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April 18, 2007

One Who Listens

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Demonstrators recently gathered at Congressman Roscoe Bartlett's Frederick office to theatrically illustrate their unhappiness over his vote on the emergency Iraq and Afghanistan supplemental funding legislation.

Published accounts indicate that it is all part of a nationwide strategy of some opponents of the war in Iraq to take "protests straight to Congress - staging 'occupations' in lawmakers' offices on Capitol Hill and in their home communities..

"During the occupations, the protesters sit, stand, sing, chant, pray, ring bells." In one published account, demonstrators "performed skits about the consequences of war."

Political commentator Andrew Kujan recently wrote a column entitled, "Bartlett Ignores Constituent Concerns over Iraq War."

In part, Mr. Kujan wrote: "Based on Roscoe Bartlett's votes in the House, it's clear that he has already decided to ignore the overwhelming majority of Americans who want out of Iraq ASAP. Bartlett was the only Maryland congressman to vote against the Iraq Supplemental in the house. Rightly outraged over Bartlett's vote, members in the area gathered for the second demonstration outside of his office, after the first received no response. But Bartlett can't be bothered about the War in Iraq."

However, in last fall's election, Congressman Bartlett's opponent clearly articulated disagreement with the congressman's views on the global war on terror and the Maryland 6th District overwhelmingly returned Congressman Bartlett to Washington - to represent the views of the 6th District and not the views of Speaker of House Nancy Pelosi's district in San Francisco.

Lisa Wright, a spokeswoman for Congressman Bartlett provides this insight:

"MoveOn announced (to the media) a demonstration a week in advance (to their unannounced visit to the Congressman's office.) This is a case of a rejected minority. wanting a confrontation. The Frederick News Post acknowledged MoveOn members met with Congressman Bartlett in February."

Ms. Wright elaborated, "Congressman Bartlett has always voted his conscience and explained his positions which are supported by a large majority of the voters in the Sixth District" in the February meeting.

"Members of the military and their families want troops deployed in harm's way to have the resources they need. Most constituents want to defeat al Qaeda, not capitulate to and embolden terrorists, retreat from Iraq and consign that country to chaos. Agreeing to disagree is not their apparent objective," said Ms. Wright.

She did say "most" of the 6th District agrees with Congressman Bartlett. Indeed, according to published accounts, some of the 600,000 citizens in the 6th District disagree with the congressman and MoveOn "brought 125 letters written by other residents" as proof.

In his column, Mr. Kujan promulgated the Orwellian logic, "How nice. Voting against the troops and veterans last week. Recruiting new troops on Tuesday. Ignoring the concerns of Veterans on Wednesday. How 'big' do things have to get before Roscoe Bartlett decides to listen to his constituents?"

Well, it can be suggested that the potential loss of tens of thousands of lives in the Middle East, with more American lives to follow, if we prematurely withdrawal from Iraq - is "big enough" and that is why many of us support Congressman Bartlett's position - and votes.

A colleague, who took a year off from college and served a tour in Iraq, responded to Mr. Kujan's column, by saying, in part: "No one wants to stay in Iraq indefinitely, especially the soldiers who risk their lives fighting there, and have lost friends in the sand, but if America and its allies don't see this through to the finish, then we will face an ever more emboldened enemy and a larger fight than what we have now."

He further explained that "it is ludicrous to think that an American withdrawal will solve any problems in the Middle East. If knows something the rest of the world doesn't about the Middle East situation, society and politics, then they have not shared that knowledge that seems to drive their thoughts about the situation."

Yes, if MoveOn had a plausible plan as to how we would respond to the consequences of an early withdrawal, perhaps we all might have something to listen to. "Ring(ing) bells, chant(ing) and perform(ing) skits about the consequences of war." is not a plan.

Yep, the challenge is that MoveOn is not listening and does not have any plan - except to surrender and hope that our enemies will go away.

But our enemies won't go away and there's the rub.

That Iraq War veteran colleague concluded with the voice so many of us in the 6th District share. "If is as concerned about soldiers as they say they are, they should (listen to the) warning to what calling it quits will mean for our soldiers, sailors and airmen. So I will say to Mr. Kujan that Congressman Bartlett did not vote against the troops as he claims, but that he voted for the troops and for all of our sons and daughters when he voted against the Iraq Supplemental Bill."

In the Frederick News-Post, Dan Hayward "recalled when he returned to the United States after serving in the Vietnam War. The protests then were small at first, but they got bigger until the politicians had to listen."

And, as a result of those politicians "listening," millions died in Indochina after American armed forces were denied the funding to continue and were forced to leave.

If we use Vietnam as an example, how many thousands will die in the Middle East once our forces leave and that part of the world is reduced to a larger regional armed confrontation under the friendly hegemony of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad?

Perhaps the another pressing question for us is how many Americans will die at the hands of an emboldened enemy who has but only one view and one goal - to kill as many of us as possible.

God Bless the leadership and the representation of Congressman Roscoe Bartlett. Thank you for listening to the views of the majority of your constituency and for supporting our troops in harm's way.

Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster: E-mail him at:

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