Co-written by Sam Graham-Felsen.
No matter how many polls show that the majorityof American citizens (and eventroops) want a speedy withdrawal from Iraq, the stay-the-course consensus continues to suffocate DC.
Yet, while politicians may be able to ignore polls, it's harder for them to ignore concerted, collective action in the form of official resolutions. On the eve of the third anniversary of the Iraq war, resolutions from America's largest cities, labor organizations, and religious groups are calling for our troops to come home.
The nationwide push for local resolutions is being led by Cities for Progress, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies, which also works towards passing local bills on extending health care benefits, establishing living wages and opposing the Patriot Act. Themovement has grown considerably since its inception last March, when dozens of towns and cities in Vermont first called for withdrawal.Currently, 76 municipalities including Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Baltimore, and Sacramento, have joined in.
And some of the smaller towns that have passed resolutions are making a big impact as well. In December, the town of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania passed a resolution in support of Rep. Jack Murtha's plan for US troops to come home from Iraq in six months. That month, Wikinsburg's Rep. Mike Doyle announced that he was co-sponsoring Murtha's bill.
"These resolutions are an expression of the will of the people that is simply not being heard on Capitol Hill," said Karen Dolan, director of Cities for Progress. "This is direct democracy, and it gives average Americans a microphone to say 'I am frustrated, I want my tax dollars spent in my own town, I want our children back home.' It's a unique and exciting new avenue for regular people to make their voices heard."
This Spring, in Wisconsin, 31 different communities will have a referendum on the ballot. "Polls are a passive conduit, but when citizens are out going door-to-door, expressing serious commitment, getting thousands ofsignatures, and getting resolutions passed, it sends a direct message to members of Congress," said George Martin of Coalition for a Just Peace, which is behind the Wisconsin resolution push. Martin says the antiwarmovement is flourishing on the local level because residents are increasingly disturbed by the way the Iraq effort is depleting much-needed local resources. "It's very clearly illustrated by the Katrina tragedy.Local guard and reserves are supposed to serve their own communities and they weren't available because of Iraq. Equipment that could have been used to dig dirt for the levees was in Iraq," said Martin.
Organized labor and religious groups have joined in on the resolutions movement as well. Last July, the AFL-CIO called for "the rapid return of UStroops" and a rapidlygrowing list of local, state, and national labor organizations have passed similar resolutions.
Last October, the United Methodist Church passed a resolution calling for withdrawal. "It is my hope andprayer that our statement against the war in Iraq will be heard loud and clear by our fellow United Methodists, President Bush and Vice President Cheney," said Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the UMC's Board of Churchand Society. "Conservative and liberal board members worked together to craft a strong statement calling for the troops to come home and for those responsible for leading us into this disastrous war to be held accountable."
A month later, the Union of Reform Judaism--which, with 1.5 million members, represents the largest Jewish movement in the US--voted to bring the troops home.
Meanwhile, scores of prominent individuals within the religious community have publicly voiced opposition to the continuing occupation.
"The role the faith community has to play in social change is critical; we were major players in the movements for civil rights and workers rights," says Peter Lems of the American Friends Service Committee. "It can't really happen without us, and leaders are starting to speak out and encourage political action. We may not prevail on the day of the third anniversary, but we'll be several steps closer."
As resolutions from towns, cities, labor, and religious organizations continue to pile up, it is becoming abundantly clear that those who want to retain their seats in '06 will have no choice but to listen.
Sam Graham-Felsen, a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker, contributes to The Nation's new blog, The Notion, and co-writes Sweet Victories with Katrina vanden Heuvel.