• NYT says congressional staff in ‘open break’ from rule that ‘aides should never contradict the boss’
WASHINGTON: More than 400 Biden administration employees have sent an open letter to the US President, demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza while more than 10,000 carnation stems were laid on the steps of the Capitol Hill, each representing a civilian life lost since Oct 7.
The open letter by the Biden administration employees reflects a significant call for the ceasefire, breaking from the usual practice of aides staying in the background. The appeal outlined specific actions they want President Biden to take for de-escalation and humanitarian relief in the region.
“We call on President Biden to urgently demand a ceasefire; and to call for de-escalation of the current conflict by securing the immediate release of Israeli hostages and arbitrarily detained Palestinians,” the federal employees wrote in their letter.
They also demanded the restoration of water, fuel, electricity and other basic services to Gaza and the passage of adequate humanitarian aid to the besieged Palestinian enclave.
The letter, signed and released to the media on Tuesday, said the signatories represent a coalition of Biden-Harris administration political appointees and civil servants, positioned across the domestic and foreign policy spheres, working in federal agencies, departments, independent agencies, and the White House.
“Every day, you’re going in to work for this administration, then you’re going to look at your phone, you’re going to see the suffering that you kind of feel like you’re causing,” one of the employees told NBC News television channel. “A lot of people are no longer comfortable being silent, no longer comfortable being complacent in a way.”
Carnations at Capitol
The carnations, sent to Congress by congressional aides, arrived by the wheelbarrow. Blood-red, pink, orange, and yellow, stems were laid on the steps at the base of the Capitol building. Each was meant to represent a civilian life lost in the conflict.
The display of carnations was a poignant symbol, emphasising the human cost of the Gaza crisis. The New York Times (NYT) called it “a remarkably open break from the cardinal Capitol Hill rule that holds that aides should stay in the background and never publicly contradict the boss”.
The congressional staff, as well as the federal employees, breached major service rules by openly disagreeing with their bosses on this issue. They could face legal action.
The carnations were brought over by more than 100 congressional staff members, all wearing masks to hide their identities.
Last week, they also staged a walkout to honour the civilians killed in Gaza and called for a ceasefire.
The vast majority of lawmakers in both Republican and Democratic parties have rejected calls for a ceasefire, saying Israel has a right to go after Hamas.
“But many Democratic congressional staff members, most of them under the age of 35, have found themselves in stark disagreement with their bosses and the Biden administration on an issue that cuts to the heart of their values,” the NYT commented.
Published in Dawn, November 15th, 2023