Moran: War, Politics and Inevitability

House member criticizes Jewish leaders and says Democrats won't jeopardize their re-election efforts

By David Harrison

March 5, 2003

U.S. Rep. James Moran (D-8) said there is nothing anyone can do at this point to prevent a war with Iraq.

War with Iraq is a "foregone conclusion" and will likely come at the next new moon, March 13 or March 21, U.S. Rep. James Moran (D-8) told about 120 people assembled at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Reston Monday night. Democratic opposition in Congress would be futile at this point, he said, and may cost the Democrats their seats, a risk Moran said he was unwilling to take.

That did not sit well with his overwhelmingly anti-war audience. "We look to you to make it not happen," Reston resident Adrian Farrel told Moran. "We look to you to go to the wider community and to find ways to make it not happen. So what are you going to do?"

Moran replied that his 13 years in Congress had given him a certain measure of credibility but added, "I need to use that in a measured way so I don't lose it." He said it was not wise for Democrats to introduce an anti-war resolution because it might embarrass them in the 2004 election. "If we're going to get fewer than 150 votes, I don't want one on the floor," he said.

Several listeners said they were disappointed to hear that. "I'm really depressed," said Farhanahz Abdul Haseeb of Herndon. "In between all the 'blah blah blah' he did, the most important thing he said is he won't say anything on the floor because he will lose his seat."

"I think some of us wish he would push the members of Congress a little more perhaps," said Paul Murphy of Reston.

AT TIMES impassioned, at times resigned, Moran blasted the Bush administration for its rush to war but saved some of his harshest criticism for Jewish leaders in the United States. "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq we would not be doing this," he said. "The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going and I think they should."

Many of those Jewish leaders were swayed after talking with former Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, a vocal proponent of war with Iraq, Moran said. He nevertheless called himself "a Zionist because I believe in the right of Israel to exist in its boundaries." But Israel should exist only in its pre-1967 boundaries, he added, which means the Israeli government should dismantle settlements in formerly Palestinian areas. "If we provide $12 billion [in annual aid to Israel] we need to say, 'Stop the expansion of the settlements and comply with the two U.N. Security Council resolutions.'"

He blamed the Bush administration for using the war to divert attention from the weak economy. "The American president saw that the American public was losing interest in the war on terrorism and was starting to focus on the economy," he said. "I want an administration and a Congress that is going to be responsive to the concerns that you are articulating tonight." The war, he said, would come at a huge cost. American forces would have to occupy Iraq for years causing resentment against the United States throughout the Arab world.

MORAN SEEMED emboldened by his anti-war audience, promising at one point to be more outspoken. "I need to be more blunt and more bold and that's why I'm here saying what I'm saying," he said to applause. He also vowed to use Congress' "power of the purse" to limit war funding.

When the Rev. Jim Papile, the senior pastor at St. Anne's, said he was concerned about "scapegoating our Muslim brothers and sisters" in the name of homeland security, Moran related an anecdote in which several Republican congressmen told Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge they did not like seeing Arab-Americans near the Capitol building. Moran said, the Congress members pressed Ridge for tougher measures to keep Arab-Americans away from the Capitol. "The Muslim community in this country is very concerned about this scapegoating," Papile said after the talk. "And I think [Moran] needed to know that. He said he agreed with me. But he said it was inopportune for him to talk against the war. When it becomes inopportune for him to talk about equality for all Americans then we'll be in real trouble. That could be the real tragedy in this country."

SEVERAL PEOPLE got up during the question-and-answer session and asked Moran how they could help prevent a war. "Use the tools of democracy," he answered urging them to write letters to the editor, call the radio shows and send letters to their senators and to the White House. But he cautioned against taking part in the protest movements that have sent millions of people into the streets worldwide. "The protest marches so far have been relatively ineffective in the United States," he said. "The speakers chosen have not been credible." When asked who these speakers were, he said: "The worldwide socialist movements, the Al Sharptons of the world, the Cynthia McKinneys."

For the protests to be successful, he said, they have to become a middle-class suburban effort. Only when middle America started opposing the Vietnam War did it finally come to an end, he noted. "People like you need to take control of the movement," he said.

But war is inevitable, he said, and the best the anti-war movement can hope for is to be recognized by history for their doomed efforts.

"I think it's going to be a frustrating process," he said. "But at least in the end we'll be able to say, 'I told you so,' and the history books will record that the nation was divided."

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