Some people get up early to have a leisurely
breakfast and read the newspaper before
going off to work, while others fly out
the door with their coffee cup in hand.
Whatever your morning routine, let me suggest
a 30-second addition that could help stop
the war in Iraq: Call your two Senators
and tell them to bring the troops home in
Earlier this year, I virtually moved from
my home in San Francisco to Washington,
DC to pressure Congress to end the war.
I've learned a few things in these
last few months:
- Both branches of Congress are conservative,
but the Senate is downright Jurassic.
While the House of Representatives is
sprinkled with women and blacks and Latinos,
the Senate is stocked with one dark grey
suit after another. Rich white men still
compose about 80 percent of the Senate,
their average age is 62, and even those
who call themselves Democrats often think
and act like Republicans.
- Active constituents around the country
tend to know their House rep, but have
little contact with their Senators.
House members are up for election every
two years and feel obligated to mix with
the masses from time to time (town hall
meetings, community events). Senators
are much more isolated and elitist.
- While neither branch of Congress
has fulfilled the will of the American
people to stop the war in Iraq, Senators
have been the worst. In the House,
there is the Out of Iraq Caucus, the Progressive
Caucus, a plethora of bills to stop the
war; in the Senate, it has fallen virtually
to Russ Feingold to lead the charge to
get out of Iraq.
- When House and Senate bills go to
joint conference to hash out the final
bills, the House bills get watered down
by the more conservative Senate. With
the first version of the 2007 Supplemental
war spending bill, the House had a fixed
timetable for withdrawal, the Senate only
a “goal”, so the version sent
to Bush dropped the fixed timetable. The
same will be true of the second supplemental
that will be presented to Bush: the Senate
version will take out any remaining House
restrictions and allow this war to drag
on and on.
- The series of call-ins, sit-ins and
other pressure campaigns aimed at Congressional
reps have had an impact in the House:
171 Representatives (169 Democrats,
2 Republicans) voted for Congressman Jim
McGovern's bill for withdrawal to
begin within 90 days of enactment and
be completed in 180 days. It didn't
pass, but the vote represented a significant
72 percent of Democrats. By contrast,
a similar bill introduced by Senator Feingold
to bring the troops home by April 1, 2008
got only 29 votes in the Senate, representing
merely 57 percent of Democrats and no
- Several Republican Senators have
expressed misgivings about the war and
even protested the surge—Chuck Hagel,
John Warner, Susan Collins, Norm Coleman—but
they all voted for continued war. Twenty-one
Republican Senators are up for re-election
in 2008 and many of them, such as Gordon
Smith from Oregon, Susan Collins from
Maine and Wayne Allard from Colorado,
are extremely vulnerable. The time is
right to go after Republican Senators
up for re-election.
of the Senate is deaf to the cries of the
majority of Americans to bring our troops
home quickly, some Senators are listening—those
running for president. All the Democratic
Senators running for president supported
Feingold's bill to bring the troops
home by April 1, 2008: Christopher Dodd
(a co-sponsor), Joe Biden, Barak Obama,
and even previous war hawk Hillary Clinton.
Their votes don't represent their great
anti-war convictions, but rather the tremendous
pressure they are getting on the campaign
In fact, whether in the Senate or not, all
the Democratic presidential candidates are
falling over themselves to be more anti-war
than the next. John Edwards has apologized
for his 2002 vote authorizing Bush to invade
Iraq and has been taking out full-page ads
in major newspapers saying “Support
the Troops, End the War”. He supported
the Feingold bill but said it should go
further by beginning withdrawal immediately
and having all troops out in a year. Bill
Richardson calls for troops out in 2007.
Congressman Dennis Kucinich, the only one
who doesn't have to beef up his anti-war
credentials, has now one-upped the others
by adding the impeachment of Dick Cheney
to his platform.
obvious that these Democratic candidates,
who are out among the public day after day,
feel the pulse of the nation and are taking
anti-war positions to win votes. Unfortunately,
other Senators aren't feeling that
same kind of pressure.
If we want to end the war, this must change.
Our Senators—especially the 71 who
failed to support Feingold's bill—need
to hear from us on a regular basis. So why
not add to your morning routine a call to
your Senator with a simple reminder to bring
our troops home in 2007? If enough of us
make those calls, perhaps the Senators will
actually wake up and smell the coffee.
Medea Benjamin (firstname.lastname@example.org)
is cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK:
Women for Peace. To see how your Senator
here. To call the Senate, dial the Congressional
switchboard at 202-224-3121
and ask for your Senator. To join CODEPINK
in DC to educate Congress, see www.codepinkalert.org.