CTNJ staff photo

The American public has found its voice, Congressman John B. Larson, D-1st, declared Sunday at a Manchester Community College “Town Hall” meeting.

He said Congress is beginning to find its voice too. More than 300 members of Congress spoke on the floor of the House to debate a resolution against President George W. Bush’s planned troop build-up in Iraq and 246 voted Friday in favor of the resolution to oppose the escalation.

But the House’s attempt to end the surge failed Saturday when the Senate wasn’t able to gathered enough votes to permit a debate on the symbolic resolution.

“I voted against this war, but I want us to suceed,” Larson said Sunday. “I have to vote for what’s in the best interst of our country and our troops. Putting them into the middle of a sectarian war is not in the best interst of our troops or our country,” he said as the room errupted in applause.

He said Iraq doesn’t need a surge of troops “what we need is a surge of diplomacy in the region.”

More than 100 local residents gathered Sunday to listen to Larson and ask questions.

Beverly Melo of Manchester wanted to know what, besides voting, can we do as citizens to show our opposition to the war? “Don’t underestimate the power of the vote,” Larson said. In the last election America voted for change and a new direction. In the meantime, “agitate, agitate, agitate,” he said.

Don Gonsalves suggested a war tax to increase pressure to pull out of Iraq.


Larson said the American taxpayer will have to foot the $400 billion spent on the war and that’s “where the heart of the debate has to go.”

The administration will have to think about “What is it that our being there is going to change?” Larson said.

Another woman wanted to know why the United States was building permanent bases in a country it didn’t wish to occupy. Yet another woman wanted to know why her son who had to purchase his own bullet-proof vest hadn’t been reimbursed yet. One man wanted to know why Congress had let the President declare war without its approval. Another man wanted to know why the Senate approved Lieutenant General David Petraeus’ nomination since he’s unlikely to challenge the president’s strategy.

A solider who had served in Iraq explained how rural the country is and how difficult it will be to secure all the different factions. Larson who has traveled to the theater three times said the problem remains the Sunni Triangle surrounding Baghdad. Larson said Bush’s father decided during the Gulf War not to go there because there was no good solution then and there’s no good solution now.

“We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting it in anger and other allies pulling out as well,” the elder Bush said in his book “A World Transformed.”

Despite the frustration voiced by many Sunday Larson seemed optimistic about the future of the conflict. He said since the Democrats took control of Congress there have been 30 hearings on Iraq, more than Congress has had in the last five years.

Next week Connecticut residents will have a chance to voice their opposition to the troop surge at several town hall meetings all over the state. Visit the Connecticut Opposes the War web site to find a meeting near you.