Guest column by Rev. Jim Lewis: Setting the record straight on Iran deal

Last week, on August 20, Mr. Michael Pregent, the executive director of a newly formed organization, Veterans Against the Deal, flew into Yeager Airport in Charleston for a press conference.

I was there, along with a few members of West Virginia Patriots for Peace. We arrived there with questions about his organization, and why it opposes the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

I was stunned to read the Aug. 24 Daily Mail editorial, “What’s patriotic about disrupting speech?” in which it was said that members of Patriots for Peace “heckled” Mr. Pregent and local veterans gathered there. According to the editorial, Patriots for Peace had “bullied their way in front of the microphones.”

In actuality, Mr. Pregent graciously invited me to speak. When he solicited questions and comments, the press conference became “a polite debate.” That’s how Gazette-Mail reporter David Gutman accurately reported it. I had to wonder if the editorial writer had read the newspaper’s coverage of the press conference, or had even talked with the reporter who wrote the story. The author certainly did not talk with me about what took place at Yeager Airport.

But let’s get to the real story — the questions and concerns that hovered over the barnstorming show that took place in the baggage area at the Yeager Airport.

For starters, who foots the bill for this organization? Mr. Pregent’s organization would not disclose the source of their funding. What we do know is that Veterans Against the Deal is spending a lot of money targeting senators who are undecided about their upcoming vote on the Iran Nuclear Agreement. Senator Joe Manchin is one of the undecided targets.

Veterans Against the Deal is spending big bucks for TV advertisements all over the country. We see them constantly here in West Virginia.

Retired staff sergeant Robert Bartlett, featured in one of those ads, was scheduled to be at the airport news conference, but his flight was delayed.

Badly injured in Iraq, Bartlett makes a terrifying pitch against the Iran Nuclear Agreement, “Every politician who is involved in this will be held accountable; they will have blood on their hands. A vote for this deal means more money for Iranian terrorism.”

After that, the ad ends with a picture of Senator Manchin, and a request for viewers to call him and tell him to vote against the Iran Nuclear Agreement.

Get the message? It is full of fear. Anyone who votes in favor of the agreement is in bed with terrorists. Picture them with blood on their hands. Approve the agreement, so the pitch goes, and Iran will get nuclear weapons and destroy not only Israel but our nation as well.

With the same kind of frightening message, the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews has an ad with a child screaming while someone counts down to a picture of a nuclear bomb mushroom cloud.

I hope that senators, ours in particular, are listening to other veterans, like Massachusetts U.S. House Representative Seth Moulton. He served four tours of duty in Iraq as a Marine.

“The greatest honor of my life,” he says, “was to lead these men in my platoon, even though it was a war that I and they disagreed with.”

For having heroically saved a soldier, while under heavy fire, he was awarded a Bronze Star, and the Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal. He will be casting his vote in favor of the Iran Nuclear Agreement. I hope Senator Manchin will join him.

The chaos unleashed by our nation’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 now demands a shuffling of the deck in the Middle East. A new game must be played, and Iran must be at the table. The Iran Nuclear Agreement is the invitation for Iran to join the game.

On Sunday at 3 pm, Rabbi Victor Urecki from B’nai Jacob Synagogue and I will be offering both sides of this important issue. Our discussion will be held in the sanctuary of the First Presbyterian Church, located at the corner of Virginia Street and Leon Sullivan Way in downtown Charleston. Please come.

The Rev. Jim Lewis is a retired Episcopal priest and a founder of West Virginia Patriots for Peace.

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