Towns Are Urging Peace

Polls show that the American people are overwhelmingly dissatisfied with the war in Iraq and want our beloved troops to come home as soon as possible. Nearly 80 communities nationwide have put these sentiments in city and town council resolutions that call for bringing our sons and daughters home from a war that has become a deadly quagmire and an occupation as unpopular in Iraq as in the United States.

In September, the cities of Chicago and Philadelphia passed resolutions urging the cessation of combat operations in Iraq. They cited the lives lost and the monetary cost to their communities. In November, the city of Baltimore unanimously passed a resolution “urging President Bush and the United States Congress to commence a humane, orderly, immediate withdrawal of United States military personnel and bases from Iraq.” This resolution also cited the deaths of U.S. troops and Iraqi civilian men, women and children.

In December, the smaller town of Wilkinsburg passed a resolution supporting neighboring 12th District Pennsylvania Congressman John Murtha’s call for U.S. troops to come home from Iraq in six months. This resolution urged Rep. Mike Doyle (D-PA), to stand with Murtha, a fellow Democrat. With its passage, Wilkinsburg supported its citizens, soldiers, Murtha and the nation. Local legislators asserted their place in a global society by voting for peace.

These cities and towns are leaders in the growing trend of citizens recognizing the power of their local communities in participating in a global society.

The monetary cost to us as a nation is $252 billion thus far with $120 billion more in the works. According to the research institute National Priorities Project, our nation could instead have provided over 57 million Americans with health care, or 2 million affordable housing units. We could have equipped half a million U.S. homes with renewable energy. Fifty million students could have received university scholarships.

The costs of this war hit us where we live, who we are as families, communities and as a nation. As the saying goes: “All politics is local.” That has never been truer than today in a world virtually without borders and in a world where what happens “over there” has direct implications for what happens over here.

This hopeful trend of increasing civic participation at the local level showed up strongly in the months leading up to the invasion in Iraq. From December 2002 until the March 2003 invasion, 170 city councils, representing over 50 million Americans, passed city, town and county resolutions that decried the administration’s path of pursuing “pre-emptive,” unilateral war. These resolutions protested the imminent war’s launch, which came without the consent of the United Nations Security Council and without allowing the U.N. Weapons Inspectors to finish their job as they requested to be permitted to do.

With over 2,250 U.S. soldiers killed and estimates of at least 100,000 innocent Iraqi citizens dead, Americans are again using the civic outlet most accessible and most willing to listen—City Hall—to make their voices heard and call on the federal government to bring the troops home.

Citizens of our towns and cities have sons and daughters, mothers and fathers over there. They have sons and daughters, mothers and fathers buried in the ground over here. They have schools that need fixing, they have health clinics that need funding. They have a conscience and they have a voice.

This op-ed ran in the Lake Worth Herald (Lake Worth, FL) on March 2, 2006.Karen Dolan is a Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and Director of Cities for Peace.