U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell is meeting with seven antiwar activists in Seattle this Saturday. I have no idea why.
Last week, the activists—including an Iraq war vet, the wife of an Iraq war vet, the father of a soldier who was killed in Iraq, the pastor of a Wallingford church, and a WWII vet—showed up at Cantwell's Seattle office and staged a sit-in that lasted about 24 hours [In Other News, April 27].
The activists wanted Cantwell to either support troop withdrawal by December 2006—a plan pushed by Senator John "Now, I'm Really Against It" Kerry, or, at least, pledge to hold a public meeting where she would clarify her position on the war, and presumably get booed off the stage.
To the horror of Seattle lefties, Cantwell voted for the war in 2002 and only recently addressed widespread public disapproval of the war by issuing two statements—including one last Friday after the sit-in. In her statements Cantwell said she basically supported Bush's position: keeping U.S. troops in Iraq until there's stability over there.
I was in communication with one of the activists during the sit-in, and he reported back on Cantwell's staff: "They circle-jerked us with non-answers." When Cantwell ultimately agreed to meet privately with the antiwar activists on May 6, the group released a statement announcing their agenda for the meeting: "We would like the discussion to remain focused on... the rationale for removing U.S. armed forces from Iraq: (1) how to reduce U.S. casualties in Iraq, and (2) how to end civilian deaths which the U.S. bears responsibility for. We are not simply calling for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq, we are also calling for an end to U.S. aggression against Iraqis."
I don't know why Cantwell is bothering to meet with these folks. Going into their meeting with Cantwell, the antiwar activists have ruled out any real dialogue.
Antiwar absolutists are a lot like evangelical activists who fold their arms and tell you it's against their religion to let gays marry, allow women to choose abortion, or permit responsible sex education. They don't believe in it. End. Of. Discussion.
Similarly, despite the fact that Cantwell and others correctly believe the war in Iraq is complicated and requires a detailed solution (I kind of like the partition solution that Senator Joe Biden outlined in the New York Times this week), antiwar activists won't be satisfied unless, as I understand it, Cantwell says: "War is bad for children and other living things. Troops out by the end of the year." Never mind that Sunni terrorists who blow up mosques are also bad for children and other living things—and are certainly as much to blame for civilian deaths as U.S. troops.
After the sit-in—referring to Kerry and antiwar Senator Russ Feingold—one of the activists said: "We simply couldn't fathom why she refuses to take a leadership role here and publicly endorse Kerry... Russ Feingold is blazing a path that she needs to follow."
End. Of. Discussion.
Look, I'm against this war. I always have been ["Say No to War on Iraq!" Oct 17, 2002]. But the moment for absolutism on that point is long past. Browbeating Cantwell, rather than talking with her, might feel good, but it won't accomplish a thing. I hope the sit-in seven consider as much this weekend and prove me wrong about the value of their hard-won, pending discussion with her.