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(Not so) Secret Direct Line to Every Congressional Office Guaranteed

June 11, 2009

So let’s say you do really care about something and want to be heard by your congressional office on this issue (just theoretically speaking–not like I work for a lobby or anything).

How do you get your voice heard through the hundreds upon hundreds of letters, emails, and phone calls processed each week?

WRITE A LETTER TO THE EDITOR IN YOUR LOCAL NEWSPAPER!

In every congressional office in DC, someone is assigned to track all news articles about that particular member of Congress or senator. I have friends working in congressional offices who set up “google alerts” so that every time a news article mentions Congressman Snappypants, Congressman Snappypants’ office will know about it.

The google alerts often track blogs as well.

Letters to the editor is an extremely time efficient way to do advocacy. In one letter to the editor that mention your member of Congress, you have a great chance to reach:

– Your Rep/Senator’s office, and there is a good chance your letter will be explicitly mentioned by the aides to the member of Congress directly

– Your local community, as the “letter to the editor” section is often the most popular part of the newspaper

– The global cybersphere, since nowadays most LTE pages are online, and will often come up in search engines.

SHINING EXAMPLE

Today I just got word that my friend from September 11 Families for Peaceful Tomorrows Wright Salisbury got published in the Lexington Minuteman urging Congressman Markey to cosponsor H.R. 2404, which would require the administration to present an exit strategy for Afghanistan. This is one of FCNL’s legislative priorities, and a good time to be having this debate since in the next few months Congress is set to pass several colossal war spending and policy bills.

I’m copying below Wright’s letter to the editor in full. Wright wrote me this morning, asking to pass on the word to FCNL constituents that “I urge everyone who shares my conviction that this war is a bad idea to say so to his congressman or woman.” You can urge your member of Congress to cosponsor H.R. 2404 for an Afghanistan exit strategy here.

Winning the Wars’ in the Middle East

Lexington – We in Massachusetts have a right to be proud.

Seven out of 10 of our congressmen are cosponsoring Congressman Jim McGovern’s HR 2404 “To require the Secretary of Defense to submit a report to Congress outlining the United States exit strategy for United States military forces in Afghanistan participating in Operation Enduring Freedom.”

Anyone who has read history knows that wars of aggression, no matter how justified they may seem at the time, are always doomed to failure. The American Revolution through the Napoleonic War, World Wars I and II, and the Vietnam war ended in disaster for the aggressors. More recently, the war in Iraq, however our government tries to spin it, was and still is a costly and murderous quagmire, and the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan promises to be even worse.

Our wars to drive the Iraqis out of Kuwait and the North Vietnamese out of South Vietnam are exceptions to that rule, but they are exceptions precisely because we were driving out invaders, not invading.

In Afghanistan and Pakistan, people fear the Taliban and most would like to see them defeated, but resent our ham-fisted attempts to drive them out which result in more civilian than Taliban deaths and will not defeat Al Queda, who can simply move to another safe haven, say Somalia.

The strategy for winning this war is shifting in ways that are difficult to comprehend from the press reports.

Secretary of War Bob Gates issues conflicting statements which, if they reflect the thinking of President Obama, reflect only his indecision regarding the best way to win it. Giving money to the Afghan or the Pakistan regimes is of questionable value, since the money will most likely be pilfered or siphoned off for other purposes. Committing our own troops is more effective but drives more men to join the Taliban.

Congressman McGovern sees the futility or our present policies and seeks to extricate our country from what is clearly a lose-lose situation. I’m with him, and I’m glad to see that 70 percent of our Massachusetts congressmen are with him too.

I urge everyone in Lexington who shares my conviction that this war is a bad idea to say so to his congressmen — that’s Congressman Ed Markey, one of the three Massachusetts congressmen who have not cosponsored HR 2404. His Washington office number is 202-225-2836.

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