Their passionate opposition to the Iraq war has led them into jail cells. Today it will bring them to the Senate offices on Capitol Hill.
A group of New York grandmothers who continually protest the war through demonstrations, vigils and media blitzes plans to lobby every U.S. senator today to condemn President Bush’s decision to send 21,500 more American troops into Iraq to quell sectarian violence.
Barbara Walker, the lone Staten Island member of the New York clan known as the Granny Peace Brigade, said at least 100 anti-war grandmothers throughout the country are expected to participate in the effort to pressure each senator to cut off funding for the increase and withdraw all American troops by June.
“We went in on the basis of untruths. Because of our being there, the conflict continues. . . . Our troops are targets. Having our troops there exacerbates the situation, because we (went) there uninvited. We are occupying the country,” said Ms. Walker, a 73-year-old Silver Lake resident and a former United Nations worker who spent 15 years in Ethiopia administering academic scholarships and fellowships for African students.
Among their pleas to Congress are cessation of funding for the war, closure of permanent U.S. bases in Iraq, the return of all American troops within six months and appropriation by the Iraqi government of all administrative duties, including housing, education and medical care.
Ms. Walker was among 18 grandmothers arrested and jailed for several hours in October 2005 for allegedly blocking a recruiting station in Times Square during an anti-war rally.
Before lobbying the Senate, the grandmothers will hold a press conference in the Capitol to discuss their plan alongside Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), an averred presidential candidate who advocates ending the war.
Congress is split on whether to thwart the planned troop deployment.
Rep. Vito Fossella (R-Staten Island/Brooklyn) did not return calls to discuss his stance yesterday. Fossella, who voted to authorize the war in 2002, sidestepped questions on whether he supports the increase after the president’s announcement last week. He spoke in generalities, calling the plan an indication “of what’s necessary in order to bring about a stable, peaceful Iraq that’s in the best interest of the United States.”
In the Senate, several elected officials have floated strategies for halting the so-called “surge” of troops. Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), a senior member of the foreign relations committee and 2008 presidential hopeful, introduced legislation to prohibit an increase in U.S. combat forces without congressional authorization.
Another group of senators, including Republican Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a putative presidential candidate, has proposed a nonbinding resolution against Bush’s plan.
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, the widely predicted front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination, went on television and radio yesterday to speak out against Bush’s planned troop deployment but evaded questions on whether she would vote to block funding for the increase.
Mrs. Clinton also said she would support the nonbinding resolution.
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), when asked about his stance, issued the following statement:
“An escalation in the war, particularly with no change in strategy, makes no sense. We are policing a civil war right now in Iraq. And whether the troops stay three months or three years, as soon as they leave, the Sunnis and Shiites will continue to fight with one another and nothing will have been accomplished.”
Staten Island Advance