history," he concludes, "the notion of American exceptionalism that drove the neoconservatives to proclaim the Project for the New American Century in the late 20th century--adopted so wholeheartedly by the Bush administration in this one--is nothing new.... No superpower in modern times has maintained its supremacy for more than several generations. And, however exceptional its leaders may have thought themselves, the United States, already clearly past its zenith, has no chance of becoming an exception to this age-old pattern of history."

In 2002, the Bush administration issued its National Security Strategy of the United States of America, a document of ultimate hubris in which its strategists essentially claimed that the U.S. was planning to remain the global superpower for an eternity. They were going to feed the Pentagon so much money that it would be bulked up into the distant future--and so, capable of suppressing any potential superpower or bloc of powers that might emerge. How long ago that seems. With the black hole of Iraq sucking all Bush administration efforts into its vortex, much of the globe has, it appears, been quietly released to enhance its power at the expense of the sole superpower, now sliding down that slippery slope.

Obama Attacked for Being Right About Afghanistan

The Republican National Committee has for some time now made itself the mouthpiece for extreme pro-war rhetoric, despite the fact that substantial numbers of Republicans – some of whom sit in Congress – oppose the Bush-Cheney administration's misguided approach to the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. In this context, the RNC spends most of its time attacking Democrats who express sentiments no more radical than those mentioned by mainstream Republicans.

The current target of the RNC's comically over-the-top wrath is U.S. Senator Barack Obama, the Illinois Democrat who is a leading contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The RNC is furious with Obama for pointing out the obvious with regard to the worst excesses of the Afghanistan occupation.

Obama recently said of that occupation: "We've got to get the job done there and that requires us to have enough troops so that we're not just air-raiding villages and killing civilians, which is causing enormous pressure over there."

This is hardly a militant viewpoint. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly expressed shock and anger at the U.S. bombing of villages and the killing of civilians. "While the people of Afghanistan stand firmly with the international community in their effort to defeat terrorism," Karzai said after one particularly horrific incident in which 16 civilians were killed and dozens or women and children were injured, "it must be ensured that civilians are not affected during the operations."

Karzai has gone so far as to summon the commander of the coalition forces in Afghanistan to his office in order to deliver a demand that "incidents (bombing raids that kill civilians) must not be repeated."

Unfortunately, as Karzai made clear during his recent visit to the U.S., the crisis continues. And, as a result, resentment regarding the U.S. occupation is rising among the people of Afghanistan. That creates even greater danger for U.S. troops on the ground.

Obama is highlighting this very real concern at a time when it may still be possible to take steps to address it. He may not be arguing for the best approach – wiser analysts of the turbulent region dispute the notion that sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan is the answer – but there is no question that his references to air-raiding villages and killing civilians comes in the context of an ongoing and important diplomatic discussion.

No reasonable observer could miss Obama's point: That the United States government should be concerned about the mounting civilian death toll in Afghanistan -- and about the sense on the part of Afghan leaders and citizens that more could be done by our military to prevent those deaths -- for both humanitarian and political reasons.

Yet, the RNC has ginned up its considerable propaganda machine – with predictable echoes from party apparatchiks in the media – to suggest that Obama's statement is at best naïve and at worst an affront to U.S. troops and the war or terror.

"Obama's Assessment Of U.S Troop Efforts In War On Terror Demonstrates His Extreme Careless And Inexperienced Nature," screams the latest of several memos attacking the senator that have been distributed to major media outlets under the guise of an "RNC Research Briefing."

The "briefing" complains that: "Inexperienced Obama Fails To Acknowledge Major Accomplishments In Afghanistan."

Suggesting that a well-regarded member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who has lived abroad, earned international acclaim for his writing and speaking on global issues and traveled extensively in regions of the world rarely visited by presidential candidates is "inexperienced" is ridiculous rhetoric on the part of the RNC. But the Republican briefers are right about one thing: Obama did fail to acknowledge all the "accomplishments" of the Bush-Cheney administration in Afghanistan.

