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Proviso Probe

Monday, September 17, 2007

Lipinski Iraq forum at Summit American Legion hall

Last Thursday night I attended a forum for Rep. Dan Lipinski (D-IL03) to talk to veterans at the Summit American Legion hall. Lipinski's website advertised that the subject would be the Iraq occupation, but seemed it drifted off into various veterans issues.

The event started with Lipinski giving the Distinguished Service Cross to the family of some GI killed in the Pacific in 1943. The Distinguish Service Cross is a big deal. It's the award one step down from the Medal of Honor. From Wikipedia, since Vietnam, as of early 2007, six Distinguished Service Crosses have been awarded.

I was struck be how awkward Lipinski was giving the award to the family. He couldn't make up his mind if the award was from him (it wasn't) or from Congress or the country. As Jim Capperelli, who is running against Lipinski, noted later, it's painful to watch Lipinski speak.

I also felt that the evidence justifying the Distinguish Service Cross seemed a bit thin. The guy was wounded. He was later found dead. Around him were a bunch of dead Japanese (number vague). So the inference was that he killed a bunch of Japanese by himself.

I suspected that the family had pushed for this award. And if some family wants a military decoration to commemorate their loved one, I'm OK with that. I don't like using flimsy evidence or inflating the award, but it doesn't seem like there's great harm in it.

Later I found out that U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL10) was also handing out military medals for ancient events at one of his local forums. I suspect that this is a PR offensive by the Bush administration and the U.S. military, not driven by the awardees and their families.

There were a couple questions asked about depleted uranium exposure. Bob Gronko is a member of Veterans for Peace, a friend and and works in an organization that provides services to veterans. Gronko said this of the forum:
I asked Congressman Lipinski what he would do to protect our brethren in service from DU (depleted uranium), if they would be tested for DU exposure upon return, and if they would be treated by the VA if exposed.

He answered in vague terms about supporting our troops and treating them for PTSD and TBI upon return. He apparently doesn't know what DU is or intentionally evaded the question for other reasons.

My impression is: He is not interested in protecting and supporting our troops, only in sounding like he does without doing any research - even when provided. He needs to be replaced by someone veterans can trust.

A Near West Citizen For Peace and Justice pointed out to him that a film detailing the dangers of DU was delivered to his office. He merely acknowledged the comment.

I raised multiple issues about the Iraq War and occupation. Realizing this is not verbatim this is what I said/asked:
1. There should be a forum on Iraq for all constituents, not just veterans.
2. Knowing what we know now, should the United States have invaded Iraq.
3. From the last 100 years is there a precedent for a foreign military defeating an insurgency that survived the first 4 1/2 years?
4. If the insurgents always win these conflicts, what makes you feel confident the U.S. military is going to defy historical precedent?

Lipinski said that he was hosting a general forum. I think he referred to a Berwyn event. On his web site (scroll down) that event is for senior citizens.

Lipinski made an unequivocal statement the United States should not have invaded Iraq. Lipinski's father voted against authorizing the war. As Yoda (Prairie State Blue) reminded people recently, then-Rep. Rod Blagojevich was the only Illinois Democrat who voted to authorize Bush to invade Iraq.

Lipinski said that he didn't think historical precedents applied to the U.S. military in Iraq because the U.S. military isn't there as an imperial power. I interjected with the follow-up question, "How do you think the Iraqis see the situation?" Lipinski didn't answer it.

Generally, Lipinski said a few things.

1. He will vote to fund the troops as long as they are in harms way.
2. He is for getting U.S. troops out of Iraq.
3. But the troops shouldn't leave now or leave too quickly.
4. The troops may (will probably) be in Iraq for as long as U.S. troops stayed in Germany or Korea.

Lipinski obviously wants credit for wanting U.S. troops--especially the loved ones of constituents--to be home. But he's not going to force the issue by withholding funds. And he's opposed to leaving if it will possibly result in bad consequences. And he's basically resigned to giving the President a blank check.

