US Rep. Lewis Removes Name from Iran Resolution

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(APN) ATLANTA — Atlanta peace activists are celebrating this week because they have succeeded in convincing US Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) to remove his name as a co-sponsor of H. Con Res 362, a bill which expresses the sense of the Congress regarding new sanctions on Iran.

“He responded to his iran2constituents and it renewed a tiny bit of my faith in the system,” Gloria Tatum told Atlanta Progressive News.

H. Con Res 362 currently has 270 co-sponsors, constituting a majority of the US House. US Rep. Lewis joined as a co-sponsor on June 17, 2008; however, removed his name on September 8, 2008.

Every Member of the Georgia delegation is a co-sponsor, except now John Lewis. Peace activists are targeting US Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) next, they said.

Four other Members of Congress who have removed their name from the bill so far are US Reps. Thomas Allen (D-ME), who is currently running for US Senate; as well as William Lacy Clay (D-MO), Steve Cohen (D-TN), and Danny Davis (D-IL).

US Rep. Lewis did not give an explanation on the US House Floor, according to the Congressional Record. He merely stated, “Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent to have my name removed as a cosponsor of House Concurrent Resolution 362.”

The Senate version of the bill was introduced by US Sen. Evan Bayh (D-IN) and has 50 co-sponsors, including mostly Republicans, as well as over a dozen Democrats. Neither Obama, Biden, nor Clinton were co-sponsors.

In June 2008, local activists confronted Lewis at Manuel’s Tavern, during the final weeks of his recent Primary challenge from former State Rep. Able Mable Thomas as well as Rev. Markel Hutchins.

Those who were there for the confrontation included Gloria Tatum, Ingemar Smith, Susan Keith, Margie Rece, Dianne Mathiowetz, Randy Aronov, and Tracy Stern and others, according to several sources.

Some of them had been sitting there discussing how they were upset with Lewis for a variety of reasons, including his support for the demolition of public housing in Atlanta and his sponsorship of H Con Res 362.

Ingemar Smith told APN he and others were discussing holding a possible press conference in support of State Rep. Thomas. Susan Keith said they were also discussing providing Thomas with financial support, when in walked US Rep. Lewis.

Tatum handed Lewis a copy of the bill. “I gave it to him. He didn’t right off the top of his head know what it was so I gave him a copy.”

“He said I’ll have to read it. We said you co-sponsored it!” Keith recalled. After that, Lewis’s staff shuffled him away, she said.

Lewis’s staff set up a meeting, but due to a scheduling mix-up, the meeting was postponed for several weeks.

Before the meeting, Tatum said she and others went on WRFG radio to discuss Lewis’s support for the bill, and that Lewis’s campaign manager had overheard and was upset.

When two delegations, the Veterans for Peace and the Grandmothers for Peace, went to meet with US. Rep. Lewis to discuss the bill on Wednesday, September 03, 2008, they were surprised to learn that a group of Jewish peace activists had already met with Lewis about the same issue earlier that morning.

Local activist, Henry Kahn, had been attempting to get a meeting with Lewis since he read about the bill on an Internet website.

“Actually, I had read about HCR 362 online and said this is dreadful, but thank God my Congressman is gonna be opposed to it… I checked with Thomas [Thomas.loc.gov] and discovered to my shock that he was a cosponsor. I said I’m really disappointed in his cosponsorship and it was clear to me that parliamentary act of his did not meet the high ethical standards of somebody I thought dedicated so much of his life to the peace movement,” Kahn told Atlanta Progressive News.

“I sent email, snail mail. I tried to make an appointment to meet with him during his recess. When I got it, I started calling people to go. The first two or three people were Jewish. So we said let’s make this a Jewish people’s delegation,” Kahn said.

“He said at the end of the meeting I’m very grateful you’ve taken the time to express your position and I will take it seriously,” Kahn said, adding he met with Lewis for 40 minutes even though 20 minutes had been scheduled.

Next, Veterans for Peace and Grandmothers for Peace met with the activists. At the beginning of the third meeting, Lewis announced he had decided to withdraw his name as a co-sponsor.

Grandmothers for Peace in attendance included Gloria Tatum, Ann Mauney, Minnie Ruffin, Ella Ruth Hunnicut, and Bernice Bass.

Activists and some retired military officials have called the bill a sea blockade, a claim which the bill’s sponsor, US Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), denies.

The third resolve clause of the bill: “demands that the President initiate an international effort to immediately and dramatically increase the economic, political, and diplomatic pressure on Iran to verifiably suspend its nuclear enrichment activities by, inter alia, prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran; and prohibiting the international movement of all Iranian officials not involved in negotiating the suspension of Iran’s nuclear program.”

The final whereas clause of the bill states, however, that: “Whereas nothing in this resolution shall be construed as an authorization of the use of force against Iran.”

US Rep. Ackerman told a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee on July 9, 2008, “Since a naval blockade is by definition the use of force, the language of this resolution renders the prospect of a naval blockade simply out of the question. This resolution should not be the straw man that some would seek…”

However, retired Navy Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan, former Assistant Secretary of Defense Lawrence Korb, and retired U.S. Army Lt. General Robert G. Gard, Jr., currently the chairman of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, issued a letter to US House Members questioning that assertion.

“The language demanding the President initiate an international effort ‘prohibiting the export to Iran of all refined petroleum products; imposing stringent inspection requirements on all persons, vehicles, ships, planes, trains, and cargo entering or departing Iran,’ is of particular concern because despite the protestations of its sponsors, we believe that implementation of inspections of this nature could not be accomplished without a blockade or the use of force,” they wrote.

Local activists also raised concerns about the bill.

“Section 3 requires force to do it,” Tatum said, calling it a “forked tongue resolution.”

Although the bill is a nonbinding resolution which only expresses the attitude of Congress, “that attitude sends the wrong message to the world,” Tatum said.

“The real political likelihood is, Rep. Ackerman convinced himself to take this step and urged other liberal constituencies to go along to appear to be in defense of the Israeli tough stance. I think that’s totally cynical and unrepresentative of any conscientious group of Americans, including Jews,” Kahn said.

“We would not like to see posturing like this as a response to the need of delicate negotiations. If you read point 3 in their demands it specifies the interdiction of shipping. He can say all he wants about not intending it that way [as a sea blockade], but Mr. Bush can use it that way,” Kahn said.

“We have other examples in the last year of Mr. Bush taking adventuristic military postures, claiming he had the support of the Congress to do it,” Kahn said.

About the author:

Matthew Cardinale is the News Editor for The Atlanta Progressive News and may be reached at matthew@atlantaprogressivenews.com.

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