The Illinois senator made no mention, for instance, of the friendly-fire killing U.S. Army Corporal Pat Tillman in Afghanistan and the ambitious efforts of military commanders and their civilian counterparts to portray that death as the result of an enemy attack – in an apparent effort to use the former pro-football player's service to gin up support for the occupation and to encourage military recruitment efforts.

This "accomplishment" is now the subject of a congressional inquiry that recently heard Tillman's brother, Kevin, himself a veteran, say of the cover-up: "The deception surrounding this case was an insult to the family: but more importantly, its primary purpose was to deceive a whole nation."

As the RNC attacks on Obama illustrate, efforts to deceive the whole nation continue.

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John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

The Enormous Cost of War

The National Priorities Project (NPP), a research organization that analyzes and clarifies federal data so that people can understand how their tax dollars are spent, continues to be an invaluable resource when it comes to translating the costs of the Iraq War.

$456 billion has now been appropriated for the war through September 30, and that's a difficult number to get a handle on. But as I've written previously (here and here), NPP spells out exactly what every state and district has paid towards this catastrophe and describes the spending priorities that could have been met with those same resources.

For example, $456 billion could have provided over 48 million children with health care coverage for the length of the War; built 3.5 million affordable housing units; 45,800 elementary schools; hired 8 million additional public school teachers for a year; paid for nearly 60 million kids to attend Head Start; or awarded 22 million 4-year scholarships at public universities. Instead, we find our nation speeding towards what Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimated as a final price tag – somewhere between $1 trillion and $2 trillion.

But the hope is that as Americans become more aware of the costs of this war in treasure (as well as lives), constituents will increasingly pressure their representatives to break with the President and end this tragic course. That's why other antiwar groups are beginning to make good use of NPP's data too.

This week, MoveOn.org released its own report on the cost of the Iraq war relying exclusively on NPP's cost of war information and trade-off data by state and congressional district. MoveOn will use this information as the basis for actions in 160 cities, educating constituents and pressuring Members of Congress to end the War.

Also throughout this week, USAction Education Fund is releasing reports outlining the damage done to 25 states by the "upside-down priorities of the Bush administration and previous, Republican-led Congresses," and what the current Congress is trying to do to repair that damage. The report uses NPP's data on the cost of the Iraq war, and its analysis of how Congress' proposed spending bills would impact each congressional district. The USAction Education Fund report will be used to urge members of Congress to override President Bush's threatened vetoes of modest spending increases in all domestic programs, from children's health care to the Food Stamp Program.

In a released statement, NPP executive director Greg Speeter said: "Our information is all about giving people what they need to hold their Congresspeople accountable for their actions. We're pleased to see our data making that possible in such coordinated and widespread efforts."

And coordinated, widespread efforts are exactly what we need to bring an end to this war.

Exxon vs. Reason

I've written before about efforts to force ExxonMobile to join the growing mainstream Big Oil acceptance of the need for renewable energy. Well, there have been some successes but ExxonMobil is still the only oil giant refusing to invest in renewable energy.

Oil companies like Shell and BP are investing billions of dollars in clean, alternative energy sources that will bring down consumer costs, create new jobs and help save the environment. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil dismisses renewable energy despite repeated Congressional studies showing that we can wean ourselves of our oil dependence by increasing the use of homegrown power from wind and solar, geothermal, and biomass sources.

Instead, ExxonMobil dumps its staggering profits ($10.26 billion in '06, just shy of 2005's record $10.36 billion.) into more long-term oil and gas projects, including some of the dirtiest forms of hard-to-get oil around.

Given ExxonMobil's short-sighted and selfish position on one of the most pressing issues of our time, including its continued funding of global warming denial groups, it's critical to spread the word of the corporation's misdeeds.