The Korea and Germany analogies are flawed because once the hot war was over in both of those theaters things calmed down and the chief threat was motor vehicles accidents and doing stupid stuff while intoxicated.

After asking my questions, I did speak to Capperelli. He has a fairly detailed knowledge of military history. He pointed to a few examples of defeating long-term insurgencies, including in Peru, South Africa and Malaysia. If you want to discuss it in the comments, I'll explain why I don't think those examples apply. However, I was impressed with Capperelli's knowledge, even if I disagree with him on the issue of Iraq.

There were a couple women at the forum who were hot about the immigration issue.

One woman gave the impression that she took vacation to go check on the progress of the 700-mile fence that is supposed to be built along the U.S. border with Mexico.

The other woman--I didn't hear this, but a couple people recounted it to me--had a granddaughter who tested positive for TB. She then talked for a couple minutes, which is when I stopped paying attention. Ultimately, she got around to blaming her Mexican daughter-in-law for exposing her granddaughter to TB. This is a meme being pushed by Lou Dobbs, Rush Limbaugh and other anti-immigration activists: immigrants, especially illegal immigrants, increase the spread of serious diseases, like TB. Dobbs has an obsession with leprosy (as Lisa Simpson reminds us they are trying to move to the term "Hansen's disease"), even though his "facts" have been debunked. See Media Matters.

The one time when Lipinski seemed fired-up and angry with someone was when discussing the 700-mile fence. Lipinski was mad at President George W. Bush about not spending the money authorized to build the fence. Unlike the disloyal Joe Lieberman, Lipinski never criticized any Democrats or spoke disrespectfully of more liberal positions on issues.

But I got the impression that Lipinski was most comfortable speaking to constituents who think immigration is the top issue facing the United States (and that there should be less immigration).

I was impressed with Jerome Pohlen's campaign. Pohlen is the Green Party candidate in IL-03. Pohlen's campaign had someone there video taping Lipinski's performance.

There was also a representative from Mark Pera's campaign, but I only found out after the forum when he emailed me that he was there.

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  • Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo) saves me having to get into the details of discussing some past counter insurgency operations.

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 9:58 PM, September 17, 2007  

  • Great write-up! Thanks so much for going to this, Carl, and for taking the time to summarize what happened.

    One comment and that is about our members of congress holding public forums. In general, I am shocked at how little this is done, even by our most progressive congresspeople. If it were me, I would have regular forums about issues that I was working on in congress. First of all, it would be a great educational opportunity for your constituents to learn more about their government and the issues of the day. Secondly it would be a great way to build your base of support. And thirdly it would be a great chance for YOU to hear what is on your constituent's minds.

    In fact, perhaps I will put up a poll on PSB as to how many times, if any, people are aware of their congressperson having a public forum. And that would not include them going to speak at the membership meetings of local organizations. I mean public forums that are organized and publicized by the representative themselves. I would be fascinated to know who, if anyone, is doing them, and how often, and what about.

    By Anonymous Yoda, at 8:57 AM, September 18, 2007  

  • In fairness to the Congress critters, public forums tend to bring out the kooks.

    How's Lipinski supposed to handle constituents who take vacation to check on the status of the border with Mexico? Or who blame their in-laws for exposing the grandchild to TB?

    What can Lipinski say that doesn't make him look bad to part of the audience?

    I remember attending a forum in Highland Park with Rep. John Porter. This guy claimed to have evidence that the Clinton administration had built camps in preparation for declaring martial-law and rounding-up political dissenters. He handed Porter a bunch of documents.

    Rep. Danny Davis has the most community forums. Typically he goes around the room finding something nice to say about everyone. He especially likes mentioning how he knew someone connected to the person from the 1970s. He throws in an anecdote about Arkansas or when he first came to Chicago. And if there's any time left he fields a few questions and says that the issue raised is very important.

    We, the citizens, need to be more focused in making requests of elected officials and holding them accountable.

    By Blogger Carl Nyberg, at 9:21 AM, September 18, 2007  

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