David Swanson is a longtime peace and justice activist and author of 'War Is a Lie'
The U.S. Conference of Mayors has just done something it hasn't done since Vietnam, passing a resolution that supports efforts to speed up the ending of our current wars and calls on the President and Congress to "bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs."
Here's a page that organized this: http://www.wardollarshome.org
Activist groups are already taking the opportunity to ask Congress and the President to finally listen to what has, after all, been majority public opinion for a long time.
The President is about to announce whether he will violate his commitment to a significant withdrawal from Afghanistan in July. The House of Representatives is passing amendments blocking funding for the Libya War, and 10 congress members have sued the president in court to end it. Iraq, we are told, may soon "request" a continued occupation into next year. A CIA war in Yemen is ramping up, along with that in Pakistan. Congress will soon vote on $530 billion for the Department of "Defense" and another $119 billion for the wars. Meanwhile, Robert Gates just told the New York Times these are wars of choice. The American people and the U.S. Conference of Mayors seem to want a different choice made.
Here's the resolution's key language. There are two "resolved clauses." The first reads:
"NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors supports efforts to speed up the ending of these wars; and"
The second was edited and debated on the floor of the conference to read (I think):
"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the U.S. President and Congress as soon as strategically possible to bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy, and reduce the national debt."
Prior to editing, it had read:
"BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors calls on the U.S. Congress to bring these war dollars home to meet vital human needs, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy."
This resolution could have passed in a batch of resolutions without debate, but Mayor Pete Lewis of Auburn, WA, asked that it be pulled, resulting in a debate and vote individually on this resolution.
Lewis expressed horror that such a resolution might have been passed during Vietnam or other previous wars - What would have happened?! he asked. But the US Conference of Mayors did pass a resolution in 1971 urging that the US military get out of Vietnam, a stronger resolution in fact than the new one.
Here's how the debate went down on Monday.
11:16 a.m. Pete Lewis speaks first. "I live in a military state." [As opposed to WHAT?] "Making political statements in this forum about the war I do not believe is proper." He equates this with bashing Vietnam veterans, even as he is also claiming to recognize the need for the redirection of the funding.
11:18 Mayor Soglin of Madison, WI, points out the resolution that was passed during Vietnam. He calls this new resolution "rather temperate" as it "does not call for an immediate withdrawal."
11:21 Mayor John Dickert of Racine, WI, mentions meeting with Mayor of Kabul (the actual mayor of Kabul, not Karzai) and mentions the horrible state of U.S. infrastructure and its low rating. He wants troops cared for at home and wants the resolution passed.
11:23 Mayor Mick Cornett of Oklahoma City says the whole topic [of where over half our federal $$ go] should be ignored and avoided by the Mayors, says the resolution is divisive and not appropriately bipartisan, says Congress should not be "singled out."
11:26 Mayor Randy Hayes of Pendleton, SC, is from a military city [as opposed to WHAT?]. But he thinks the resolution is very restrained and really beyond debate and should be passed. He thinks mayors all actually agree on the substance of the resolution.
11:28 Mayor Craig Lowe of Gainesville, FL, says this is a resolution that supports troops by trying to bring them home, this is the only resolution anyone has urged him to vote for, and Vietnam veterans have urged him to vote for it. Vote our consciences, he says.
11:31 Mayor Robert G. Sabonjian of Waukegan, IL, says the US military is the biggest organization in the world and out of control, and could control costs if it chose. He sees nothing denigrating to troops or aiding of the enemy in this admirable resolution. The military is full of waste which needs to be called out and be attacked. This money could help fund the educations and healthcare of the families of the troops sent over there.
11:33 Mayor Joy Cooper of Hallandale Beach, FL, says all city budgets have been cut. This resolution is not against troops but in favor of proper spending of money. We need infrastructure, schools, roadways. She supports the resolution and urges others to.
11:34 Mayor Scott Smith of Mesa, AZ, says the headlines in the news will be "Mayors Try to End Wars" even if the resolution is actually about the redirection of spending.
So far so good. Now the changes start:
11:37 Mayor Raul Salinas of Laredo, TX, wants a "Support Our Troops Unconditionally" amendment.
11:38 Mayor Villaraigosa of Los Angeles, CA, reads the text of an amendment that was offered in committee that apparently failed in committee. What he read "supported" troops and also urged that withdrawal be done in a manner not to "destabilize".
Two whereas clauses are added by the amendment. Roughly, they are:
Whereas every member of USCM and the Americans they rep support our brave men and women in uniform and their families. [EVERY AMERICAN WHO LIVES IN A CITY??? ME???]
Whereas the drawdown of troops should be done in a measured way that does not destabilize the region and can accelerate the transfer of regional authority to local authorities.
11:41 Another mayor claims, and Villaraigosa admits he was just informed, the amendment was not offered in committee.
11:41 Mayor Brown of Knoxville, TN, says he is a Vietnam vet and supports the amendment.
11:42 The vicechair of the committee urges passage.
11:42 Another mayor veteran backs the amendment, and with it the resolution.
11:43 Another mayor says support the troops, oppose the wars, get the money home.
11:44 Another mayor wants to add in the president, add "As soon as strategically possible", and add "to reduce the national debt." Amounting to another amendment or three.
11:45 Mayor Michael Nutter of Philadelphia, PA, says nothing for a while. He wouldn't want the president telling him how to deploy police. He thinks we can fund both worldwide endless wars and our cities.
11:50 The amendment adding the two whereas clauses passes.
11:50 A new amendment is proposed and passed to change the second Resolved clause as above.
11:52 The whole resolution passes.
Now, will Congress or the President listen?
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