On Friday, a rally of 50 citizens and members took place outside of the capitol building in Lansing to call on Michigan’s representatives to support a “responsible end” to the war in Iraq. The rally, organized by Americans Against Escalation in Iraq as part of their “Iraq Summer” campaign, was organized in response to the votes of Michigan’s Republican representatives targeted by the campaign against a measure in Congress calling for the withdrawal of some United States soldiers from Iraq by April 1, 2008. All of the Republican representatives targeted by the Iraq Summer campaign in Michigan–Grand Rapids’ Vern Ehlers, Thaddeus McCotter, Fred Upton, Mike Rogers, and Joe Knollenberg–voted against the measure. The protest was widely advertised on “liberal” blogs in Michigan and was touted as an opportunity to “change the world today” by giving people “the opportunity to help bring our soldiers home now.”
The first speaker at the press conference was Vietnam Veteran Kevin Kelley. Kelley began by explaining that while his position as a veteran gives him no particular authority, it clearly shows that opposition to the war does not undermine troops serving in Iraq. He outlined numerous parallels between the Vietnam War and the Iraq War, among them the fact that the Vietnam War was based on lies with the Gulf of Tonkin incident and the Iraq War being based on the Bush administration’s use of “faulty and manipulated intelligence to begin the Iraq misadventure” and claims that Iraq was connected to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Kelley called on the United States to begin a “withdrawal from the Iraq civil war” and asserted that all dishonor in the war belongs to “Bush, Cheney, and their minions who deliberately brought us to this end,” echoing earlier comments in which he blamed the “horrendous situation on Bush.
Bruce Fealk, a resident of the Michigan’s 9th Congressional District and an author at the “Vote NO on JOE” blog tracking Congressperson Joe Knollenberg, alternated between a critique of the Knollenberg’s support of the Bush administration and what was essentially a campaign speech for Democrats in 2008. Fealk described how Knollenberg has recently stated in a press release that “America’s new strategy” in Iraq must be given time to work, despite the fact that it is the same thing that has been pursued for the past four-and-a-half years. Fealk also briefly highlight the costs of the war for the 9th District and explained that money spent on the war could have funded numerous social programs. Other portions of the speech asserted that Democrats’ have policies that seek to help “all Americans.” Fealk claimed that Democrats’ believe in the goodness of people and govern from that perspective while Republicans govern–”when they govern”–from a position of fear. He further asserted that he wants an “America of hope” again, referencing former President John F. Kennedy.
A final speaker asserted that it was a “tragedy” that the Republican representatives voted to “support the endless war in Iraq” before explaining that the crowd was going to engage in a die-in. In introducing the die-in, the speaker urged the representatives to remember that “many of our very brave troops do not get up from their ‘die-in’” in Iraq.