One man's obsession with Iraq
Seattle Times chief political reporter
WASHINGTON — Dal LaMagna has packed up his second home in New York and moved to a house a short walk from the Capitol to begin a one-man, self-financed lobbying campaign to get the U.S. out of Iraq.
I ran into LaMagna on Thursday at a small reception for Sen. Maria Cantwell, the Democratic senator he helped re-elect in November. But the wealthy businessman — he sold Tweezerman.com, a personal grooming company he founded — was distracted from celebrating by a growing obsession with the Iraq war.
"The reason I'm not as obsessed with Darfur or Bosnia or the many places in Africa as I am about Iraq is because Iraq is our fault, and we should fix it," he said.
LaMagna, who lives in Kitsap County, is working full time to lobby members of Congress to call for a quick withdrawal of U.S. troops.
He started with Seattle Congressman Jim McDermott. The day after the November election the two flew alone to Amman, Jordan, to meet with members of the Iraqi parliament and others in the region.
McDermott said he asked U.S. officials in Jordan to give visas to two Iraqis he wants to bring to D.C. But he said he has been unable to make that happen.
LaMagna says getting Iraqis to Washington is key.
"They need to say to the American people: 'We want the troops out now,' " he said. "They need to say, 'Don't worry, we can resolve our problems ourselves.' "
After their November trip, McDermott and LaMagna developed a plan they say reflects what Iraqis want. It would undo major pieces of the Bush strategy.
They want U.S. troops out of the cities and sent to close the borders with Iran and Syria. They want the Iraqi constitution rewritten and the former Baath party government, which the U.S. dismantled, brought back to run things.
To protect the country, they say, the old Iraqi army must be reconstituted and rearmed.
McDermott says there are a handful of other lawmakers interested in the plan. LaMagna says his job is to build those numbers.
LaMagna was Cantwell's campaign co-chairman. But he's more loyal to his work on Iraq than he is to the Democratic Party. He said he works closely with anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan and has helped coordinate anti-war activity.
LaMagna has little patience for Democrats who he says won power largely because of the administration's Iraq strategy but have yet to offer a concrete plan to end the war.
"It's been a month and a half and we haven't seen anything come out of the Democrats," he said. "Why aren't the Democrats out there with a plan?"
They only took power Thursday. But LaMagna clearly has lost patience with his party.
David Postman is The Seattle Times' chief political reporter. His column appears Fridays. Reach him at 360-236-8267 or at firstname.lastname@example.org
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