Diplomacy with Iran, ‘we can’t afford another war,’ a key focus
DES MOINES – (Catholic Peace Ministry news services, courtesy of JJ Weiss) A delegation that included Mayor Frank Cownie of Des Moines consulted with Senator Tom Harkin Sunday in an attempt to avert war with Iran and express concerns about the future of U.S. foreign and domestic policy.
The eight organizations included the Catholic Peace Ministry and Iowans for Diplomacy with Iran who lobbied for direct talks with Iran.
Other members of the delegation included Kathleen McQuillen of the American Friends Service Committee, Chet Guinn of the Methodist Federation for Social Action, Ed Flaherty of Veterans for Peace, Dr. David Drake of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Yashar Vasef of the United Nations Association of Iowa, Sherry Hutchison of the Quaker Valley Friends Meeting, Maggie Rawland of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, and Tony Johnson.
Robert Williams of Indianola, instrumental setting up the meeting, was unable to attend because of his health; Harkin had kind words for Williams and his persistent presence for peace. Senator Harkin opened the proceedings by showing support for the work done by the groups sitting at the table.
Mayor Frank Cownie said we have needs, for example “68 bridges that need to be repaired in Des Moines alone. “We have crumbling infrastructure, a local flood situation, and no funds yet we’re not cutting dollars off the Pentagon budget, Cownie said. “We continue to speak of more war…..It’s a fear-based mentality driving this we have to shake off.”
Harkin expressed reservations taking a strong stand on Iran as opposed to his “restoring the middle class” initiatives and the assembled argued our disfunction was a result of our state of perpetual war if you read history. Harkin did acknowledge “sure” when asked if we have a permanent war economy and agreed our military bases overseas were excessive.
The opening statement was made by Kathleen McQuillen of AFSC.
“We want you to start speaking publicly for diplomacy with Iran. We also do not want you to sign Senate Resolution 380 which expresses the will of some Senators to go to war with Iran,” said McQuillen.
Chet Guinn asked Harkin to work with us setting up a public forum to discuss U.S. foreign and domestic policy because his voice was respected locally.
AFSC also brought the concerns of its ongoing work to build peace for Israelis and Palestinians by expressing alarm that the President increased military aid to Israel better spent in our cities here.
Shifting again to Iran, the Catholic Peace Ministry reiterated its position of direct diplomacy as Obama called for when running for president. Dr. David Drake of Physicians for Social Responsibility expressed the environmental concerns of another war and also that in his work that when parties are in danger of the most egregious conflict is exactly the time to sit down and talk.”
“That is one thing that I have learned in my profession,” Dr. Drake said.
Ed Flaherty of Veterans for Peace credited Harkin with speaking against the Vietnam War and in the 1980s about human rights abuses we supported in Central America but gave an impassioned appeal to speak now, that his and other voices in the Senate have been largely silent.
“We feel a sense of urgency, Flaherty said. “A war can break out even if it’s not intended and once it starts it’s hard to stop a war.” Just because talks will take place between multiple parties and Iran next May the rhetoric hasn’t lessened.
Flaherty late addressed Harkin’s statement that he does not have a bully pulpit on foreign policy.
“We think that you do, Senator, and President Obama needs support from Democrats in the Senate as he is being pushed on this issue on several fronts, most of them negative, especially the Prime Minister of Israel.”
Harkin said he refused to attend the speech by Netanyahu before the U.S. Congress and would be interested in traveling to Iran but his own government disallowed congressional travel at this time.
McQuillen went further on U.S. policy in Southwest Asia by asking Harkin to stop taking campaign contributions from organizations that support Israel’s occupation,” McQuillen said, citing the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Harkin stated organizations can support him for a variety of reasons so McQuillen said she would provide more information.
McQuillen noted Harkin’s work on human rights so the same could be afforded to the Palestinians, the only people said to have “the right to self-determination” meaning having a legal right to a country without having one.
In the discussion Harkin used the word “occupation” — as does both the governments of Israel and the U.S. — though it is not uncommon for national media, including the New York Times and National Public Radio, to use the phrase “disputed territories.”
Yashar Vasef spoke as an Iranian-American who was concerned about the support of many people in positions of power in the United States to both support the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, or MEK, and attempt to take the organization of the list of terrorist organizations.
Vasef asked Harkin to bring this support to the attention of more people on the Hill as it certainly appears to be outside of U.S. law to support such an organization.
Journalist Seymour Hersh in the New Yorker, and both the New York Times and BBC have reported that both the previous administration and members of the current Congress have supported the activities of MEK, including the assassination of Iranian scientists.
“This covert war is already going on and few people know about the MEK so that is one of the reasons why I am here today though I do not support the Iranian regime’s efforts to aquire nuclear power.” Vasef said.
The meeting ended with a discussion of a public forum in Iowa and the delegation will remain together until this is accomplished so the larger citizenry can engage the present and future of this civilization.
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Final note: During the discussion the voices of WILPF are also noted: Sherry Hutchison stated her concern the term ‘war on terror’ was in perpetuity and Maggie Rawland that corporations had bought Congress so we as citizens are disenfranchised, especially after Citizens United
(WOMEN’S INTERNATIONAL LEAGUE FOR PEACE AND FREEDOM) firstname.lastname@example.org