Friday, May 09, 2008

Sharing the message in Washington, D.C.

Our colorful message in favor of human rights certainly attracted a lot of attention on Monday morning, near the Capital South metro station. Plenty of people who work in Congressional offices take the metro to that stop. They couldn't miss us with our signs and big banners.
OK, I know that the name of the school at Fort Benning, Georgia, is no longer "School of the Americas" or "SOA." It's the "Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation" (a real mouthful). But the message is the same... close the school and get an independent commission to investigate the instructions.
A bunch of us spent much of the day on Monday on Capitol Hill. We visited the offices of House Members and Senators and we talked to foreign policy and military policy aides in those offices. It was a very interesting and educational experience. I learned about the difference between an "authorization" bill and an "appropriations" bill. All government programs have to be reauthorized each year. Hence the "authorization" bill. But that bill doesn't pay for the programs. That is done with an "appropriations" bill.
I also learned that, in each Congressional session (two years), many bills are proposed and then are sent to committee. A good number of these bills tend to languish in committee because they lack support. Support for a bill is measured in the number of co-sponsors who sign on to that particular bill. So it is necessary for people who want a bill to be passed to contact the offices of their members of Congress to ask them to co-sponsor the bill.
In the case of Rep. McGovern's bill, HR 1707, the Latin America Military Training Review Act of 2007, we are doing well with co-sponsors, but we could be doing better. If your House member is not yet a co-sponsor of HR 1707, please ask him or her to become a co-sponsor. The best ways to do that are by calling, sending a fax, or visiting the office. If your House member is a co-sponsor, please contact the office to express your thanks. Members of Congress feel much better about taking a position on an issue when they know that they have support from their constituents.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

A request from a friend

Tomorrow, I'm headed to Washington, D.C., and will be there for a week. I'm going to spend several days focused on WHINSEC and lobbying and stuff like that.
Today, Tina Busch-Nema, my friend and fellow member of the SOA 16, asked me to share something with you. It's about the terrible effects on people of countries using nuclear weapons. I can't really add much to this, so here it is...
Dear Friends,
Fatemeh Keshavarz or known my most as Fati, is a woman who teaches at Wash U here in St. Louis. Fati is from Iran and is working tirelessly to prevent an attack on her homeland.
She wrote this poem and asked it be circulated far and wide. She wants to circulate it to let make a point...the dust of these bombs infects our well as our bodies.
Meet Keiko!
Twenty years ago, when we first moved to St. Louis, I met this lively graduate student named Keiko. After twenty odd years, it is hard to recall details beyond her round face framed by short shiny black hair.
But I remember the way she moved through the building with a combination of agility and grace, in bursts of short successive moves - much the way robins would explore a tree (without making noise or knocking anything down) .
A year after we had met, Keiko died – suddenly – of lung cancer. “I didn’t know Keiko smoked!” I said to the teary-eyed friend who brought the news of her death. “She didn’t,” he said rather hurriedly, and added after a silence, “She was born in Hiroshima.” Neither of us said much after that.
Keiko’s round face and shiny black hair have come back, often, these past few days. And every time, I have caught myself drafting a letter in my head, a letter I know I will not put in the
“Dear Senator Clinton!
I write with a personal request.
If we were careless enough to hand you the key that
opens the Oval Office
And with it as many war fronts across the globe as you
Please do yourself a favor, throw it away and do not
look for it!
You may want to find out first
Why the idea of “obliterating” seventy million people
does not make you shudder
And if you have the time to pass through St. Louis,
Please stop by and meet Keiko Yamakawa
Her round face smiling from a hand-made picture frame
Ashes of Hiroshima in her lungs”
Fatemeh Keshavarz
Asheville, North Carolina
April 29, 2008