Home / Articles / Commentary / Guest Opinion / Raising the bar
Print this Article
Thursday, June 22, 2006 11:26 am

Raising the bar

Why we expect more on the war from the “good guys”

Contemplating nonviolent civil disobedience at the office of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin isn’t easy. On the one hand, Durbin is one of the senators most supportive of ending the Iraq War; on the other, he has consistently voted to fund the war. As I find myself increasingly angry and frustrated about the lies, torture, disregard for self-determination, and tremendous expense of this administration’s war, I am motivated to take action beyond my usual work for peace. About a year ago I had thought about sitting in at the office of Sen. Durbin, whom I greatly admire and support. In fact, when my husband asked, “Why would you do that when he’s one of the good guys?” I deferred to what I thought was his good judgment. However, when one of Durbin’s aides posed a similar question, this time I could say that because of this senator’s understanding of the issues, it makes absolute sense to advocate for “raising the bar” for him. I joined Kathy Kelly, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, and Tim Keough, a Walker for Justice and Christian Brothers University student, because of the imminent attack on Ramadi, a city in the Anbar province where there are said to be insurgents loyal to Abu Musab Al Zarqawi, the assassinated leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq. As U.S. and Iraqi forces prepared to eliminate Zarqawi’s supporters, Los Angeles Times correspondents Megan K. Stack and Louise Roug reported that “a desperate population of 400,000 people [are] trapped in the crossfire between insurgents and U.S. forces. Food and medical supplies are running low, prices for gas have soared because of shortages and municipal services have ground to a stop.”
Our desire was to bring attention to this possible attack that could resemble the 2004 bombing of Fallujah, in which many people died or were injured. Also the recent arrival of 1,500 U.S. troops reinforces the military presence in the city and further underscores the seriousness of these activities. Although the U.S. Army is telling residents to evacuate Ramadi, the difficulty of doing so is intensified because they cannot flee to Baghdad, the nearest city; the government militia is suspicious of anyone entering the city. Furthermore, we were concerned about a media blackout on Ramadi. With these thoughts, we entered Durbin’s office. After we asked to speak with the senator or one of his aides, the senator’s downstate director, Bill Houlihan, came down from his office and heard our request: that Durbin find out the specifics on this impending attack, address the issue on the floor of the Senate, and speak with the media. After Houlihan said that he would e-mail Durbin with this message, Kelly asked whether we could respectfully sing the names of U.S. soldiers and Iraqi victims of the war. Houlihan said he didn’t have much time to listen but stayed with us for a while as we prayerfully sang their names. We continued for about an hour, when a man, who did not identify himself, asked us to leave the building and continue our vigil outside, if we so desired. Kelly indicated that we were remembering the dead, and we continued. Shortly afterward, a woman who identified herself as a federal marshal asked that we stop singing because we were disrupting the workplace. Kelly suggested that senator’s staff might want to take a moment from their day and join us. When a staffer suggested that we move our vigil to the conference room, I stated that I felt that that would still be in the spirit of our vigil and moved from the reception area. After a few moments I heard no more singing and returned to the reception area to see Keough and Kelly being led away in handcuffs. As we resumed our vigil outside, speaking the names of the dead, Houlihan came out and said that the senator wanted to talk with me by phone. Durbin told me what had gone on in the Senate that afternoon. Although I was glad to hear that amendments had been proposed to bring the troops home in a specific period of time, I told him that our major worry was for the people of Ramadi. After I explained the main issues, he replied that he didn’t realize that this was happening. We agreed that I would send him information that he would read, and, if he felt it appropriate, he would speak from the Senate floor about the imminent threat to innocent people in Ramadi. This was conveyed to the vigilers, and we left the area, as we had planned, at 4 p.m. Over the course of the past year, people in our local peace movement have questioned what impact we can have as private citizens, what I will call the “I’m only one person” syndrome. There is a point, and I pray that our elected officials and neutral citizens are beginning to reach it, when we must follow a path toward what is just instead of what is expedient. My choice to speak out in this way will not be the choice of many others, nor does it need to be. It is only one form of risk we can take to let others know that we are serious when we say this war must end. Our troops need to come home. Now.
Log in to use your Facebook account with

Login With Facebook Account

Recent Activity on IllinoisTimes


  • Mon
  • Tue
  • Wed
  • Thu
  • Fri
  • Sat
  • Sun