It has come to my attention that Duluth city councilor Russ Stewart was going to introduce a resolution calling for the National Guard to be brought home from Iraq. The resolution closely follows the wording of a petition with several hundred signatures which will be presented to councillors. However, the resolution has so far failed to make it on the agenda for lack of support.
The disaster in Iraq is an international issue, but it is a local issue as well. The cost of the war breaks down to thousands of tax dollars per person--money that should be spent on our schools, health care, jobs and infrastructure. The new federal budget introduced by President Bush axes billions more that would otherwise go to communities, and funnels that into the Iraqi quagmire.
Our "citizen soldiers," who are so much a part of the fabric of our community, are serving two or three tours of duty in a war they didn't sign on for. With the latest troop escalation, there's no telling when they will be able to return to their homes and families. Those who come back alive are more often than not physically and/or mentally scarred. It's a stunning statistic that up to a third of homeless people are veterans, and up to 200,000 veterans are living in shelters or on the street on any given day. Divorce rates in the military have skyrocketed by 28% since the war began, 80% among officers. While the federal government gives us platitudes about Homeland Security, we are sacrificing the homes and the security of our loved ones and our community.
We all have a stake in ending the war. The latest polls show a clear majority of Americans and Iraqis favor U.S. troops immediately withdrawing from Iraq. The war has become the elephant in the room that politicians at all levels are reluctant to face. But a working democracy requires the bravery to deal with important, painful issues. City council, do the right thing: open the debate on how the war is affecting us all.