By Manuel E. Yepe
Mayors from across the United States met in Baltimore this month to set public policy for the billions of people living in big cities whose safety and well-being depend on municipal services. While Congress in Washington considered allocating another $118 billion to conduct wars next year, mayors dealt with these issues, much closer to their constituents.
Following a lively debate about how strong their language supporting troops and their families should be, so that President Obama would take most of the credit for what they demand, mayors voted in their June 20 plenary session to call on the federal government to either stop funding wars or make significant cuts in the money allocated to that end, and bring it home instead.
“The United States Conference of Mayors calls on the U.S. Congress to bring these war dollars home to meet vital human heeds, promote job creation, rebuild our infrastructure, aid municipal and state governments, and develop a new economy based upon renewable, sustainable energy,” the resolution reads, citing the $126 billion a year cost of U.S. wars and the deaths of more than 6,000 troops.
No one can say for sure that the mayors’ demand carried any weight in the Executive Branch’s decision to withdraw a significant number of combat troops from Afghanistan, a step obviously taken for electoral purposes.
The first of such resolutions dates back to 1932, when mayors from the most important cities came together in Detroit to consider what could be done to pull their troubled cities out of the depths of the Great Depression. Franklyn D. Roosevelt’s New Deal incorporated many of their ideas, and mayors have met annually ever since.
It was only two years ago that a coalition of citizens alarmed at the endless wars and catastrophic budget shortfalls coined the slogan “Bring Our War Dollars Home” at a Conference of Mayors held in Winthrop, Maine.
That state’s campaign took off on Martin Luther King Jr. Day (celebrated on the third Monday of January) in 2010 and soon went national under the sponsorship of the women-led peace group CODEPINK.
While locations throughout Maine readily adopted `war dollars home’ resolutions, Congress continued to pass war funding supplemental bills, but without the support of Maine’s two representatives in the House. Rep. Mike Michaud (D) and Rep. Chellie Pingree (D) defied Democrat party leadership to repeatedly vote no on the measures, on grounds that they harm Maine’s economy and slash local budgets for education, health care, housing and job training.
Upon introducing the resolution, Eugene, Oregon mayor Kitty Piercy stated: “Mayors call on our country to begin the journey of turning war dollars back into peace dollars, of bringing our loved ones home and of focusing our national resources on building security and prosperity here at home.”
As for who will enforce the non-binding resolution, that is up to the people, according to the mayors, who thus put the end of U.S. military presence in Vietnam –as they demanded in 1971– down to grassroots pressure to stop funding for wars rather than a military defeat. Both the immense profits by weapons manufacturers and the jobs that depend upon war funding are compelling reasons for wars with vague goals and shifting targets to continue indefinitely.
President Obama said while campaigning that he was not against all wars, just stupid wars. Bankrupting the country to maintain 800+ military bases abroad, and drop bombs costing $1 million apiece –the equivalent of 25 teachers’ annual salaries– could be the definition of stupid in the 21st century.
“If the President has forgotten that Afghanistan is called `the graveyard of empires,’ the people have not. Their mayors now join the chorus calling on the federal government to end endless wars, and bring the war dollars home,” said Lisa Savage, CODEPINK’s coordinator for Maine and an active organizer with the “Bring our War Dollars Home” campaign in an article I helped myself to that was disseminated by the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space.
Clearly, their arguments against war are not exactly philanthropic, but selfish as they may be, in the present circumstances they contribute to the cause of peace.
A CubaNews translation.
Edited by Walter Lippmann.