Chicago says Bring the troops home

CHICAGO — “This war has been an immense waste and it burns me to know the losses taking place,” declared South Side Alderman Ed Smith in City Council chambers Sept. 14. “It’s senseless to allow it to continue. Let’s admit the mistake and bring the troops home!” And with that, fed up members of the Chicago City Council voted 29-9 to “immediately commence an orderly and rapid withdrawal of United States military personnel from Iraq.”

In taking this action Chicago became the largest city to officially call for bringing the troops home. On Sept. 12, the city council of Evanston, a suburb just north of Chicago, passed a similar resolution. The actions reflect the growing U.S. majority opposed to the occupation.

The Chicago City Council’s Human Relations Committee heard testimony prior to the vote from residents, veterans and parents of military personnel serving in Iraq. It received a letter from Cindy Sheehan, cofounder of Gold Star Families for Peace.

“War is wrong,” declared Alderman Dorothy Tillman. “We don’t have a right to force our views on another people. The president played the nation’s emotions from Sept. 11. But Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with Sept. 11.”

The resolution passed despite intense pressure from Mayor Richard M. Daley and some aldermen who opposed the resolution on the grounds it would demoralize the troops. But supporters responded it was the occupation policy that was demoralizing. Alderman Ray Suarez added, “I’m a vet too and I support the military. Because I don’t support this cowboy war, doesn’t mean I don’t support the troops.

“When we invaded we were given a lot of false info. Every day the death count goes up. When will it stop?” he asked.

Alderman Bernard Stone, a World War II veteran, admitted that he had supported the war initially. But the thing that changed his mind was “seeing those 25 caskets come back from one suburb of Cleveland, Ohio.”

“Why should this slaughter continue?” he asked. “We are not supporting our troops by having them killed. God damn it, why do they have to die for no reason at all?”

The resolution also condemned the vast resources wasted on the occupation. Chicago residents have now shelled out over $2.1 billion of the more than $200 billion spent on the war. Among other things, that money could have provided medical insurance for over 1 million children. Ironically, on Sept. 18 Mayor Daley called for higher taxes to close a $29 million budget deficit for 2006.

“I am tired of the death and that the cities of our country are not getting funding. We need senior housing, health care and more money for education,” said Alderman Gene Schulter. “The budgets are being depleted for the most vulnerable. This $200 billion has gone to fight an unjust war.”

“This was a significant victory for the people of Chicagoland and for the country,” Women for Democracy and Fair Elections (WDFE) spokesperson Ann Green Greco told the People’s Weekly World. “It is especially meaningful since the resolution was passed with so much suffering from the war, compounded by the Bush administration’s ineptitude in dealing with the victims of Hurricane Katrina.”

WDFE, Peace Pledge, Chicagoans Against War and Injustice and neighborhood peace groups were among the many organizations that collected over 6,500 signatures of city residents in support of the resolution.

jbachtell @ rednet.org