Democratic congresswoman from California. She is the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and the co-founder of the Out of Iraq Caucus.
Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters of California has sent a letter to every other member of the House urging them to participate in Saturday’s antiwar protest in Washington. She joins us to talk about her call and her resolution to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq. [includes rush transcript]
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Washington, D.C. Democratic Congresswoman Maxine Waters of California joins us from Capitol Hill, former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, co-founder of the Out of Iraq Caucus. Welcome to Democracy Now!, Congressmember Waters.
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Thank you for inviting me. Delighted to be with you this morning.
AMY GOODMAN: Your response to President Bush’s State of the Union?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, you know, I said to someone last night I was left feeling a little bit underwhelmed. I know that the president alluded to all of these domestic things. We have basically moved these issues, where he has to say something about energy, he has to talk about healthcare. So he alluded to an awful lot. He did some of the feel-good stuff. But the 100,000-pound elephant in the room was Iraq. There was nothing new. There was no brilliant exit strategy to go along with this escalation. He did not convince anybody that he had a winning formula with this escalation. And so, he left me, the chair of the Out of Iraq Caucus, more inspired to fight him and to try and bring our soldiers home than ever.
As a matter of fact, I’ve signed onto and co-sponsored legislation with Lynn Woolsey and Barbara Lee that is an exit plan and strategy that we have put together for getting out of Iraq. We’re going to take our show and go on the road. The three of us — we’re calling ourselves a triad now — we’re going to go up to New Hampshire. We’re going to go to Iowa. We’re going to talk about forcing all of the presidential candidates to really discuss Iraq with the American people and stop nuancing it, stop sound-biting it. But "What are your plans? What is your vision, presidential candidate, for stopping this ungodly war, where we’re losing thousands of lives? The Iraqis are suffering. The sectarian violence and the civil war is at its height. What are you going to do to stop this madness and make us all more safe?"
AMY GOODMAN: Now, explain exactly what this proposal is that you, Congressmember Barbara Lee and Lynn Woolsey, the three women of California, congressmembers, have proposed.
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, basically, it is not to send another soldier to Iraq. No more troops going to Iraq. Number two, to start to wind out of Iraq. Make sure that you work with the Iraqis for a security plan that they come up with that would include the international community and those in the region and no American soldiers in that kind of security plan. We also talk about reconstruction. We have bombed Baghdad and other parts of Iraq to smithereens. We owe it to them to be involved in a reconstruction plan that’s real. Thirdly, we would leave some of our troops over the horizon in neighboring communities, in the event the coalition forces that are put together by the Iraqis would ask for a bit of assistance at any given time. We’d bring our soldiers home. We would provide them with the real healthcare and the services that we claim that we give to our veterans, and particularly mental health services.
And so, these are some of the proponents of that plan. And we believe that this plan that we worked, using a lot of what McGovern proposed in his book, is a plan that is credible. You know, they try to make us out to be irresponsible and crazy and have people believe that we talk about getting out within 24 hours. We’re not talking about that. We’re talking about a reasonable strategy. There’s money in the pipeline. You don’t have to appropriate more money for Iraq. Use the money that’s there to wind out. That’s basically what we’re doing.
AMY GOODMAN: Congresswoman Waters —
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: — when you say no more money for more troops in Iraq, what does that mean? What President Bush calls the "surge," the more than 21,000 troops, are on their way. How do you stop that? Some have already landed in Iraq.
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, we won’t be able to stop the surge that the president, the commander-in-chief, has the ability to order. But what he’s coming at us for is additional dollars, $100 billion, either in a supplemental or in the budget, to continue the war. That’s where I think you’re going to see the difference between those who really believe that we have got to get out of this war and those who are going to continue not to have the courage to face this president down and tell him no.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, your sister California congressmember, Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker —
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: — has not endorsed cutting off funding, using appropriations as a method of stopping the soldiers going to Iraq, fearing that that the Democrats will be painted as withdrawing support, putting soldiers in harm’s way and not supporting them. Your response?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: She is the speaker, and she has a responsibility to manage all of these opposing views. She’s got the Blue Dogs, the new Democrats, the progressive Democrats, and they have different views, and she’s got to manage all of that. Some of us, without that responsibility of managing all of these views, have to speak truth to power and do what we think makes good sense, provide leadership and try to convince all of them. I am not for appropriating more dollars, and I don’t believe that somehow this is pulling the money out from under the troops. Between the time that that appropriation would take place and now, we have enough money in the pipeline to wind out and to really make our nation safer and our soldiers safer by bringing them home in a responsible way.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Waters, you’re going to be attending the protest on Saturday in Washington, D.C., against war.
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: You’ve also sent a letter to all members of Congress?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Yes, I have, encouraging them to participate, encouraging them to welcome the protesters into the Capitol when they do their lobby day on Monday. I also am joining with them in a book fair, where I’ve invited over 15 authors to come to the Capitol, who have written about Iraq, who’s talking about what’s wrong with that strategy. They will be here in the big Ways and Means room. We will introduce them. They will talk about what inspired them to write, what it’s all about. I am firmly planted in the middle of this protest and this rally. I not only welcome all of our citizens to the Capitol, I join with them in calling on our government to bring our soldiers home.
AMY GOODMAN: What kind of response did you get from fellow and sister congressmembers?
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Well, you know, we got a lot of good response. Most of our members of Congress in our caucus really want to get out of this war. They don’t believe in it. Some of them are frightened by the idea that they may be accused of not being patriotic or not supporting the soldiers, and they’re not going to do anything to endanger their re-elections and to, you know, put them at odds with their citizens that they think feel that way. But they all feel that we should not be in Iraq.
I’ve started to organize people to come to the floor in a special order and to say, "If I had known then what I know now, I would not have voted for the war." I had eight members last week out of 15 that signed up that came to the floor and said that. And I’m going to organize another special order to keep that going.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think it’s going to change, this issue of not cutting off appropriations? I know also the presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich has called for cutting appropriations for the troops in Iraq. And I finally want to ask you about the lack of one mention last night in President Bush’s State of the Union of Katrina and the recovery efforts there.
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Yes. Well, I’m convinced that until the American public really takes this issue and protest and organize and push their legislators, that the legislators are going to be behind the public and not moving forward. So it’s going to take street heat. It’s going to take organized action. It’s going to take the kind of protesting and rallying that we’re going to see on next Monday to change the minds of these legislators. I wake up every morning thinking of all things are possible. And I’m hoping and wishing and praying that our legislators will gather the courage to deny the funding to the president and cause the president to have to start to wind down before he makes his additional plans for expansion.
On Katrina, you’re absolutely right. As a chair of the Subcommittee of the Financial Institutions Committee on Housing and Community Development, I was very, very pained that the president seems to have forgotten about the catastrophe in the Gulf Coast. Those people who were sitting in their homes in New Orleans and sitting outside of New Orleans in Texas and other places, wanting to come home, could not help but have felt left out, forgotten, disregarded, listening to the president talk about the State of the Union. What is the State of the Union? What is the state of the Gulf Coast that suffered that awful catastrophe and all of that disaster? And the president of the United States didn’t even mention it. I know they felt terrible about that and wondering who cares. Who cares about their future and getting them back into their homes and jobs and getting their schools and their healthcare system up? It was a terrible — not mentioned by the president of the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: Congressmember Maxine Waters, I want to thank you for being with us, from California, speaking in Washington, D.C., former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, now co-founder of the Out of Iraq Caucus.
REP. MAXINE WATERS: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Thank you. And we will certainly be covering what happens on Saturday, the protest in Washington and around the country.