Acting Locally

Acting Locally


It’s a frustrating time for those Americans who are fighting to end this war. There is gridlock in Washington. This White House continues to hang on to the argument that the US must stay in Iraq — possibly for decades. And the new Democratic-controlled Congress–working with razor-thin majorities–couldn’t stop a supplemental that gave Bush 100 billion dollars more for the war.

This in spite of the fact that the country, the troops, the Iraqi people and Iraqi lawmakers oppose the open-ended continuation of this war.

But citizens across the country have continued to demonstrate their opposition to this disastrous war through local channels. In California, as Nation contributing editor Marc Cooper, recently noted, a resolution to place a referendum on troop withdrawal on the February 5 primary ballot was passed by a wide margin by the state senate.

“That war is costing California dearly,” said Senate President Pro Tem Tom Perata. “We have contributed the lives and blood of more than 340 Californians. Not a week goes by on this (Senate) floor when a member, Republican or Democrat, stands up to memorialize a fallen soldier, sometimes as young as 18 years old.” And California is not alone. Every state is reeling from the lost lives and the wasted funds of this costly and bloody war. The National Priorities Project performs an important service–rigorously documenting how local communities are bearing the burden of this misadventure. For example, with the amount of money that the citizens of Alabama have spent on the war, they could have provided health insurance to 4,377,655 children.

Similar actions are being taken all over the US, where states, towns and cities are pushing and passing resolutions that call for an end to the War in Iraq. California is one of five States that have “peace resolutions.” The others are Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts and Vermont. There is also a tremendous level of activity at the municipal level. According to Karen Dolan, executive director of Cities for Progress “256 city and towns who have either passed some kind of bring the troop home resolutions, or have been covered by state wide ballot initiatives that pass encompassing all of these cities and towns.”

“From our experience it is a direct form of democracy where people feel their voice matters,” said Dolan. “It also localizes effects of the war and erases the myth that it is simply a foreign policy issue”

The importance of these public steps cannot be understated. Politicians are usually reluctant to act unless it becomes a political liability for them not to do so. And the best way for citizens to fight to end this war is to make their opposition to the US occupation of Iraq known to their representatives. Recall that a year ago, only six Senators voted for a bill that included a mandatory date for troop withdrawal. Now, thanks to Americans making their voice heard, virtually all Democrats supported recent legislation with timetable for withdrawal.

The louder the opposition to the war and occupation is the more likely elected officials will work to end it, lest they find themselves out of a job come re-election time. And that’s why these cities and states, in proclaiming their desire for peace, may indeed make a real difference nationally.

This post was co-written by Michael Corcoran, a former Nation intern and freelance journalist residing in Boston. His work has appeared in The Nation, the Boston Globe and Campus Progress. he can be reached at Please send us your own ideas for “sweet victories” by emailing to [email protected]

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
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