Local lobby meetings: bringing our message of peace with Iran to Congress
President Obama has taken promising steps toward improving US relations with Iran, from agreeing to participate in six party talks to recording a video message to Iranians on Persian New Year. I brought some Peace Action West supporters together and set up meetings with the offices of Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. Howard Berman during the congressional recess to express our desire for Congress to support the president’s moves toward diplomacy and avoid any behavior that might undermine it.
Wednesday our stellar group of activists, including two Iranian-Americans and an American who had lived in Iran for 11 years, met with Rep. Waxman. We started out by expressing our support for the direction President Obama is taking with our policy toward Iran. One of the most important things we wanted to talk about in the meeting was a letter to President Obama that Rep. Waxman signed, along with a group of powerful Democrats in the House. The letter raised serious concerns for us because it hypes the threat from Iran’s nuclear program despite contradictory evidence from the IAEA and the US intelligence community, and calls for negotiations to have a deadline of only a few months. After more than fifty years of tensions between the US and Iran, a few months is not nearly enough time to conduct serious diplomacy. The letter also calls for enacting harsh economic sanctions against Iran if that very small amount of time is not enough to resolve tensions. Economic sanctions have not changed Iran’s behavior and have actually strengthened Iran’s government and hurt the Iranian people. This is not an effective way to change Iran’s behavior, and calling for increased sanctions can easily undermine what President Obama is trying to accomplish by toning down rhetoric and creating a less hostile environment for negotiations. We thanked Rep. Waxman for his strong voting record on our issues and for his efforts to raise concerns about a dangerous sanctions bill last year, and urged him to strongly support direct diplomacy with Iran without preconditions or a short timeline.
Another group of constituents spoke with two of Rep. Berman’s staff people on Thursday to share similar concerns about Iran and the letter that Rep. Berman also signed. As Chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Berman carries a lot of clout on this issue, and played an instrumental role in blocking the dangerous Iran sanctions bill H Con Res 362 that we worked to oppose last year. We thanked him for those efforts and again encouraged him to create the political space for a bold new direction in US Iran policy, and avoid any action in Congress that could derail that effort. We also asked Rep. Berman to cosponsor the new bill encouraging President Obama to negotiate an Incidents at Sea agreement with Iran, which would develop protocol for communicating with Iran and prevent accidental military confrontation (you can ask your representative to cosponsor by clicking here).
In a recent survey of congressional staff, they said the most likely thing to change their boss’ mind about an issue is meeting with constituents. Local lobby meetings are easy to do and have a tremendous impact by giving you an opportunity to share your feelings directly with your representatives in Congress. If you are interested in setting up a meeting with your own representative or senator, email me and I can give you all the tools and tips you need.
[…] at Peace Action West’s blog, Groundswell, our friend Rebecca recounts a couple of recent meetings with prominent members of Congress on the […]Leave a Comment
I don’t even see postings here on the Iraq War, which has killed over 1.3 million Iraqis. It’s like the peace movement has given up on stopping the largest and
deadliest war we are in.
You can see all of our posts on Iraq here: http://blog.peaceactionwest.org/category/iraq/
We have a long history of active work opposing the war in Iraq, and we are continuing to push for a quicker timeline and no residual force. We will be in DC next week telling congressional staff that Congress should push for a better plan, and will be urging them to oppose funding unless significant changes are made.
I should have worded my comments more carefully. I was referring to recent blog postings here.
The general point is valid. The lack of focus on Iraq since Obama has been in the White House here and among the peace movement in general is frightening. Having a history of opposing the Iraq War is nice, but losing site that Iraq must be the top priority of the peace movement is disturbing and too common. Over 1.3 million people have been killed in Iraq, and hundreds of thousands more will die if Obama gets to drag the war on until the end of 2011 or longer.
Every day, every leader of every peace organization should be asking herself or himself the following question.
“What else can I do to stop the Iraq war?”
I agree that the war in Iraq needs to be a priority (along with a number of other pressing peace issues), and also that our organizing around the Iraq war needs to adjust to the new political climate. Despite the problems with President Obama’s withdrawal plan, many in the public and Congress believe the Iraq war is take care of. Thus, we cannot rely on strategies like stoking mass outrage and bringing people out into the streets, but need to organize based on this political reality. I was just in DC last week meeting with congressional staff, and we talked about the problem of the size of President Obama’s residual force, the upcoming supplemental request, and ways to bring attention to this important issue.