Yes, the company has at least rhetorically bowed to reason and acknowledged that global warming is a "serious issue." This public position was undercut however in May of 2007 when ExxonMobil president Rex Tillerson told shareholders that there are still too many "unknowns" to warrant meaningful and immediate action (or investment in renewable energy). So visit the Exxpose Exxon website to see how you can help call out and combat Exxon's dirty doings.

The Worst House Speaker in American History

Dennis Hastert, who served eight years as the most lamentable Speaker of the House in the chamber's history, began a slow exit from the Congress Friday. It was on that day that the former wrestling coach, who attained the speakership not on the basis of any political skills or policy expertise but because he was willing to front for the unpalatable Tom DeLay, announced his decision not to seek reelection from the Illinois district that has elected him since 1986.

Among the fifty men and one woman who have held the speakership since a German-born pastor named Frederick Augustus Conrad Muhlenberg filled the position for the First Congress, there have been more than a few disappointments. Aside from the indicted, the disgraced and the disreputable, there have been the indefensible -- like Howell Cobb, who used his pre-Civil War speakership to promote the extension of slavery. Cobb would eventually find his true calling as the speaker of the Provisional Confederate Congress and the acting president of the southern states that seceded from the U.S. in treasonous defense of human bondage.

Could the shambling, ineffectual and frequently inarticulate Hastert really have been a worse Speaker of the House than a crude proponent of slavery, or a crook like Jim Wright or a conniving partisan like Newt Gingrich? Absolutely.

Even the worst of his predecessors had respect for the House as a institution of Congress, the separate but equal legislative branch of the federal government. Hastert displayed no such understanding or commitment. He made the House during the three congresses in which his speakership coincided with the administration of George Bush and Dick Cheney -- ironically, a man as a House member in the Reagan era coveted the post of Speaker and co-authored a history of the position -- something less than it was ever meant to be.

The House that Hastert built was neither a check nor a balance on the excesses of the Bush presidency. Hastert's House allowed the president to go to war and then initiate the long-term occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan without declarations, it rubber-stamped the administration's anti-Constitutional assaults on civil liberties, it made no complaint when the president attached signing statements that effectively exempted him from hundreds of laws that had been passed by the chamber.

Hastert's House was a crude and unworkable place, where members who sought to uphold their oaths to "defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign or domestic" were held up to ridicule and forced to hold hearings on issues involving the most extreme abuses of presidential authority -- lying to the Congress and the American people about matters of war and peace -- in basement rooms.

As a man, Hastert was as cruel and uncaring about the fate of the American people he was uniquely empowered to serve as he was about the interns dispatched to the office of Florida Congressman Mark Foley. Hastert's objection to the use of federal funds to rebuild predominantly African-American sections of New Orleans where thousands of homes and lives had been wrecked by Hurricane Katrina -- "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed" -- was so brutal that he was forced to publicly amend his comments with a claim that "I'm not advocating that the city be abandoned or relocated." But the lack of an adequate response to the needs of New Orleans by Hastert and his colleagues would confirm that the Speaker's initial reaction was a truer expression of his sentiments than the apologia.

Ultimately, however, the greatest horror of Hastert's House was not confirmed by its specific failures to serve the American people who most needed a Congress to counter the malignant neglect of the Bush-Cheney administration. Rather, it was defined by the remaking of an essential legislative chamber as nothing more than an extension of the executive branch of the government. The damage to the Congress has been severe, as has been the damage to the Republic.

Since the opposition Democrats were handed control of both the House and Senate in the realigning election of 2006, some steps have been taken to restore a proper balance. There have been more debates. A few committees have begun to investigate the lawlessness of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and other members of the administration. There is even talk, among the more principled members of the chamber, of censuring or impeaching the president or vice president. But the work is far from done. The House of current Speaker Nancy Pelosi remains too careful, too deferent and too dysfunctional in its dealings with a unitary executive branch. On most matters, President Bush and Vice President Cheney continue to get their way without much of a fight -- witness the decision of the Congress to allocate more money for the continuation of the Iraq occupation than the White House had requested. And the administration continues to treat the House and Senate with a disdain that is writ large across radical demands of executive privilege.

