When Pendleton, South Carolina, Mayor Randy Hayes rose to address the question of whether the US Conference of Mayors should back an antiwar resolution urging the president and Congress to “speed up the ending” of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the assumption might have been that he would speak in opposition. Instead, the self-described mayor of a “military town” argued that the resolution was very restrained—in that it didn’t call for immediate withdrawal—and suggested that most mayors would recognize the merit of the argument for redirecting money for military adventures abroad to meeting needs at home.
Hayes was right. The mayors voted overwhelmingly Monday for the resolution, which urges President Obama and 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, and reduce the national debt.”
The resolution, which Code Pink and other antiwar groups campaigned for, was sponsored by a group of progressive mayors from traditionally liberal cities, including R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis; David Coss of Santa Fe; Dave Norris from Charlottesville, Virginia; and Carolyn Peterson of Ithaca, New York.
But it drew backing from mayors representing cities across the country, from Robert Sabonjian of Waukegan, Illinois, to Joy Cooper of Hallandale Beach, Florida, to John Dickert of Racine, Wisconsin.
“As mayors, we recognize the absurdly false choice being put to Americans —that we somehow have to pick between all the priorities we care deeply about but can’t touch massive spending on the military,” explained Minneapolis’s Rybak.
Mayor Joseph O’Brien of Worcester, Massachusetts, summed up sentiments at the conference when he complained that, “We are spending a billion a month after Osama bin Laden has been killed. And while I appreciate the effort to rebuild nations around the world, we have tremendous needs in communities like mine.”
O’Brien is right. Cities across the United States are taking hard hits in a time of recession and deep cuts in federal and state aid. It is time, as the mayoral resolution says, to bring US troops and US tax dollars home from the wars of whim that have cost the country so much for so long.
In fact, if there is a complaint to be lodged with regard to the action by the conference of mayors, it relates to an observation by Madison, Wisconsin, Mayor Paul Soglin.
A veteran antiwar activist who got his start in politics during the Vietnam conflict —the last war the US Conference of Mayors urged the president and Congress to end —Soglin noted that the resolution was “rather temperate.”
Soglin, who first served as mayor of Madison in 1973, when the Vietnam War was winding down, said of the current resolution: “This one does not call for an immediate withdrawal, but it calls for speeding up the effort for ending this war.”
Soglin was not alone in suggesting that the mayors could have gone even further in expressing their antiwar sentiments.
As it is, they have endorsed a resolution that concludes with a declaration that
“WHEREAS, the severity of the ongoing economic crisis has created budget shortfalls at all levels of government and requires us to re-examine our national spending priorities; and
“WHEREAS, the people of the United States are collectively paying approximately $126 billion dollars per year to wage war in Iraq and Afghanistan; and
“WHEREAS, 6,024 members of the US armed forces have died in these wars; and at least 120,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since the coalition attacks began.
“NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the United States Conference of Mayors supports efforts to speed up the ending of these wars; and
“BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the United States Conference of Mayors calls on the President and US Congress to end the wars as soon as strategically possible and 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 federal debt.”