May 12, 2015
Under the auspices of Brooklyn For Peace (BFP), a delegation of six peace advocates met with aides to the U.S. Senator from New York, Charles Schumer. Meeting at his midtown Manhattan office, the delegation was a diverse slice of the Senator’s constituents. The purpose of the visit was to let the Senator know of the strongly-held disappointment at his cooperation with some of the Senate’s most virulent pro-war members who have been unstinting in their efforts to derail the negotiations and agreement with Iran, hammered out by the President and John Kerry and five other nations over disputes with Iran’s nuclear program.
Brooklyn For Peace has argued that the President has made a break from the policies of the Bush / Cheney administration which drove our country and the world into two horrific wars that cost thousands of lives, trillions of dollars and resulted in the boiling cauldron of conflict and civil war that is Middle East today. The peace movement has always supported that course of action: diplomacy over military violence! The delegation told the aides that support for negotiations and diplomacy rather than the use of U.S. military force and war is the proper and correct course of action in settling disagreements and that they are aghast that the Senator, who claims a progressive mantle, is joining with the very same pro-war forces that led to war in the past and who are proposing the same solution again in dealing with Iran. They pointed to recent statements and articles by John McCain and John Bolton (former Bush ambassador to the UN), both of whom have called for bombing Iran to curb what they say is Iran’s ambition to develop nuclear weapons.
Lucy Koteen, past president of Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats (CBID) and a member of BFP, opened the discussion pointedly asking why the Senator has embarked on a course that seems to dovetail with some of the Senate’s most notorious war hawks. She presented a resolution of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, which Schumer addressed several weeks ago. The resolution was sharply critical of his behavior in the Senate regarding the agreement with Iran.
She was followed by BFP Board Member, Matthew Weinstein, who cited the staggering $1.6 trillion price tag of the two previous wars and warned that scuttling the agreement with Iran would inevitably lead in the direction of another costly and destructive war for which the Senator would be held responsible for the role he’s play in cooperating with pro-war forces in the Senate. Weinstein asked how the Senator expected to fulfill his stated goals of meeting the urgent needs of the American people while spendingscarce tax dollars on wars instead.
The two aides, Alex Katz and Lane Bodian (the latter is the Senator’s Legislative Director for Israel and Iran Affairs), denied the Senator, who is slated to become the Democratic Minority Leader, was teaming up with the GOP to break the agreement or that his actions put him in the same camp as pro-war senators. They pictured him instead as a consummate senator who knows how to compromise and as a “man who knows how to get things done” in a legislature with a Republican majority.” But, they said, he firmly supports diplomacy but wants to insure that the agreement is a “good one,” stating that right now he feels it has too many loose ends. This skepticism was disputed by Ervand Abrahamian. Abrahamian is Distinguished Professor of Iranian and Middle Eastern history and politics at the City University. He delivered a very thorough review of the specifics of the interim agreement and said it was a “very good deal” from the U.S.’s perspective. The demands of the Senator and the Republican opponents of the agreement are for “a better deal” but that, he claimed, is no more than a constantly moving “goal post” with one concession after another being demanded of the Iranians even after they have agreed to serious concessions already contained in the interim agreement. He cited the recent statements of Henry Kissinger who originally supported the contents of the present agreement but now claims they “don’t go far enough.”
When the aides asked which the BFP members would prefer: a Senator who knows how to compromise in order to get things done or one who would stand strongly for diplomacy and peace without giving in to the GOP obstructionists, the delegation answered “Yes, one who stands for diplomacy first and foremost!” That, they said, would constitute real leadership and would put action behind mere words of support for diplomacy. With his prestige, they said, the Senator could move the Senate toward supporting the President’s diplomacy and that would be the true mark of a progessive leader. Bruce Altschuler cited numerous polls showing a strong majority of Americans favoring the negotiations and said the Senator should be taking his cue from that strong sentiment.
BFP Vice Chair, Veronica Nunn, said that in the final analysis this is about individuals and human beings and if your actions don’t follow your words in support of diplomacy then the words end up signifying nothing. Bernard Tuchman, another member of the BFP delegation, remembered that back in the early 90’s Mr. Schumer was initially opposed to the Gulf War. “His instinct was correct back then,” he said and he should be following that instinct today because the dangers are all too real that the failure of this agreement may very well lead to yet another Mid East war.
The delegation left the office on good terms with the Senator’s aides but with clear differences on the role that Mr. Schumer is playing in that body. We asked for a follow-up with the Senator directly and were told that they would try to arrange such a meeting. In the meantime, Brooklyn For Peace will be out on the streets, garnering support for the agreement and trying its utmost to prevent another Middle Eastern war. If you want to help our streetcorner campaign you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.