BEREN, MCDERMOTT CLASH OVER TROOPS; BEREN CALLS FOR "SERIES OF BROADCAST DEBATES"
On Saturday afternoon May 3, Congressman Jim McDermott gave a talk to about 25 people gathered at the Rainier Community Center in Seattle. Also in attendance were Steve Beren and some campaign supporters. The Beren campaigners arrived early, and before McDermott arrived the Beren supporters had made sure that everyone in the crowd had a copy of Beren’s “Open Letter to Jim McDermott.” To read the text of the open letter, in which Beren challenged McDermott to “a series of broadcast debates,” CLICK HERE
The chairperson for the meeting, in introducing McDermott, apologized for the small turnout. In his talk, McDermott sought to explain the reasons for the low attendance. The American people, he claimed, were “anesthetized” to the war. “You have a country that has disengaged from the war,” the congressman said.
McDermott said that “we’re losing in Afghanistan,” accused the President of planning to expand the war into Iran, and said “we’re running a gulag – one over in Guantanamo, and several in Iraq.” Yet, the congressman argued, “nobody cares” about the war because “as long as we can hire mercenaries to fight this war for us” the war would continue. McDermott said that the "mercenaries" were recruited from those who could not get jobs, or who could not get into school, or who were in jail due to having committed felonies.
“The American people are sitting asleep at the switch,” McDermott said. McDermott noted that, in an effort to make the American people wake up, he was co-sponsoring a bill with Congressman Charles Rangel (D-New York) calling for a compulsory military draft.
Beren was the first person called on during the question-and-answer period. He said he disagreed with what he had heard Congressman McDermott say. “The American people are not asleep at the switch – they are patriotic, they support the troops, they want victory in the war. And the troops are not mercenaries – they are heroes.” Pointing to the wide disparity in viewpoints, Beren said these issues needed to be debated not just in small community meetings, but in broadcast debates on television and radio. Referring to his open letter, Beren said, “I challenge you to a series of broadcast debates. Do you accept my challenge?”
McDermott paused for several seconds, and then responded, “Well, I’m sure that during the campaign there will be chances for us to be on the same forum.” The discussion period then went on to other subjects.
During the discussion period, McDermott stated that he had been against the war from the start “because I knew what comes out of a war – you don’t win anything." McDermott said the roots of the war go back to 1953, when the United States decided to “control Mideast oil.” Referring to the 1979 Islamic revolution in Iran, he said “in 1979, they threw us out on our ear … the Iranians took it [the oil] back.”
Referring to the war, McDermott said it was “the so-called war on terror, which turns out to be a war on civilians.”
After the meeting, Beren approached McDermott and again objected to McDermott insulting our troops by calling them “mercenaries.” McDermott responded, “But they are mercenaries – we’re buying them now.” Beren replied, “When I hear you say things like that, it only makes me more committed to pressuring you to debate me on radio and television.”
“We’ll see,” McDermott said as he exited.
In view of the non-committal answer, the Beren for Congress campaign will continue to press McDermott for an affirmative response.
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