Anti-war crowd asks Farr for action
February 19, 2003
By DAN WHITE
Sentinel staff writer
SANTA CRUZ - Tuesday night’s town hall meeting about war on Iraq belonged to the peace protesters.
But the joyous, raucous atmosphere of Saturday’s downtown war protest was nowhere to be found at the City Council-sponsored meeting in the Del Mar Theatre downtown.
Most speakers voiced anger and frustration, with many saying President Bush was defying or willfully ignoring millions who protested for peace last weekend.
The turnout was enough to nearly fill the 500-seat auditorium. No one was turned away at the door for the free event.
Many asked U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, who spoke, if there was any other way to change the world situation, if their voices weren’t being heard. The Carmel Democrat said he continues to oppose the war. He said he’s never heard, in any intelligence briefings, “anyone indicating the United States is under direct threat from Iraq.” He called for more time for arms inspections, and “for emphasizing the prevention of war.”
But he said that if people want change, “petition your government. The squeaky wheel does get the grease.” He said he would press on with his support of a bill to repeal President Bush’s use-of-force authorization, “and give back Congress its voice on this central issue of foreign policy.”
But he also said the bill would face strong resistance from Republicans, who hold the majority in Congress. He also quelled some peace protesters’ hopes for impeachment proceedings against Bush.
“The impeachment process begins with the House Judiciary Committee. I don’t see (Republicans) having any interest in impeachment hearings.”
Farr said protesters had “at least another month” before a massive shipment of military equipment arrives in the Middle East. He said protesters had at least that long to persuade loved ones nationwide to “encourage council members, supervisors, labor unions and members of Congress” to make their opposition heard.
The majority of speakers at the theater opposed war on Iraq, and many said they didn’t know where to turn. Some said they were confused and disillusioned that the weekend’s massive worldwide protests hadn’t done more to turn the tide.
Jake Williams from the Youth Coalition of Santa Cruz said he’s been to “a lot of rallies and demonstrations, and it doesn’t seem like it’s getting the war any closer to not happening. What else can the youth do to stop war?”
A few voices in the crowd, however, had a different perspective. A few dissenters met with scattered heckling, but the audience was silent when Syrian-born Khartoun Brown spoke. Brown, who lives in the Mount Hermon area, is an Arab whose family lives across the border from Iraq.
“My family is still there (in Syria),” she said. “I was a minority there, a Christian. I challenge every one of you. Live there for a week (under) that kind of dictatorship. Nobody loves war, but you are dealing with an uncivilized dictator that understands only power and strength.” She said “Democrats and Republicans should be united” on this matter.
Another speaker took no stand on the war, but said people were wrong to use terms such as “madman” and “genocide” about President Bush, when those terms were much more appropriate for Saddam Hussein.
“(Bush) is not the one using biological weapons on his own people,” the speaker said.
Several anti-war speakers suggested walking out of work from corporate jobs if the war proceeds. Others spoke of boycotting fossil fuels. Some said Hussein should be tried by an international military tribunal.
While a few said Santa Cruz should be a sanctuary for those who refuse military service in Iraq, Farr responded by saying the U.S. military is all-volunteer. He said he supports the troops serving the country, but doesn’t necessarily support some of their “civilian leaders.”
While several people praised Farr for speaking out on the issue, he was questioned by activist and unsuccessful City Council candidate Steve Argue, who said Farr had done the right thing by opposing Bush’s use-of-force authorization, but should have taken a stand against economic sanctions. Argue said sanctions have killed “millions” of Iraqi children.”
Steve Hildebrand said Congress has “failed miserably to hold George Bush accountable to the Constitution of the United States. Millions march and Bush has the audacity to say he’s not listening?”
In a wrap-up, Farr praised organizations that have opposed war, including 52 Aptos High School teachers. This group read a statement saying there was no grounds to attack Iraq. “Our daughters have not been raped,” said one of the teachers, reading a prepared statement. “Our fields have not been poisoned. ... We want a graceful way out of this box of our own making.”
Contact Dan White at dwhite (at) santa-cruz.com