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.