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Message to pro-war extremists: Our troops are not your dupes

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It’s a given that our war-loving leaders and their enablers do not care about American mass society. But how do they treat their warriors? As a nation we faced the shame of soldiers sent to a war zone without armor or with defective armor, and with a mission that changed with each season. We were revolted by the neglect of Walter Reed and other military hospitals that outsource the care of injured soldiers to profit-making companies. It’s common knowledge that many soldiers are choosing suicide (99 in 2006, 88 in 2005). Some asked for help for PTSD and depression but were denied. Anywhere from 200,000 to 400,000 veterans are homeless. And those serving in Iraq face another obstacle. The number of military contractors in Iraq who operate outside the rules of the military, and often at cross-purposes, has quietly surpassed the number of soldiers serving there.  

And yet, our representatives cannot see a viable alternative to rubber stamping another $141.7 billion “supplemental” to further cripple Iraq and sacrifice the minds and bodies of our exhausted soldiers, many of whom are on their fourth or fifth deployments. Continuing the occupation is insurance that our home infrastructure will continue to collapse, cave, buckle, rust and rot well into the future. If Congress agrees, it will bring the total appropriation for mindless destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 to $746 billion.  

Surprisingly, some elected leaders insist they aren’t hearing much opposition to the war.  It’s been easy for senators and representatives to dodge dissenters and embrace flag and ribbon wavers who must anticipate a share in the spoils of war. They frequently travel internationally during recesses, don’t meet with constituents or attend public forums where they’d be forced to face questions from an angry public. 

When Senator Norm Coleman told the Star Tribune editorial board earlier this month that he wasn’t hearing from many Minnesotans against the war because the issue is “complex” and “people aren’t sure,” Barry Riesch, a Veterans for Peace member in St. Paul, took umbrage. He fired back a letter to the Star Tribune: 


Look outside, Senator I had to laugh when I read the Sept. 5 Q&A with Sen. Norm Coleman. In spite of the fact that his neighbors have surrounded his house with red "Support The Troops -- End the War" signs, folks have had numerous vigils at his office, and he was invited to a Town Hall meeting on his behalf Aug. 28 (which he chose not to attend), he claims he hasn't heard much from Minnesotans. Could it be that he really doesn't want to know what people are saying about Iraq?



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Coleman’s claim that he wasn’t hearing from opponents of the war was still on Riesch’s mind through Saturday. At the rally he invited others to join him in making sure Coleman heard us for once and so we paid the senator a visit at his St. Paul home.    

Can you hear us now?


After back-up from the St. Paul Police Department was in place, Norm Coleman came outside to talk with about 25 peace activists who gathered in front of his home in St. Paul September 15 to make it irrefutable that Coleman got the message.    

During a mostly civil exchange where Coleman answered questions, the senator maintained that should the U.S. withdraw from Iraq, Al Quaeda would take over, called the missing $9 billion in Iraq reconstruction money a messy accounting error, and would not rule out attacking Iran, calling it a terrorist state.   

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He did deviate from the president on the surge; he acknowledged that it hadn’t worked.  
In a democracy, majority rules and the majority of people want this war to end now. The only way this can happen is if Congress cuts off funding.   
Speaker Pelosi has the power to prevent a vote for funding an endless war. She  doesn’t need to blaze any new trails. It’s all been done before.  Wondering how Congress can de-fund the war? Here you go, courtesy of the Congressional Research Service:
Congressional Options to Affect Military Operations (page 28) “As interest in alternate policies for Iraq has grown, Congress may turn to the Vietnam and other experience to look for ways to affect military operations and troop levels in Iraq. In the past, Congress has considered both funding and non-funding options. Most observers would maintain that restrictions tied to appropriations have been more effective. (For an analysis of the legal issues in restricting military operations, see CRS Report RL33837, Congressional Authority to Limit U.S.Military Operations in Iraq, by Jennifer K. Elsea, Michael John Garcia, and Thomas J. Nicola. For examples of past enacted and proposed restrictions, see CRS Report RL33803, Congressional Restrictions on U.S. Military Operations in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Somalia, and Kosovo: Funding and Non-Funding Approaches, by Amy Belasco, Hannah Fischer, Lynn Cunningham, and Larry Niksch. For recent proposals to restrict military operations, see CRS Report RL33900, FY2007 War on Terror, February 7, 2007.  

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Kathlyn Stone is a Minnesota-based writer covering science and medicine, health care and related policies.-She publishes www.fleshandstone.net, a health and science news site.

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