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Sacramento City Council votes to bring troops home
By Karen Bernal
After nine months of effort, the reward was sweet for those that labored to see it come to fruition: the birth of another anti-war resolution, calling for the troops to come home. The fact that the vote was so favorable to its passage only made the midwives all the more joyful.
On Tuesday night, the Sacramento City Council, by an 8 to 1 vote, called for "a humane, orderly, rapid and comprehensive withdrawal of United States military personnel and bases from Iraq," citing the financial and human costs of the war on local resources. The Council also asked Congress and President Bush to deliver "promised veterans' health, education, disability, and rehabilitation benefits, and otherwise meet the needs of returning veterans."
The resolution, sponsored by council members Lauren Hammond and Ray Tretheway, puts Sacramento on a growing list of cities nationwide pressing for a quick withdrawal. Prominent cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco are highlights in a list more populated by medium and smaller sized cities, and is seen as an affirmation of a sentiment that has come to be expressed by a broad section of the American public.
In a packed chamber, Mayor Heather Fargo informed the attendees that 109 people filled out speaker cards supporting the resolution while only one person opposed the resolution. Over the past few weeks, Fargo said she had received 527 letters or phone calls for the resolution and only 19 in opposition. The eight council members did not indicate if they had received similar feedback from their constituents, but there was no differing assessment offered to the experience the Mayor relayed.
The resolution, which passed 8-1 with Councilmember Robbie Waters ( Dist.7) opposed, cited a number of reasons the United States should leave Iraq soon, including:
* The deaths of more than 2,000 U.S. troops.
* The billions of dollars spent on the war, including an estimated $300 million from Sacramento alone.
* The government's failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, one of the reasons cited for undertaking the war.
* The "grave harm to the people of Sacramento, especially its low-income residents and communities of color."
After an initial version was presented to the City Council earlier this year, a series of meetings with individual Council members took place, but a necessary momentum was never achieved -- the idea of the resolution remained in an ongoing limbo. For the Sacramento Coalition to End the War, an unending battle of wits seemed to be in the cards.
And then August happened. The combined events of the protests in Crawford with Cindy Sheehan and the catastrophe of Katrina -- of scenes filled with undeniable pain, anger and a sense of betrayal -- came crashing into the American conciousness. It helped that Sacramento has 2 major rivers with miles of levees that are in need of improvement -- it brought it all home. Soon after, Councilmember Lauren Hammond agreed to sponsor the item, so that it could be put on the agenda for the Nov 1st meeting. The combined work of the Coalition, along with Council members Hammond and Ray Tretheway, resulted in the "Hammond-Tretheway" Resolution. With an important adoption of some of the language contained in the Chicago resolution, the resolution was passed overwhelming.
A concern that was often repeated by the Councilmembers spoke to the underlying fear that many politicians express when speaking out about the war --- that support for the resolution could be interpreted as an indictment of the troops and their involvement in the war. And, as peace activists have become somewhat indifferent to lamentations that often sound like cover for political cravenness, it was all the more profound and humbling when Councilmember and co-sponsor Ray Tretheway made a obviously pain-filled personal request to everyone present. He beseeched all in attendance to "be there when the troops come home, to welcome them." Through tears, he told the room that to this day, as a Vietnam Vet , when he meets another, he says "welcome home - because no one else would say that for us." This final remark before the vote brought the body collectively to its knees before it leapt for joy at the count that followed.
Former Mayor Anne Rudin reminded the council that since "social and economic costs must be dealt with by city councils", the council must understand that "war and peace are social and economic costs". "Ultimately it is the cities that bear the costs of war."