Week of action report: Salt Lake City
For our No Soldier Left Behind week of action to let Congress know Iraq is still a top priority, I joined a group of dedicated activists who have all been personally affected by the war in Iraq in a visit to Rep. Jim Matheson’s (D-UT-2) office.
Rep. Matheson has been a perpetual target for Peace Action West. He scored 27% on our 2007 congressional scorecard due to his failure to support even the weakest measures to change course in Iraq. Despite being active in the fiscally conservative Blue Dog Caucus, he has consistently voted to send blank checks to the Bush administration to continue the occupation of Iraq. While Utah is certainly one of the more challenging states for anti-war organizing, we wanted to make keeping pressure on Rep. Matheson a top priority.
In the face of many frustrations in a long struggle to end the war in Iraq, the group I met with has been tenacious in continuing to push for a withdrawal of US troops. Carla Hitz has been actively campaigning against the war since her son served in Iraq as a Black Hawk pilot. Joan Maymi was against the war from the beginning, but became an especially passionate activist with the tragic loss of her nephew in Iraq. Marshall Thompson served in Iraq, and later walked across the state of Utah to raise awareness about the war and start a dialogue about ending it. He also made a documentary of his experience. This was an amazing and inspiring group to work with.
On Wednesday, we met with Rep. Matheson’s district director. We emphasized the economic cost of the war and the fact that the Iraqi government has been strongly advocating for a US withdrawal. Marshall recounted the experience of being in a chow hall in Iraq and seeing soldiers applaud as they saw Rep. John Murtha (D-PA) arguing in favor of his timeline for withdrawal. We all agreed that the next step is to take a more solution-oriented approach and develop a comprehensive plan to deal with all aspects of the situation in Iraq- military, economic, diplomatic and humanitarian. We will continue to work with Rep. Matheson’s office to build on that idea and head into 2009 with some momentum behind the idea of a new direction in our foreign policy.