United States Representative Jim McDermott (D-7th District) was one of several speakers who joined around 150 activists on Jan. 7 at the Seattle Labor Temple in Belltown to slam the Iraq war and call for the troops to come home.
Billed as Operation Homecoming, the meeting was one 163 out-of-Iraq gatherings held nationwide last Saturday, said Judith Shattuck, an emcee at the meeting and a local representative of a campaign to create a so-called Department of Peace.
"We are all upset by almost daily outrages ...," she said of the war and its ripple effects on the nation. "Together, we have helped put the Bush administration on the defensive," Shattuck added. "There is much to be done, but we will not be deterred," she said. "We will have peace."
McDermott, who represents most of Seattle, agreed. "Without you, we're not going to end this war," he told the crowd. He likened the conflict in Iraq to the Vietnam War, which McDermott said ended not because of a change in heart at the White House, but because of widespread public opposition.
President George Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld prefer to tell the American public how well things are going in Iraq, the congressman said.
And they also say opponents to the war are becoming "more and more marginalized," McDermott added. But the three national officials are so far outside the mainstream that "it's hard to know where to put them," he said.
McDermott also noted that an early analysis pegged the cost of the Iraq war at around $100 billion. But a Nobel Prize-winning economist recently came with an estimate that the war's ultimate cost will be between $1 trillion and $2 trillion, he said. "The White House, they don't want you to hear that kind of stuff."
The truth is, McDermott charged, the president and his advisors are out of touch with reality. And when someone does challenge them, "they do the only thing they know how to do: they attack."
That's what happened to John Murtha, a congressman McDermott described as a hawk's hawk and a decorated veteran who was called a coward when he said the troops should come home.
McDermott was also highly critical of the recent revelation that the president had approved spying on American citizens without a warrant beginning four years ago. He had what appears to be a local example.
McDermott said an Iranian woman who was a student at Seattle Pacific University approached him two years ago to complain that the FBI had questioned her family about calls they were making to Iran. It turned out that they were checking the status of a sick aunt, he said.
The woman just wanted McDermott to know what was happening; she didn't want anything done about it because she feared retaliation, said McDermott spokesman, Mike DeCesare.
But the conversation did raise some red flags. "The first issue is: how did they know (about the calls)?" DeCesare asked.
"Do they care about breaking the law (with secret wiretaps)?" McDermott asked at the town hall meeting. "No. The only thing they have done is call for investigation into who leaked the information."
He said Bush is a lame-duck president. "And right now America is a sitting duck under Republican rule." But even some Republicans are beginning to doubt the war in Iraq, McDermott noted.
However, according to the liberal politician, "the real issue is your freedom and your democracy (are) at risk."
Staff reporter Russ Zabel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 461-1309.