Even as Hastert prepares to exit Congress, the threat posed by his approach to the speakership continues. That threat is rooted in the prospect that he has created a model for House leadership -- or the lack thereof -- that will be reasserted at future moments when the legislative and executive branches are under the common control of a single party. Indeed, if a House led by Pelosi were to be as subservient to a White House occupied by Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama as was the House of Hastert to the administration of Bush and Cheney, the illusionary "leader" from Illinois will continue to define how the separation of powers operates long after he exits the Capitol.

There is a cautionary tale here for Pelosi. She should not let this remain the era of the weak Congress that it was under the fundamentally flawed leadership of Dennis Hastert. She should make it clear, to Bush an to his successor, that with Hastert gone, the speakership and the House will be restored to its proper place in the federal hierarchy.

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John Nichols' new book is THE GENIUS OF IMPEACHMENT: The Founders' Cure forRoyalism. Rolling Stone's Tim Dickinson hails it as a "nervy, acerbic, passionately argued history-cum-polemic [that] combines a rich examination of the parliamentary roots and past use ofthe 'heroic medicine' that is impeachment with a call for Democraticleaders to 'reclaim and reuse the most vital tool handed to us by thefounders for the defense of our most basic liberties.'"

An Act of Economic Madness

News stories just out report that the Bush administration is planning to designate Iran's entire Revolutionary Guard Corps a "specially designated global terrorist" in order to tighten sanctions on that country. This follows a many-months-long drumbeat of U.S. claims against Iran -- for arming not just Shiite militias (and Sunni insurgents) with the most sophisticated roadside bombs to attack American troops, but the Taliban as well (an especially unlikely charge). It also follows a growing eagerness in Congress for passage of the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act; reports of rising administration frustration over the UN Security Council's unwillingness to pass a third round of sanctions against Iran; a flurry of insider leaks that the Cheney wing of the administration is again pushing for military action against the Iranians and that the Vice President himself has urged the launching of "airstrikes at suspected training camps in Iran run by the Quds force, a special unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps"; reports that neocon think-tanks and pundits are joining the attack-Iran fray; constant claims from the President's commanders and diplomats that the hand of Iran is behind any administration misstep in the Middle East. In this context, it's worth remembering that the President has long claimed he would not leave office with the Iranian nuclear situation unsettled.

A recent piece by energy expert Michael Klare, "Entering the Tough Oil Era," at Tomdispatch.com offers perhaps the crucial context within which to consider Cheney's urge to launch an air assault on Iran. If we are, as Klare writes, leaving the realms of "easy oil" extracted from the most accessible places in the least unstable and least troubled of countries, and entering a new era of "oil that's buried far offshore or deep underground; oil scattered in small, hard-to-find reservoirs; oil that must be obtained from unfriendly, politically dangerous, or hazardous places," if global oil supplies are already under intense pressure and oil prices ready to leap on any hint of possible oil disaster anywhere on the planet, then imagine what a major air assault on Iran before January 2009 might mean for the global economy.

Actually, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates helped us imagine just this at his confirmation hearings back in December 2006 when asked about the effects of such an attack: "It's always awkward to talk about hypotheticals in this case. But I think that while Iran cannot attack us directly militarily, I think that their capacity to potentially close off the Persian Gulf to all exports of oil, their potential to unleash a significant wave of terror both in the -- well, in the Middle East and in Europe and even here in this country is very real."

Such an attack would, of course, be a straightforward act of global economic madness; but, given the cast of characters--a classic neocon quip of the pre-Iraq invasion period was ""Everyone wants to go to Baghdad. Real men want to go to Tehran..."--that hardly takes the possibility off the hypothetical "table" where all "options" so obdurately remain. Think global meltdown after any administration air assault on Iran and you're likely to be in the economic ballpark. Then buckle your seatbelt. We're entering a hair-raising age.

