By Kathleen McQuillen, AFSC Iowa Program Coordinator

Representatives of several peace organizations from throughout Iowa, including AFSC and Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie of Mayors for Peace, met with U.S. Senator Tom Harkin on April 22 to encourage him to promote dialogue rather than war with Iran.  As the senator has expressed support for diplomacy, we thought it was important for him to share that with his Iowa constituency. This is particularly important because there is tremendous pressure for senators to sign on to Senate Resolution 380, the Casey, Lieberman and Graham resolution which eases the path to war with Iran.

The Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL) asserts that Senate Resolution 380 is “a disguised effort to allow for a war with Iran. S. Res. 380 effectively calls for a military attack on Iran when Iran reaches ‘nuclear weapons capability.’” Such a policy leaves no room for diplomacy.

Sen. Harkin emphasized the heavy demands of chairing the Health and Human Services committee and the related work to advance healthcare, education, and labor issues, and suggested there are other senators addressing the issue of Iran. While appreciating the work Sen. Harkin does on HSS, the peace delegation insisted that US war-making and the bloated Pentagon budget threaten the very economic programs he is trying to advance. Further, as Veterans for Peace member Ed Flaherty noted, Harkin is Iowa’s senator and it is his voice that needs to be raised in Iowa.

Sen. Harkin identified his early history of working to advance international human rights in places such as Southeast Asia, East Timor and Central America as an important factor in how he sees the US role in the world and his role as a US senator. Those gathered believe it is exactly that attention to human rights that is needed in the current discourse about waging yet another war of choice.

With nearly 70 senators signed onto SR 380, there is an urgent need to speak out for diplomacy. Our delegation is pleased that Sen. Harkin has asked Jule Reynolds of his Des Moines staff to work with peace organizations in Iowa to help shape a forum that will address issues related to war, peace, and our communities. Watch for details in the weeks ahead.

In the meantime, be aware that the FCNL reports the lobbying for SR 380 from groups such as the American Israel Public Affairs Council is intense, and those who have not signed on to the resolution deserve support and appreciation.

Please contact Sen. Harkin to thank him for not signing SR 380. DC office: 202-224-3254. Iowa Office: 515-284-4574. Email through the website: www.harkin.senate.gov.

Joining Mayor Cownie and Kathleen McQuillen of AFSC at the meeting were Jeffrey Weiss of Catholic Peace Ministry; Sherry Hutchison of Des Moines Valley Friends Meeting; Chet Guinn of the Methodist Federation for Social Action; Ed Flaherty of Veterans for Peace; Dr. David Drake of Physicians for Social Responsibility; Yashar Vasef of the United Nations Association of Iowa; Maggie Rawland of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom; and Tony Johnson.