Former Lawmakers Join Win Without War for Weekend Protests

Posted March 14, 2003 at 1:39pm

More than 70 former Members of Congress who want President Bush to pull back from the brink of war have joined forces with peace activists planning massive demonstrations this weekend.

Some are veterans of the peace movement who protested the Vietnam War, some have become clergymen since leaving Congress, and some simply retired from public life. But they all think Bush is needlessly rushing to war.

“We’re going to move forward with the attack of a nation that is already disarming,” former Rep. Robert Edgar (D-Pa.) said Friday at a press conference coordinated by Win Without War, a group coordinated by ex-Rep. Tom Andrews (D-Maine).

The coalition is building off its successful “virtual march on Washington,” in which it succeeded in jamming Senate telephone lines last month with calls and faxes from constituents who oppose war.

“We’re far more of a threat to Iraq than Iraq is to us,” former Rep. Cathy Long (D-La.) said, echoing a common theme heard Friday.

Several of the lawmakers-turned-religious leaders said they have traveled to Iraq and other parts of the Middle East and fear for the lives and safety of civilians.

A war would create countless refugees and further destabilize the region, said the Rev. Robert Drinan, a former Democratic Congressman from Massachusetts.

And, the Jesuit priest added, Bush, who often talks about his religious beliefs, does not have morality on his side, as the current situation does not meet the requirements of the Just War theory. Drinan further noted that Pope John Paul II sent his emissary to tell Bush he would violate that commonly held religious doctrine if the United States went to war now.

While some of the dozen or so past Senators, House Members and governors in attendance appealed to the president’s religious convictions, others flatly challenged his veracity.

For example the Bush administration’s contention that Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein is in cahoots with al Qaeda is a “bold-face lie,” said former Rep. Liz Holtzman (D-N.Y.).

Andrews, meanwhile, said he is disappointed that current Members have sidelined themselves on this debate despite the massive grassroots opposition.

“As former members of Congress, however, we are able to voice our concerns free from the pressures of lobbyists, representatives of the administration, political parties or the worry of being re-elected,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to Bush.

While not formally aligned with the group, former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader lent his support to the cause by quietly standing in the back of the room.

He has written Bush a letter asking him to meet with various veterans and former military leaders who oppose the war.

Nader also said he hopes to assemble such people on the National Mall this weekend to join the protests.

Win Without War and Moveon.org are organizing a candlelight vigil in Washington, which they say will be replicated in almost 2,816 cities and 98 countries by Monday.