On Thursday morning, May 1 — the 5th anniversary of Bush’s notorious “Mission Accomplished” speech — Michelle Bailey, Hank Prensky, Joy Austin-Lane and I (Thomas Nephew) paid a short visit to Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s local office. Our mission — to bring our Congressman a copy of “A Responsible Plan to End the War in Iraq,” and discuss it with his staff.
We met with Van Hollen staff member Julius West in Van Hollen’s Hyattsville office on New Hampshire Avenue. We introduced the plan as a comprehensive legislative agenda calling for a complete exit from Iraq, with no permanent bases, and a “diplomatic offensive” to gain support from countries neighboring Iraq. The plan also calls for aid to Iraqi refugees, health and education benefits for veterans, reforms in the military, and reforms of the political process that has let the Bush administration get away with so many high crimes and misdemeanors — and often identifies specific, pending legislation that will help achieve those goals.
To his credit, Representative Van Hollen is a co-sponsor of many of those bills, including H.R. 3797, the New Diplomatic Offensive for Iraq Act, H.R. 2265, the Responsibility to Iraqi Refugees Act of 2007, H.R. 3045, the Presidential Signing Statements Act of 2007, H.R. 1416, the Habeas Corpus Restoration Act of 2007, and H.R. 1352, the Torture Outsourcing Prevention Act, among others. While he has been unwilling to endorse impeachment, we thanked and thank Rep. Van Hollen for co-sponsoring these bills.
Among the bills recommended by “A Responsible Plan” that Rep. Van Hollen has not yet endorsed (at the time of the report’s publication) are H.R. 2740, the Transparency and Accountability in Security Contracting Act of 2007 (subjecting military contractors in Iraq to U.S. justice), H.R. 2874, the Veterans’ Health Care Improvement Act of 2007, and H.R. 4102, the Stop Outsourcing Security Act (ending the use of “military contractors” — i.e., mercenaries — for embassy security and similar missions). We urged him to co-sponsor these bills.
As chair of the DCCC (Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee), Rep. Van Hollen can also make this plan an integral part of the 2008 congressional elections, and help its authors — candidates like Darcy Burner, Eric Massa, Chellie Pingree, Donna Edwards, George Fearing, and others — who have become leaders in the struggle to end the Iraq war.
Some elements of the plan aren’t legislative per se; for example, the plan calls for an end to off-budget appropriations for the Iraq war. Mr. Prensky added that he hoped Van Hollen would vote against the looming Iraq supplemental appropriations bill. Ms. Austin-Lane recalled the opposition to the Iraq war in Takoma Park, and the City Council resolution she and Mr. Prensky voted for opposing it.
It was a pleasure meeting Mr. West. He listened carefully, took notes, and told us he’d have the copy of the “Responsible Plan” in Rep. Van Hollen’s hands this afternoon. Mission accomplished!
PHOTO: Hank Prensky, Julius West, Michelle Bailey, Joy Austin-Lane at Congressman Chris Van Hollen’s Hyattsville office.