The War Comes Home to City Council

Originally appeared in Fort Collins Weekly

May 2007
Eric Fried

Clearly, the War in Iraq is an issue our City Council would rather avoid. But if the fledgling Fort Collins Iraq Withdrawal Coalition (www.fciw.org) has its way, it’s an issue the council will have to confront, sooner or later.

On, Tuesday, May 15, council chambers were packed with supporters of the proposed Fort Collins Iraq Withdrawal Resolution. During public comment, between 20 and 30 people spoke eloquently, thoughtfully, passionately in favor of the resolution, with one speaker opposed. Other speakers bemoaned the continuing cuts to Dial-a-Ride services to the point where seriously disabled local residents can’t get around town. Money being poured down a rathole in Iraq… while cuts are made to paratransit and other critical services… does anyone see a connection?

I was one of the speakers urging the council to take action. Here’s why.

Most Americans now get that the occupation of Iraq is both a foreign policy disaster for the US and a humanitarian catastrophe for Iraq. We were stampeded into supporting this war by a fog of patriotic lies and manipulated fears. Not only were all the justifications for the war false, but the men who sold us the war knew they were false. Iraq had no nuclear or other scary weapons (as the UN weapons inspectors were reporting before we hustled them out), no connection to al-Qaeda, and posed no threat to us. We know Vice President Darth Cheney (among others) has been calling for occupying Iraq’s oil fields since the 1990’s, and that his secret Energy Task Force drew up maps for dividing up Iraqi oil BEFORE September 11. In short, the Iraq War was not a noble crusade tragically flawed by faulty intelligence, but a premeditated, unprovoked and criminal act of aggression.

But why should our council care, given pressing issues of pothole repair, drainage easements and mall blight clamoring for attention? I mean, our council always studiously avoids national and international issues, doesn’t it?

Our council does focus on local issues within its control, and generally (and appropriately) avoids wider issues. But as the representative bodies closest to the people themselves, city councils from the beginning of our republic have weighed in on transcendent issues. In recent years, our own council has debated such topics as a nuclear weapons freeze, the persecution of the Bahai minority in Iran, nuclear test ban treaties, global warming, MX missile deployment and apartheid in South Africa.

Only four years ago, council conservatives tried to sneak through a resolution in support of this very war during debate over opposing the Patriot Act. They were stymied partly by the courage of councilman David Roy – the only member from 2003 still on council – who questioned the spurious link between Iraq and terrorism and predicted the war could undermine, rather than enhance, our national security. He was completely correct, but was pilloried in the press for, naturally, “not supporting the troops.”

When we finished, Mayor Hutchinson and four of the six council reps responded. Council newbies Wade Troxell and Lisa Poppaw kept quiet. Councilman Roy supported the resolution. Mayor Hutchinson disagreed, calling it “a diversion.” Ben Manvel said he personally opposed the war, but felt a withdrawal resolution was not “appropriate.” Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Ohlson admitted this was harder for him than he expected, that he was not ready to bring a resolution forward “tonight, anyway,” but promised to keep listening. Councilman Brown made it clear it will be a cold day in Hell before he supports any such resolution.

In times of great moral crisis, silence is not neutrality, it is acquiescence to evil. Our council must join the swelling chorus of cities across America demanding an end to this bloody mess. If you agree, call your council rep. Even if you disagree, call your council rep. Make your voice heard. We are allegedly fighting for democracy in Iraq. Why not try a little here at home?

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