SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The Sacramento City Council, in spite of vitriolic testimony by Iraq war supporters and hundreds of threatening e-mails from mostly out-of-town residents, on Nov. 22 refused to back down on a resolution calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
Approximately 100 supporters and 50 opponents of the resolution attended the meeting, but only 15 minutes was allotted to each side during the public comments period.
The resolution, passed by an 8-1 vote on Nov. 1, called for “a humane, orderly, rapid and comprehensive withdrawal of United States military personnel and bases from Iraq.” The Council also asked Congress and Bush to deliver “promised veterans’ health, education, disability, and rehabilitation benefits, and otherwise meet the needs of returning veterans.” Councilman Robbie Waters cast the lone vote against the resolution.
“I’m extremely disappointed by the council’s action,” said Deborah Johns, co-founder of Marine Moms and a leader of the Move America Forward counter-protests against Cindy Sheehan last August. “This message has been heard by the military men and women who feel the town doesn’t support them.”
The most bizarre part of her testimony was when she singled out Steve Cohn, known as one of the more conservative members of the council, for criticism. Johns said that she was “extremely alarmed that he (Cohn) would align himself with radicals like Code Pink and MoveOn.org.”
“Why are you not standing up against the terrorists?” Johns quizzed the council. “If we pull out of Iraq now, it will become a breeding ground for terrorists.”
Several other people with Johns’ group spoke about their support for Bush’s war and their dismay with the Council’s action.. After their presentations, the pro-war group left the room in a loud and disorderly manner from the room, shouting, “Rescind the resolution!” Repeated outbursts by one man, who stayed after the others left, prompted Mayor Heather Fargo to tell him, “You’re out of order!”
George McAdow of the Sacramento Community Forum and other speakers expressed gratitude to the City Council for its antiwar position and urged them to stand up to the onslaught of hate mail from the right-wingers.
“You made us very proud,” said McAdow. “There is nothing wrong with being peacemakers and saving lives. The airwaves have been contaminated with hate speech and I offer you an apology for the racist and anti-Semitic language that has been directed at you by right-wing talk show hosts and their supporters.”
“You deserve accolades, not threatening messages,” said Ruth Holbrook, past president of the Sacramento Labor Council. “You and those who work for an end to the war are the true patriots in our country. I’m proud of you.”
Genevieve Shiroma, a board member of the Sacramento Municipal Utility District and and a city resident who has family members in the military, said, “We honor each soldier by getting them out of harm’s way. It is time for our leaders to bring back the federal dollars that we are spending on the war — and to bring back our most precious resource, our men and women.”
Hugo Vera of the Mexican American Political Association, Harry Wang from Physicians for Social Responsibility, Ellen Schwartz of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, George Main from Veterans for Peace, and and CSUS Professors Eric Vega and Arline Prigoff also spoke in support of the antiwar resolution.
After hearing the testimony, Robbie Waters made a request to place rescinding the resolution as an item on the next meeting’s agenda, but none of the other Council members would second his motion.
“I oppose the resolution because it demoralizes the military in Iraq and their families and sends a message to the terrorists that we will not win,” Waters said. “Matters like this should be left to the president and Congress. I still believe that I did the right thing in opposing the resolution.”
However, Councilmember Lauren Hammond strongly opposed revisiting the resolution. Hammond said she received over 1,300 e-mails from supporters and opponents of the resolution, and that some of them — from right-wing war supporters — included death threats.
“What I find disappointing is that in America today we can’t have a civil discussion about one of the most important issues,” said Hammond, who co-sponsored the resolution with Ray Tretheway. “One’s position on the war doesn’t mean you don’t love your county and are a traitor. I don’t believe any further vote should be held on this issue.”
Councilmember Bonnie Pannell, who also opposed Waters’ request, said, “I didn’t realize we had the likes of these people out there with their hateful, nasty e-mails. I don’t understand how people can write the things they did.”
The pro-war campaign by Move America Forward and right-wing radio talk show hosts and their antics at the meeting did nothing to convince the Council to change its position, but only solidified its position in support of the antiwar resolution.