We asked if he agreed that the Bush administration had misled our nation into the war. We asked what has been achieved in Iraq in light of the death and destruction that has befallen Iraq and the death and financial strain that our nation has endured. We asked what it would take for him to begin calling for a withdrawal our troops. We asked him if he’d support a bill which would require congressional approval for an attack on Iran.
His answers were predictable and sometimes even more ignorant than expected. He said he still believes that Iraq had posed an imminent threat to U.S. security and even mentioned Hussein’s threat to kill Bush senior as if it were, by itself, a sensible reason to take two nations into war. Predictably, he mentioned the war on terrorism and the need to take the fight to ‘them’ rather than wait for terrorists to come to us. (All of this has been repeatedly dismissed by terrorism experts who note that the war in Iraq is creating more terrorists every day we occupy the nation.) And he told us that he couldn’t say for sure whether or not he’d withdraw support from the war if the surge in troops didn’t work because, "I am not a military or foreign policy expert."
Sickeningly, when I asked Weldon about Martin Luther King’s assertion that a nation that spends more money on military expenses than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual decline, adding that our nation spends more than 400 billion on defense each year, Weldon replied, "If I had it my way I would shut down the Federal Dept. of Education and give money to states." Adding, "Defense spending is not enough."
On the same day we met with Weldon, active duty U.S. Army officer Lt. Col. Paul Yingling said that there is little hope for victory in Iraq, and former CIA director George Tenet asserted that the Bush administration rushed to war without a serious debate about the threat posed by Saddam. Tenet also said Bush misused his "slam-dunk" statement in the rush to war. These facts are lost upon Weldon, a blind, ardent Bush supporter.
Weldon told us that the war has been won, it’s only the battle for peace we need to win. And the most he could say about Tenet’s point was, "I’ll read the book."
So you might ask – what did we accomplish? A lot, actually. Needless to say, we didn’t change Weldon’s mind. There’s no changing the mind of a man who entreats ideology over the facts. Our meeting with Dave Weldon was the culmination of years of dedicated activism on the part of everyday Brevard citizens clamoring for peace, a broader effort that began when a few dozen of us met at the now defunct Greenhouse café in downtown Melbourne. Those were the days when undercover officers from the Sheriff’s Office were spying on our activities; when we organized two pre-war rallies that would lead to 400-500 people marching through downtown Melbourne in opposition to the war. Four years later, the Brevard county peace movement is pervasive and expanding rapidly.
Perhaps our footsteps and our chants for an end to the bloodshed are getting so loud that even war supporters like Weldon can’t ignore us anymore. Perhaps he knows it’s because of the peace movement than an under-funded, blatantly anti-war candidate, Dr. Bowman, gave Weldon his most serious congressional race in a decade last November.
In any case, the greatest value of our meeting lie in the message it sends to everyone reading this – your voice can be heard over the din of politicians, if you take up the banner and live the life of a true citizen. That five everyday peace activists got to take their grievances and opinions to the person in power is a reminder that, at the end of the day, we are the ones who sign the checks of elected officials. And we can sign pink slips and end wars anytime we muster up enough political and moral will-power. That time is now.