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Proviso Probe

Sunday, February 11, 2007

GOV, anti-war activists lobby Emanuel

A group of anti-war activists met with Congressman Rahm Emanuel (January 22) and his legislative director, Luis Jimenez (January 29) to request actions intended to end the Iraq War. Emanuel represents most of Melrose Park in the U.S. House of Representatives.

This entry is based on notes provided by Aaron Dellutri.

Who were the activists?
[About] 20 people showed up, including people from Lincoln Park Neighbors United for Peace, Labor Groups, Progressive Democrats of America, Logan Square Neighbors for Peace, and other groups.

This is Dellutri's summary of the meeting with Emanuel.
The meeting demonstrated the effects of overwhelming opposition to the occupation of Iraq the the 5th district and in the nation. Rahm Emanuel, who had been a supporter of the war, has had to modify his position in response. Unlike his position before the election last November, Mr. Emanuel stated in the meeting that he was committed to supporting the efforts of Rep. Jack Murtha (D-PA). Murtha wants to prevent any escalation of the war and to begin a process of redeployment of US troops out of Iraq. However, Emanuel refused to take any position on any effort to cut off funding for continuation of the war past the current fiscal year.

Emanuel said that he would ask Congress to require that the President seek approval for any millitary action against Iran, but he also said that this would not be taken up until after the debate on Iraq. Many of us felt that would be too late. He mentioned, however, that the special appropriation for Iraq includes several billion dollars for moving another fleet into the Persian Gulf, which could be interpreted as a show of force aimed at Iran. He suggested that he intended to expose and oppose this.

These were Dellutri's four talking points.
First, we urge Congressman Emanuel to come out against Bush's planned escalation of the troop level in Iraq.

Second, we suggest that Emanuel consider supporting a complete withdrawal of US troops from Iraq by the end of the year 2007.

Third, we would like to point out that Bush's planned escalation could easily start real war with Iran.

Fourth, we emphasize that the US Occupation of 2007 has already been paid for by the Congress. Since any cutoff in funding will not be felt until 2008, it cannot endanger the troops.

This is a summary of Emanuel's responses to these demands.
Rahm said that he had actually been the one who popularized the term 'Escalation' instead of 'Surge' within the Democratic Party, since it more accurately reflected the nature of the policy Bush wants to implement. Surge, he said, suggested a temporary tactic, but Bush intends to keep the new soldiers in Iraq.

Rep. Emanuel was urged to do something about the cutbacks in health care and other Cook County Services, especially in view of the fact that the war in Iraq is consuming so much of our national resources. Mr. Emanuel mentioned that he had done various things to try and limit the occupation, such as introducing a "Parity Act" which would have forced spending on Iraq to be matched by domestic spending. This bill did not get adopted.

He also mentioned a problem with soldiers who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan, and have mental difficulties, yet are sent back into combat. He said that he wants to address this problem.

He also said that he did not necessarily want to sign on to the Woolsey Bill HR 508 * as someone mentioned and asked him. He said that he wanted to go by Jack Murtha's plan, and said the best approach was one of re-deployment.

If Congress can't build a majority around a specific alternative to the Bush position then Bush continues to be able to do what he wants. If one was cynical about Emanuel one could suspect him of supporting Bush by failing to build a majority around a specific alternative.

Dellutri included a summary of Murtha's resolution.
1. US forces should be "re-deployed" from Iraq
2. A Quick-Reaction US force should be kept ready "over-the-horizon" to re-enter Iraq if necessary.
3. The US should pursue security and stability in Iraq through diplomacy.

A couple of the other notes seemed interesting or important to me.
Katy Scott of Millitary Families Speak Out spoke of her son who was badly injured in Iraq. She gave Mr. Emanuel a photo album of her son. He seemed moved as he looked through the album and asked if he could keep it for a while and return it to her.

And Emanuel has this to say about possible war with Iran:
He said that votes would be taken about Iran in due time, but that he believed that Bush did not have the right to go to war with Iran without the explicit approval of Congress.

The follow-up meeting with Jimenez was in Washington, DC.
I started out the meeting with what we thought were our two biggest 'asks'. First, that Emanuel vote against the Supplemental Appropriations Bill, or at least attach conditions to the Bill (such as, this money cannot be used to create Enduring Bases, or this money cannot be used in an attack on Iran). Secondly, we asked that Emanuel officially sign onto Rep. Murtha's House Joint Resolution #18 (which would redeploy troops from Iraq).

The reason we asked Emanuel to sign onto H J Res #18 is that in our previous meeting with Emanuel, Emanuel stated that he was dedicated to following Rep. Murtha's plan for exiting Iraq. However when we looked at the people who had signed on to Rep. Murtha's plan, Emanuel was not there. It was a very signifigant thing that Emanuel said he was with Murtha, so we want this to be a public stance on his part, not just something he says to us. In the meeting with Jimenez, we also thanked Jimenez on behalf of Emanuel, about Emanuel's statement that he was with Murtha.

Staff members are supposed to be completely non-committal unless the member of Congress has taken a position.
Jimenez said, one reason that Emanuel considers it diffcult to vote against the Supplemental Appropriations Bill is because of the way many items are bundled into the bill. Jimenez stated that the Appropriations Bill contains funding not only for the continued occupation of Iraq but also for other projects such as for the Afghanistan occupation, and many Domestic projects as well. Jimenez stated that Bush's strategy of funding the Iraq occupation through Supplemental Appropriations Bills is an inherently and intentionally misleading one.

Emanuel sounds like an enabler. "My spouse behaves badly when drinking, but I can't stop giving her/him money."
Jimenez mentioned that bipartisanship was important to Emanuel.

Bi-partisanship is good in theory, but there are good policies and bad policies. And I'd rather Emanuel advocate for good policies that are partisan than limit himself to worthless policies that are bi-partisan. What's the point of the Democrats having the majority if they still wait for Republican support on any legislation before acting?

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