February 24, 2011
Dear Senator Berry,
I was sitting in the North Dakota Senate balcony Tuesday when you spoke about SCR 4015, North Dakota's Peace Resolution. As you might imagine, I was disturbed by your report to the Senate on the testimony you heard in the Senate GVA Committee.
Tuesday afternoon, I heard you tell your fellow Senators that "much of the testimony" on SCR 4015 involved people "apologizing for being American and pointing out the fact that the United States appears to be a great Devil."
I was frankly shocked by your report, as I was in attendance at the entire hearing. As you may remember, I was one of 15 North Dakotans who testified in support of the Resolution, and one of more than 40 North Dakotans who attended the hearing in support. Some of those who spoke were long-time friends of mine, and some were total strangers. While I did not personally agree with every statement made by every North Dakotan who testified, I did not hear the sort of testimony you describe.
I would like to pose three questions to you:
1) Here is a list of the fifteen North Dakotans who testified in support of SCR 4015. Would you please identify which of these individuals referred to their country as a "great Devil" and, as such, "apologized" for being citizens of such a country? Please keep in mind your assertion that "much of" the testimony on SCR 4015 reflected these statements.
* Sister Kathleen Atkinson, OSB, Annunciation Monastery, Bismarck
* Sister Maris Stella Korb, Sisters of the Presentation, Fargo
* Joseph Richardson, entrepreneur, Fargo
* Verle Reineke, retiree, Bismarck
* Jeff Skjelver, retired Marine, two-time veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Rugby
* Tammy Hathaway, mother of U.S. Airforce recruit, Bismarck
* Senator Tim Mathern, co-sponsor of SCR 4015, Fargo
* Tom Disselhorst, attorney at UTTC, Bismarck
* Herb Wilson, WWII veteran, retired physician, Bismarck
* Christopher Dodson, lobbyist, North Dakota Catholic Conference
* Dawn Archer, associate pastor, United Church of Christ, Bismarck
* Hannah Balaban, mother, Bismarck
* Eric Thompson, retired counselor
* John Jacobsen, lobbyist, North Dakota Veterans Coordinating Council
* Karen Van Fossan, spokesperson, North Dakota Peace Coalition, Bismarck
2) If you were concerned about the character of the testimony you heard during the hearing, what was your reason for withholding this concern at the time, and instead, reporting it on the floor of the Senate? I am certain that the faith leaders, veterans, parents, and other North Dakotans who testified would have welcomed the opportunity to clarify their intentions. Unfortunately, when you spoke to the Senate, we had no opportunity to do so.
3) If your primary concern was that some of those testifying challenged -- or even criticized -- U.S. policy in Iraq and Afghanistan, I wonder if you could explain to me the correlation between criticizing the policies of one's country and declaring that country to be a "great Devil." In other words, would someone who criticizes U.S. policy on healthcare, taxation, or oversight be equally guilty of such a declaration?
I look forward to your response. If for some reason, I misheard your statements or intentions on the floor of the Senate, I would welcome a clarification. In addition, if there are any words of apology that you would like me to convey to the veterans, faith leaders, and others who testified in support of SCR 4015, I would be glad to do so.
Karen Van Fossan