Defending Dr. Tiller (Part 2)

Last week after reading a post by Cara at Feministing I wrote about Dr. Tiller's case in Kansas and asked Nation readers to support him and his cause. (Thanks to the many of you who have already come through!) Tiller is the late-term abortion provider currently being prosecuted by the state of Kansas under a bizarre state law that Cara, in a new post, rightly describes as "politically motivated to make abortions more difficult to obtain."

For those following the story, the Kansas City Star recently reported that Anthony Powell, the judge appointed to preside over the case, was once a staunch anti-abortion state lawmaker. More details of the specific charges against Tiller and how he is alleged to have violated the law, which requires that two legally and financially uninvolved physicians sign off on any late-term abortion procedure, have also emerged. Cara's new post has the info, so read it here.

After that, please consider sending donations and words of support by mail to the address below. Tiller has a long history of being harassed for his work and these allegations are just the latest chapter in anti-choicers' on-going efforts to keep him from his practice.

Women's Health Care Services
5107 East Kellogg
Wichita, Kansas 67218, USA

Tiller also has a PAC called ProKanDo, which accepts donations to seek out and promote to support pro-choice candidates who are willing to serve at the state level in Kansas. Donations to the PAC can not be used on behalf of his clinic or to pay for his legal fees. If these are your goals, please send checks to the above address.

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq

This summer, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq – a broad coalition of advocacy organizations and political action committees from across the political spectrum – has launched the Iraq Summer campaign to help end the war by making it politically toxic for Republicans to support it.

Tom Matzzie, Washington Director of MoveOn.org, is "on loan" to run Americans Against Escalation in Iraq. The national campaign has a staff of 100 people, a multimillion dollar budget, and a tall order as it embarks on this effort to unify opposition to the Iraq War in advance of the Petraeus report in September.

"The debate was set up in the spring as leading towards a September report," Matzzie says, "so that gave us an organizing opportunity and an organizing momentum going into the summer. The goal is to cut the remaining support for the president's Iraq policy out from underneath him. Give the Republicans a choice between helping to end the war or facing political extinction."

With over 80 paid organizers deployed across the country, the Iraq Summer campaign – which organizers say is modeled after the Freedom Summer – is focused on 40 targeted districts where Matzzie says "there is a lot of opposition to the war but very little grassroots leadership supporting an end to the war…. Often in these suburban and exurban Republican districts there's no institutional support for a campaign to end the war…. That's what a lot of Iraq Summer is about is building a permanent apparatus to oppose the war policy in these targeted areas. "

The organizers were trained at the Maritime Institute in Baltimore – a union training facility – and then assigned to 15 states across the country. Many organizers are veterans or their family members. Iowa State Director Sue Dinsdale is the mother of two Marines. Michigan State Director Tamarra Rosenleaf's husband has been deployed to Iraq. There are also Iraq veterans on staff in New York, Illinois, Virginia, and Kentucky, and three full-time staff in Washington, DC including the chief lobbyist, John Bruhns. Finally, dozens of veterans and their family members are in the field as paid staff and volunteers.

In addition to the 40 districts where the Iraq Summer campaign has sent staff (a fairly up to date list of targets can be found here – it's missing only Senator Mitch McConnell and Representative Jean Schmidt), Americans Against Escalation in Iraq reaches another 30 House targets through grants to local organizations such as the Connecticut Citizen Action Group. In all of these districts the organizers, veterans and military families, and activists are using field operations, coalition building, paid and earned media strategies, volunteer events and cutting edge online organizing to turn up the heat on Republican members of Congress who are blocking a safe end to the Iraq war.

