Lieutenant Tharp, with over 9 years in the military, and a dozen awards, gave a relatively brief speech. "There are a hundred and forty thousand men and women in Iraq, and I want to thank you for being here for them." He said that he didn't even resign when he got sent into the disaster that this administration has made in Iraq, and [thought] 'Who the hell screwed me?.'"
Tharp said that he resigned and joined Iraq Veterans Against the War after he got home. "From what I saw in Iraq, I was one of the most fortunate people in Iraq. I got to see the compassion of the Iraqi people...I got to work with two dozen diverse Iraqis. When I got home, I was asked by the national security agency to dehumanize them...and that is what I would not do."
After urging the audience to focus (a useful admonition before a question session in the greater Berkeley area), the first question was posed to Lee, who urged the audience to contact their Senators oppose the Patriot act and its latest "improvements" which are now on the Senate side, and Lee called "worse than the first patriot act".
Lee later added, in a frightening response to a question regarding the continued erosion of civil liverties, that she "certainly [believes] that not only the Pentagon, but also homeland security, with the Patriot Act that was passed thursday night. The net has been cast against those, citizens and noncitizens, who they want to go after."
You can contact your Senators at http://www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm , but remember to contact the district staff as well by looking for your local address on the website (click on the Senator's name in order to do so.)
When asked how to bring Democratic leaders like Senator Feinstein (who has been one of the war's champions) into the fold, Lee encouraged the audience to make sure the audience to make sure the September 24th anti-war rallies were well attended.
Ellsberg jumped in to add that two senate committees with the capability of running minority hearings are the Senate Intelligence Oversight Committee and the House Committee on Intelligence. He added that Pat Roberts in the senate generally has to officially say he is going to not do this, but since it is clear he won't, he encouraged "people here and elsewhere" to press members of the intelligence committees (such as Senator Feinstein, Senator Rockafeller, Senator Levin).
He added that Feinstein certainly won't want to do this, but she is subject to pressure. We can force them to do this by saying that 'If you don't do this, we'll fire you." Mimi, the emcee, added that in her discussions with congressional staff, she's found that the Washington people hear most of the complaints, but that the local [Congressional district representatives] need to know that the people are starved for answers.
Steve, from afterdowningstreet.org, said that he didn't believe the administration had yet felt the full impact of the public's potential wrath. "We need more documents to make a solid case, and as we build that, it moves into the mainstream media, showly but surely. The arc of history is long, but it eventually bends toward justice...and we will get there."
Dr. Ellsberg then chimed in, encouraging all the audience members to visit afterdowningstreet.org, both for its Downing Street documents, and for the other information, including that on Robin Cook, the member of the Labor cabinet that resigned in protest beore the war.
Ellsberg added that he supported Lee's decision to move forward on the inquiry process, and that there must be more pressure put on the media to end this war sooner than did the war in Vietnam by asking them why they don't have the information that the British and independent press do, because "they have as much to hide as the administration, that they [the media] were easily fooled."
Tharp added by imploring the audience to ask its family members and friends in soldily Republican territory not to start the conversation with "Bush lied," but to instead encourage them to ask their congressmen to investigate the accusations of falsified intelligence.
But one of Lee's many comments truly stuck out, and is a message for the blogging community to remember: "There is still a digital divide in America. We did flyers and leafletting, went to community colleges and houses of worship, and that e-communication isn't enough."
We must do much more.
-Robert Klein, firstname.lastname@example.org