U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott broadened his attack on George W. Bush's war plans
yesterday, saying the president is threatening military action in Iraq as part
of a plot to crown himself emperor of America.
Criticized for saying on a trip to Iraq early last week that Bush would mislead
the American public, McDermott, a Seattle Democrat, was back in his district yesterday
telling cheering supporters that Bush is planning a war to distract voters' attention
from domestic problems.
HARLEY SOLTES / THE SEATTLE TIMES
After holding a town-hall meeting on Beacon Hill, U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott arrives
yesterday at Westlake Plaza with anti-war marchers protesting against President
Bush's request to Congress for permission to attack Iraq.
He said Bush is trying to "submarine" efforts to restart weapons inspections
in Iraq to give him a pretext for starting a war a war McDermott said is
being planned in part to bolster U.S. oil interests.
"And what we are dealing with right now in this country is whether we are
having a kind of bloodless, silent coup or not," McDermott said at a town-hall
meeting at the Jefferson Park Community Center on Beacon Hill. The event was sponsored
by local Democrats and other groups in his congressional district.
At the heart of the debate, McDermott said, is whether Congress or the president
has the power to declare war.
"This president is trying to bring to himself all the power to become an emperor
to create Empire America," he said.
And he warned his supporters, "If you go along like sheep that is what will
State Republican Party Chairman Chris Vance said McDermott's comments about
a coup "were the most irresponsible thing I've ever heard an American politician
"Sometimes politicians, like everyone else, will blurt out things they don't
mean," Vance said. "But it sounds like he has thought about this carefully and
really believes that."
The resolution Congress will vote on next week was negotiated between the
White House and Congressional leaders of both parties.
"The president is not trying to bypass Congress," Vance said. "He's taking
his case to Congress."
"If President Bush is engaged in a coup then his co-conspirators are Richard
Gephardt and Joseph Lieberman," he said, referring to Democratic leaders.
About 200 people showed up for McDermott's meeting in the Beacon Hill Community
Center. Nearly all were supporters.
Outside, four or five protesters carried signs objecting to McDermott's recent
trip to Iraq and his comments about Bush and Saddam Hussein.
"Saddam Good Bush Bad. This is Baghdad Jim's Mind On Drugs," said a
sign carried by Brandon Swalley of Lakewood.
"I think he should be thrown out," she said.
When McDermott arrived, he was escorted into the hall by Seattle police and
followed by a few protesters, one of whom shouted after him, "Our president is
not a liar. If you want to say it, say it here but don't go to foreign lands to
Inside the crowd was heavily in favor of McDermott's view. When opponents
took a microphone to talk, they were shouted at and told to get to their question.
Supporters, though, were able to talk uninterrupted and give anti-war speeches.
Pattern of deception
Late last week McDermott said that he may have overstated his case against
Bush while in Iraq. But yesterday it was clear he believes there's a pattern of
deception within the Bush administration to justify a war.
He said that Bush is using the memory of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks to
fuel a war with Iraq.
"One of the dilemmas we've had since 9/11 is that this country has been continuously
terrorized by the government," McDermott said. "Every week they announce a new
threat. 'Today is a code orange.' 'Today is a code red.'
"Granted it was an awful day. It was a heinous act. Nobody has anything but
horror over what happened that day.
"But the message to draw from that day is not that we should suddenly go to
war with the whole world, which is what the president is saying."
McDermott is convinced that Bush is bent on war with Iraq to distract voters'
attention from a collapsing stock market and other problems at home.
"It is the oldest game in the book," he said. "They found this war very convenient
to obscure people's views about what is happening domestically."
McDermott said he and two other Democratic members of Congress went to Iraq
to see firsthand the effect of economic sanctions on the country, as well as to
tell Iraqi leaders that if they didn't agree to weapons inspections there would
be a war.
He said the demand for inspections was delivered to 15 or 20 government officials,
but not to Saddam, who they did not ask to see.
"We knew there was no point in getting into a situation where we're shaking
hands and smiling with somebody we don't really think is doing the right thing
by the country or the world, and we knew that message would get to him."
Connecting the dots
McDermott's comments went much further than his television interviews from Iraq, in which he said Bush would mislead Americans in order to build support for a war.
When someone asked him if the war was meant to bolster U.S. oil interests, McDermott talked about what oil companies could gain from a war and said, "I'm not going to connect the dots exactly, but I think a dotted line certainly seems within the realm of possibility. ...
"Oil is certainly a part of it but I don't think it's the underlying issue." The underlying issue, he said repeatedly, is a fight over the Constitutional power to declare war.
"People that I trust say if we don't derail this coup that is going on, we are going to wind up with a government run by the president of the United States and all the rest of us will be standing around just watching it happen."