Amid criticism from Republicans, a Democratic congresswoman sought to clarify and defend her comparison of Osama bin Laden to Americans who fought for independence from Britain in the Revolutionary War.
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, told the Toledo Blade earlier this week, “One could say that Osama bin Laden and these non-nation-state fighters with religious purpose are very similar to those kind of atypical revolutionaries that helped to cast off the British crown.”
Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio
Kaptur spoke with the paper ahead of a workshop she led yesterday for Toledo-area Catholic leaders titled “Preaching and Teaching Peace in the Face of War.”
In the interview, she said “one thing that people of faith understand about the world of Islam is that the kind of insurgency we see occurring in many of these countries is an act of hope that life will be better using Islam as the only reed that they have to lean on.”
The 11-term congresswoman was considered briefly as a candidate for the House minority leader position eventually won by Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
Responding to criticism of her remarks, Kaptur said in a statement: “Terrorism in the name of revolution is not acceptable. Ever.”
“My comments were intended to point out that what faces us is a rising revolution being felt across repressive regimes of the Arab and Islamic world,” she said. “The American people understand the power of revolution. It is in that context that I referred to the American Revolution.”
In her interview with the Toledo paper, Kaptur said the U.S. military campaign to oust Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein will not resolve the underlying problems leading to political and social upheaval.
“Even if we take the ground, we do not share the culture,” she said. “And in the end we have to learn to coexist in a world with religious states that we may not agree with and find ways to cooperate.”
The absence of reaction from Democrats to Kaptur’s remarks provoked criticism from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas.
“This is not a gaffe and should not be treated as such,” he said. “It seems the Democrat leadership dons their earmuffs when it comes to insensitive and extreme rhetoric from their friends.”
The Blade reporter who wrote the story said the paper’s website was bombarded with a record 250,000 hits, temporarily shutting down the site, the Columbus Dispatch reported.
Robert T. Bennett, chairman of the Ohio Republican Party, said, according to the Dispatch, “Once again, Ms. Kaptur’s big mouth kicked in before her brain had a chance to catch up.”
“To suggest any similarity between the great leaders who fought for our nation’s independence and this insane madman is nothing less than repugnant and an absolute disgrace to the halls of Congress she walks every day,” Bennett said.
Rep. Deborah Pryce of Upper Arlington, Ohio, the fourth-ranking House Republican, said, “Osama bin Laden is the face of pure evil. To compare his terrorist network to our Founding Fathers, and to suggest that the heinous acts he committed were patriotic dishonors the 9/11 victims and their families.”
The Columbus paper noted that Kaptur did not directly compare bin Laden to Founding Fathers such as George Washington, but specifically cited Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys. McAndrew Burns, executive director of the Ethan Allen Homestead in Vermont, said it is “a pretty good leap” to compare Allen with bin Laden.
Jack Spencer, a policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation, sees Kaptur’s remarks as a window into a “backwards, misinformed sense of reality” shared by some political and social leaders.
“Clearly she is misguided,” in her comparison, he said, “when there are so many wonderful analogies to bin Laden you can make, like Hitler or Stalin.”
War about Bush’s ‘interests’
An outspoken opponent of the administration’s Iraq policy, Kaptur has accused President George W. Bush of preparing to launch a war to promote personal and family financial interests.
In a speech on the House floor on Oct. 9, she asked Congress members to consider the history of the president’s family.
“Over the last quarter century, it is interesting to reflect upon the intimate connection between the George Bush family, oil, and the shaping of foreign policy towards the Middle East,” she told Congress, referring to the president’s father.
“During the 1950s and 1960s, George Herbert Walker Bush, an oilman from Midland, Texas sought international exploration and investments as Texas oil wells were depleted prior to seeking office,” she said before recounting the former president’s service as a congressman, senator, ambassador, CIA chief, vice president and finally chief executive.
“With each succeeding decade,” she said, “wars involving terrorism and America escalated. Now George Bush’s son is serving as president and a second war resolution is being contemplated. It is fair to say that the Bush view of the Middle East literally has dominated U.S. policy for 75 percent of the past two decades.”
Kaptur, citing 9-11 as “but the latest chapter in the expanding violence,” said “it is also important to inquire as to what private oil interests in the Middle East are held, or were held, by key officials in the current Bush Administration and how that might influence their views of U.S. ‘vital interests.'”
On Wednesday, Kaptur participated with other leading war critics – including Rep. Dennis Kucinich, D-Ohio, and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Wash. – in an International Day of Poetry Against the War.
Kaptur read into the Congressional Record one of the 13,000 poems submitted and said she would present the rest to the Library of Congress on a CD-ROM.