"I think since the war began, for over 4 years, we've done a great job as a movement of going out there and saying, ‘We oppose the War,'" Matzzie says. "But we haven't always brought the responsibility back to the politicians who are allowing it to happen. So we're changing the rhetoric from ‘I oppose the War' to ‘I oppose, [for example], Senator Coleman because of his support on the War.' And that politicization of the war policy helps put the fear into politicians, which is essential…. Ultimately the war ends because the politicians choose their own survival over sticking with Bush. That can be achieved only in the hometowns of these politicians where they count their votes."

The impact the campaign is having is already evident in the hundreds of videos activists are shooting (such as footage of Representative Mark Kirk ignoring an Iraq Vet). Americans Against Escalation in Iraq gave organizers $125 reusable video cameras – called " The Flip" camera – that plug into a USB port on a computer. The training of the organizers and activists is clear as they confront war supporters in an aggressive but normally courteous manner, and stay on message.

In addition to on-the-ground organizing, Matzzie says Americans Against Escalation in Iraq are countering the White House spin through the use of PR professionals. "We have for the first time a national, daily counterpoint to the White House and the media," he says. "We have PR professionals across two public relations firms and on our own payroll who are working every day to provide a counterpoint to the Bush administration in the press."

Iraq Summer will culminate with Take a Stand Day on August 28th. There will be about 60 town meetings held in targeted districts (the representatives are invited to attend – so far, no takers). In those communities where Representatives already support an end to the war there will be vigils to echo the message that it's time for Congress to take a stand – over 2,000 such vigils are planned. Matzzie says that MoveOn, Working Assets and True Majority are among the groups that will get the word out about Take a Stand Day nationwide.

Americans Against Escalation in Iraq doesn't plan to close shop when Congress reconvenes. If its fundraising success continues, it plans to keep its staff through December, adjusting its targets as needed.

"Ultimately what we have to do is make sure that the Republicans know we're not going away," Matzzie says. "We're gonna be in their faces until the war is over. If they still vote wrong, we're gonna stay in their face… And the sooner the politicians know that the sooner the war will end…. [And] if the Democrats don't hold Bush's feet to the fire this fall there will be dozens of primary challenges next spring."

There are some in the antiwar movement who think the Iraq Summer strategy isn't doing enough to hold Democrats feet to the fire. CODEPINK, for example, has occupied the offices of Democratic legislators who voted for a timetable but failed to limit war funding to a fully funded troop redeployment only (as opposed to Bush's escalation). In a recent article in The Hill, one CODEPINK activist called MoveOn "very conservative."

Matzzie, however, suggests that there isn't a problem with these diverse tactics. He notes that the partner organizations of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq usually take on the Democrats, but this apparatus takes on "mostly Republicans."

"It's gonna take a wall of opposition from the entire political spectrum [to end this war]," Matzzie says. "We're facing down a determined and isolated president. We're facing down the Republican Party, the entire foreign policy establishment, the military-industrial complex, Arab governments throughout the Middle East who don't want us to leave mostly because they don't want to deal with the problem, a Sunni insurgency, the Shia militias that are conducting ethnic cleansing…. There is a mosaic of people who are working to end the war. We saw work that was not being done, and we went to fill that vacuum. And that's what we're doing. And this apparatus is there, and it's well exercised, and at necessary times it can turn against any target any where in the country, regardless of their party."

Matzzie believes that the most important thing right now is "Outside the Beltway pressure on the politicians."

"What's most important now is that people know that there's a big showdown on the war this fall," Matzzie says. "We need people in their home districts to be marching and going to their town hall meetings, and making phone calls, and talking to their neighbors…. We have a genuine shot at bringing some troops home this fall. It might not be that we're able to win complete redeployment before the next president is elected but if we can bring home 60,000 troops that's 60,000 families who can sleep with a little more comfort."

It will be up to the entire mosaic – the entire "wall of opposition" – to stay in the faces of every Republican and Democrat until every soldier comes home.

This post was co-authored by Greg Kaufmann, a freelance writer residing in his disenfranchised hometown of Washington, DC.