ON NAITONAL POLITICS:
Rep. Conyers Says the US Needs a Regime Change
Washington, D.C.—Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-MI), a popular member of the Congress since 1964, and a Detroit native, was one of the keynote speakers at the anti-war rally held Saturday, March 15 in the nation’s capital. He brought the feisty crowd to its feet when he mockingly asked, “Mr. President, isn’t this one heck of a focus group?”
The crowd was estimated at 100,000. No doubt, President George Bush’s strong signals about starting a shooting war with Iraq some time during the coming week kept many away. The demonstration, organized by A.N.S.W.E.R., started on the National Mall, at the foot of the Washington Monument, before parading to within a block of the White House, via Constitution Ave. and 17th Street., then crossing H Street, in front of Lafayette Park, to 15th St.
It was a sunny day, with the temperature in the mid-50s. There were plenty of signs, flags and posters displayed, and many mothers were seen pushing their youngsters in strollers. In light of the bellicose attitude coming from the White House, one of the most potentially prophetic signs read, “I see dead people,” a line from a popular Bruce Willis movie.
Conyers accused President Bush of checking into the ‘Club Med’ in the Azores, off the coast of Portugal, rather than being where he belonged, “here with the people.” Bush, who was at Camp David at the time of the noon rally, was headed for the Azores that Sunday for a meeting with the UK’s Tony Blair, his chief war-making cohort. That conference supposedly would be serving as a cover for their expected, but totally unjustified decision to declare war, without UN approval, on Iraq.
The Vice President also came in for a roasting from Conyers. He said Dick Cheney “was probably still at an undisclosed location.” Conyers told the enthusiastic gathering, too, that, “We’re here to tell our fellow citizens that the people can stop this war. This is not just a dream. We’ve stopped wars before in the United States. So, we’ve just got to do it again.” The congressman stressed, “We will march every day in Washington, in Detroit, in New York City, in the South, in the West, and in the East, if we have to, until this madness is ended. We will march, picket, protest, legally and nonviolently demonstrate, until all of this is finally stopped.”
Conyers, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, closed his remarks by taking another biting cut at the Bush-Cheney gang. He underscored, “The disdain that this Administration has shown for the Constitution and the democratic process leave me with only one conclusion: We need a regime change in the United States!”
Although hope to stop any U.S. led war against Iraq was already fading fast, it still didn’t keep protestors from coming to Washington from as far away as the states of Maine and Florida. Glenda Songer came up from Gainesville, Florida. She said that her group had traveled on two buses, with 56 folks on each. It took them 13 hours to make the trip north. Songer said, “I thought I could make a bigger impact coming up here to DC to protest, so that’s why I did it. I’m really glad that I came.”
Kenneth Holmes of Maine told me, “I spent three years in the US military during Vietnam. I was an enlisted soldier. I know what the truth is and I also know what our government is telling the people about this Iraq situation, and that isn’t the truth. This coming war is absolutely unnecessary. Nothing good will come out of it. We will be less safe during and after this war, then we are right now.”
Rinn Mandeville had a different spin on what was happening. A native of Millspring, NC, she said, “I am moved by all the people out here today. However, we are going to have to put all our energy, our ideals, and our beliefs into what we want.” She quoted a poet and philosopher, Wolf Zendik, from the Beat Era for me. He had written: “War is the insane death dance of a paranoid society.”
A 30-year veteran of the Air Force, Cliff Landes of Philadelphia expressed his deep concerns about the present situation. He said, “It’s a bad scene and everything is kind of out of control. Bush is out on a limb. He has negotiated himself into a corner and he is stuck there now. Its a lose-lose situation. And, it’s potentially very destructive.”
A Code Pink activist, Victoria Cunningham, was still hoping Bush would let the UN inspectors do their jobs. She said, “The U.S. shouldn’t go into Iraq without probable cause.” Her group was one of the first to send a delegation of women to Iraq to foster a peace initiative. It has also lobbied hard many of the spineless members of the U.S. Congress to stand up to Bush’s warmongering. Her organization gave Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) a pink slip for not doing enough to stop a war with Iraq.
Josef Siyam, a Palestinian now living in New Jersey, said, “I’m against any war with Iraq. I disagree with the one-side policy of the U.S. government on the Middle East. The people of Iraq have the right, like the Palestinians, to live in peace, with dignity. The oil in Iraq belongs to the people. No one should be killed for money. Let everyone live in peace. I hope to see the day when there is an independent Palestinian state.”
An activist from Georgia, Kate Farrar, summed up the feelings of many at the day’s event. She said, “I think people are learning more about what is really going on with this White House. We’ve already slowed its war machine down. And, I think we’re making a difference, because others are seeing what we are doing out here on the streets. This anti-war movement is growing every day. Its spreading exponentially across the country. And, I’m very proud to be a part of it.”
Copyright 2003 William Hughes. Hughes, an attorney, is the author of Baltimore Iconoclast (Writers Showcase), which is available online. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This story was published on April 4, 2003.