After staging a 24-hour sit-in at U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell's Seattle office on April 25 ["In Other News," April 27], nine members of a local ad-hoc antiwar group—which includes Joshua Farris, an Iraq war vet and Capitol Hill resident; and Joe Colgan, a Kent man whose son was killed in Iraq—held a two-hour follow-up meeting with the senator on May 6. The goal of the meeting, according to Howard Gale, a member of the group, was to get some clarity on Cantwell's stance on Iraq. They were loaded with specific questions—which they e-mailed to Cantwell in advance on Wednesday—to suss out her position. No luck.
"I still have no clue," Gale says, explaining that Cantwell failed to outline any meaningful timeline for withdrawal.
The activists had initially pressed for a reporter to be present at the meeting, so there'd be a third-party account of what was said. Cantwell's office refused. The activists then pushed to make a recording of the meeting available online. No recording. How about publishing a transcript? Nope.
Here are some of the questions the activists asked, and according to Gale, the "fuzzy" nonanswers Cantwell offered up.
Q: Do you support Senator Kerry's plan?
A: What do you mean by Senator Kerry's plan?
Q: Troops out by the end of the year.
A: No. That would be irresponsible.
Q: What is the timeline for training Iraqis?
A: [No real answer.]
Q: If 2006 is a "year of transition," define "transition," and how do we know, in January 2007, if we've "transitioned"?
A: [Gale described Cantwell's answer as incomprehensible and suggests that people call her office and ask this question themselves and see if they agree.]
Q: How many U.S. soldiers have had to endure a second deployment? Third? Fourth? Fifth?
A: I don't know.
Lietta Ruger, a member of Military Families Speak Out, informed Cantwell that two Fort Lewis soldiers were recently killed on their sixth deployment.
A: [Cantwell was speechless.]
Q: When it comes to gathering information on Iraq, what is your main source of information?
A: The Department of Defense.
The meeting ended with pleasantries and handshakes, but the activists felt Cantwell hasn't met any of their demands: clarify her position or commit to a public forum to discuss the war.
There could've also been a third outcome, according to Gale. "She could have answered all our questions and convinced us that things aren't as bad as we think—and wowed us. That didn't happen."
Iraq vet Farris, a Seattle Central Community College student, summed up the meeting this way: "Just for a moment, when I asked her about bombing Fallujah, the way she answered the question, it made me think she really didn't know what we had done there, that we had leveled the city. When I told her we had, I think that just for a second, I might have moved her a little. But she's a good politician. She's careful about what she says."