Nick Coleman: Democracy in Iraq? Maybe we should try it in Congress

Nick Coleman: Democracy in Iraq? Maybe we should try it in Congress
Did you think the war in Iraq was a terrible idea?

By Nick Coleman, Star Tribune
Last update: February 06, 2007 – 9:22 PM

Did you think the war in Iraq was a terrible idea?


Do you worry it is getting worse, and that the U.S. is bogged down in a civil war? Did you notice the number of dead Americans has passed 3,100 and the cost of the war now is projected to surpass the cost of the Vietnam War?

Keep it to yourself.

Do you want Congress to represent you and stand up to the reckless rogues who are extending the tours of the troops, threatening war with Iran and scoffing at public opinion?

Shut the heck up.

I’m here to say it’s OK to feel muzzled, frustrated and voiceless. It’s not you who are insane. It may be your country. Did you think democracy was on the march? Don’t be stupid. It’s getting the bum’s rush.

On Monday, the U.S. Senate couldn’t even agree to debate a war that is four years old and has gone off the tracks. Despite last fall’s huge rejection by the voters of more war, the country is ruled by people who have no intention of changing course.

And don’t bother trying to talk to your congressman. What’s Congress got to do with government these days?

When a small group of Minnesotans got uppity Tuesday and demanded a meeting with Second District GOP Congressman John Kline, the cops were called to get rid of the pests.

As part of a national protest called the Occupation Project, 17 peace people visited Kline’s Burnsville office (with no appointment but plenty of advance publicity) to ask that Kline, a gung-ho Marine veteran who has been one of the strongest proponents of the war, hold a town hall meeting to sound out opinion on the president’s plan to “surge” or escalate the war.

Two-thirds of the public disapprove of the plan, so no one really needs a meeting. Which is fine with Kline: He isn’t likely to call one. Besides, his office said, most of the peaceniks were known Democrats, even though they claimed to be nonpartisan.

“We don’t announce town hall meetings to meet the demands of a mob,” Kline’s communications director, Troy Young, said Tuesday.

But if it was a mob, it was an uncommonly “ruly” one.

The protesters filed into Kline’s office and stood quietly while meeting with Kline’s district director Mike Osskopp (Kline was in Washington). After an hour or so, they were told they were in the way of other constituents and asked to leave. Police were called. Four squads arrived. The protesters were ordered to leave. They did. No one was arrested.

Peaceful protest is polite. But sometimes it’s too polite.

Peace activists visited all of Minnesota’s congressional offices Tuesday, as part of the national effort to get Congress to stand up against the escalation of the war. Kline’s people do not seem in the mood to debate Iraq.

“He supports the commanders on the ground,” Young said of his boss. “He does not believe it’s the duty of 535 members of Congress to micromanage the war, many of whom are presidential contenders.”

But what if people in Minnesota and Kline’s district are against escalating the war?

“He doesn’t stick his finger in the air to make decisions,” Young said. “That’s not who he is.”

A brave congressman! Standing up against the people!


Americans want Iraq over with, but the war is getting larger and we can’t even talk about it. Debate is stifled, Congress is muzzled and peaceful protest is ignored. History predicts the rest of this equation. It’s not pretty.

Sue Skog, one of the protesters ejected from Kline’s office, said activists plan to return to congressional offices each Tuesday for the next seven weeks. But don’t fret: They probably won’t accomplish anything. Democracy is safe. From the people.