Olympia: Citizens Talk Back to Baird

A small group of 40 citizens gathered in front of Rep. Baird’s Olympia office to respond to his sudden conversion to supporting the war. Baird’s office was expecting us. His staff greeted us with cookies and a desire to hear what we had to say. They cleared the parking lot so we could hold our rally.

Several of the Veterans for Peace entered the office and began reading the names of the American soldiers killed in Iraq. The others remained outside to talk back to Baird. The speakers were videotaped and a copy will be sent to Baird. The Talk Back to Baird action will continue every Friday in September from noon-2 p.m.

After a brief visit to Iraq as part of a Congressional delegation that was wined and dined at the Ambassador’s residence, Baird came home a convert: the surge was working and the occupation should continue. Immediate withdrawal, he stated, would result in “wholesale slaughter.”

The reaction in Washington’s 3rd district has been strong. Over 500 people stormed his Vancouver town meeting and 200 people were at Longview. They were articulate in their disagreement with Baird. Channeling Richard Nixon, Baird dismissed their concerns, stating he believes that there is a silent majority who supports his position and wants us to win in Iraq.

While Baird was in Olympia to meet with The Olympian editorial board recently, he did not hold any public hearing. He did not convince the editorial board. “It is time to stop the loss of American lives,” the editorial board wrote. “It is time to stop this senseless war. It’s time to bring the troops home.”

Baird may have wanted to ignore his constituents in Olympia, but we decided that we would speak back anyway. People presented a wide range of issues, concerns and arguments. Some raised questions about who he spoke to in Iraq. Did he speak to the soldiers who oppose this war, one asked. Did he speak to the Iraqis whose family members have been killed or to the millions of Iraqi refugees?

Others wondered why he would believe the spin given to him by the military, who have an interest in proving that the surge is working and who want to stay in Iraq. One listed the many lies that the Bush administration has given, starting with the lies to take us into Iraq, the lies told to sell the war (it would take 100,000 troops, 5 months and $50 billion), and the lies told to assure us that victory was soon at hand (the insurgency is in its last throes, said Cheney in 2005). With this history, why would anyone be that gulliable.

Others challenged Baird for believing “the all hell will break loose” lie. Some pointed out that with more than 500,000 Iraqis killed since 2003 (not to mention the 1 million from the 1990 war and sanctions), hell has already arrived. One person read the statement of the UK officer as his command left Basra; he said that the level of violence would decline after they left.

Some challenged Baird’s knowledge of the Middle East. Baird stated in his interview with the Olympian that he was worried that the Shiite’s would force women to wear burkas and stone them to death for learning to read. Burkas are worn in Afghanistan, stated a few speaker. They are part of the Talliban dress codes. They are not worn in any other country. Similarly, stoning women is something that occurs in Saudi Arabia, not Iraq. Before the war in 1990, Iraq had high literacy rates and Saddam’s government was secular.

Baird’s statement that he was taking a moral position was also challenged. How can you take a moral position in supporting an illegal and immoral war, asked one of the speakers. It just doesn’t make sense.

Another speaker read from Baird’s 8/24/07 press release. “The invasion of Iraq many be one of the worst foreign-policy mistakes in the history of our nation. As tragic and costly as that mistake has been, a precipitous or premature withdrawal of our forces now has the potential to turn the initial errors into an even greater problems just as success looks possible.” The speaker pointed out the invasion of Iraq was not a mistake, but a planned and calculated decision based on lies by this administration. This war and occupation was not an error—it was a not very subtle attempt to get Iraq’s oil. Why is the US demanding that Iraq agree to a law that would privatize Iraqi oil? Another speaker criticized the US demand to privatize Iraqi oil because it is in “our national interest” as illegitimate.

Another was concerned that Baird has also bought into the evil Iran rhetoric. “The extremist regime in Iran will expand its influence in Iraq” if we leave, stated Baird.

One person spoke in support of Baird, seeing him as the lone voice in the Democratically controlled Congress who recognizes the dangers of an immediate withdrawal. He believes that it is possible for Baird to be right in opposing the war and in opposing an immediate withdrawal. No contradictions.

Another speaker, however, pointed out that the intention of having the US get out of Iraq is coupled with bringing in the international community who can begin the process of reconciliation. A report issued by former military officers said that Iraq will not be secure until there is a reconciliation.

Several stated that while the US must get out of Iraq, we do have a moral obligation to fund the restoration of this country, including cleaning up all the depleted uranium.

A number of people registered their anger that Baird is not listening to his constituents, is willing to dismiss their views, and is not representing us. Baird stated in his interview with the Olympian that he “doesn’t care” if he loses the next election because of his support of the surge. Well, that’s a good thing. Given the mood of the crowd, he is not likely to be reelected for a sixth term.

The Talk Back To Baird action will resume next Friday, noon-2 p.m. at Baird’s Olympian office, at the corner of Capital Way and Union.

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