"WE ARE GETTING CRUSHED WITH CALLS"
I rode with friend Regis Tremblay to Augusta, Maine today to join other members of Veterans For Peace (VFP) in a meeting with the staff of Sen. Angus King (I-ME). The first thing we heard from staff person Scott Wilkinson was, "We are getting crushed with calls."
Edie Smith, King's state director, was more specific. On Tuesday this week they got 1,200 calls to their Maine office, on Wednesday 900 calls, and on Thursday 1,500 calls. Who knows how many calls today will bring? Smith had to be coaxed to say that the "majority of the calls were against" Obama's attack on Syria. After further coaxing she acknowledged that the calls were 90% against the war plan.
We asked what the senator's position was on the attack and Smith told us that he is "currently undecided" and is gathering information and looking forward to the debate on the senate floor. The vote is now likely to happen next Wednesday.
One thing that caught my attention was when King's top Maine aide Smith said with pride that the senator was "in the inner circle" of decision makers on foreign policy issues. To claim that as a source of pride, knowing that the "inner circle" in Washington DC is full of agents of the military industrial complex, is enough to give most anyone pause.
VFP founding member Doug Rawlings told King's representatives that, "VFP is totally opposed to intervention in another country's affairs. The attack will be the beginning of a long war. We find it awfully ironic and tragic that we'd be supporting and arming Al-Qaida."
Current Maine VFP President Richard Clements shared the story about when his own son was in Iraq during the Bush war. He said that he is "always watching to see the possible impact of depleted uranium (DU) on my son" who participated in the shelling of Fallujah. Today in that city legions of babies are being born with severe cases of genetic mutations.
As my contribution to the discussion I said it was the height of hypocrisy for the US to be lecturing the world about poison gas when we are the only country that has used atomic weapons, Agent Orange in Vietnam, DU in the Persian Gulf War in the early 1990's and again in the Kosovo War and then more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Ridgely Fuller told King's staffers, "There are no jobs in Maine, we need to be taking care of our own people...we can't keep doing this."
Vietnam veteran Dud Hendrick said, "I felt betrayed by the lies in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Syria."
When I got home from the meeting I checked my emails and found a link to an Op-Ed in the Washington Post. Written by Robert H. Scales, a retired Army major general and former commandant of the U.S. Army War College, the piece is headlined "A war the Pentagon doesn't want". Speaking about military personnel he has been talking with, Scales writes, "They are embarrassed to be associated with the amateurism of the Obama administration’s attempts to craft a plan that makes strategic sense.... They are outraged by the fact that what may happen is an act of war and a willingness to risk American lives to make up for a slip of the tongue about 'red lines'.... Our people lament our loneliness.... They are tired of wannabe soldiers who remain enamored of the lure of bloodless machine warfare."
We made the case to Sen. King's staff that Democrats, Republicans, and Independents don't support this war. He has political cover if he truly listens to the voters in Maine. But the lure of power and being a part of the "inner circle" in Washington is strong. Deals can be cut that would ensure more Pentagon largesse for our state.
What is clear is that the American people are presently in a state of political revolt. They know that the country is being hollowed out and that we can't afford these endless wars. They don't trust the system or the politicians anymore. Sen. King's vote will either make him a hero in the eyes of the people or will completely tarnish his political legacy.
You can help by letting your member of Congress know how you feel. Do it soon - we are running out of time.