Saturday, November 8, 2008

Rahmbo vs. the Chicago Peace Movement

On March 8, 2003, President Bush said in a national radio address: "We are doing everything we can to avoid war in Iraq."

Residents of Chicago's 5th Congressional District were told otherwise on the very same day by none other than their Congressman, Democrat Rahm Emanuel. "On one thing George Bush and Saddam Hussein agree," Emanuel said. "Neither of them want the [U.N.] inspections to work."

Those words were spoken during a meeting with several anti-war activists living in Emanuel's district, including members of Lincoln Park Neighbors United for Peace, Ravenswood Neighbors for Peace, and an interfaith clergy group. The activists took turns holding peace signs in front of Emanuel's office and sitting down with the Congressman in a last-ditch effort to prompt him to take a stand against the build-up to military action against Iraq.

The demonstration outside Emanuel's office was a success. "The steady stream of cars, trucks and buses kept up a din of honking," according to LPNUFP President Ted Pearson. Inside the office, however, it was a different story. Despite expressing a belief that the Bush administration was subverting the U.N. inspection process, Emanuel wouldn't commit to any action to prevent war.

Emanuel claimed to be unaware of two resolutions that would have repealed authorization for use of military force against Iraq. Undeterred, activists faxed him copies of the resolutions; he promised to consider them but never signed on as a cosponsor, and of course both measures failed.

This wasn't the first time activists met with Emanuel to press their case for peace; less than two weeks earlier, 12 or so LPNUFP members stopped by a Jewel store where he was holding a meet-and-greet event dubbed "Congress On Your Corner." According to Pearson, Emanuel's response was that "President Bush has made up his mind, and there's nothing we can do about it."

Despite these initial rebuffs, peace groups in the 5th CD remained in constant contact with Emanuel's office, by phone, e-mail, and in person whenever possible, mounting a lobbying effort that has no parallel in the local movement against the Iraq war. But more than five years and two congressional elections later, they have precious little to show for it; unlike other Chicago-area Congresspeople, Emanuel has been an immovable wall.
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