Cities for Peace, a grass-roots movement backed by nearly 90 city councils and county governments, gathered in Washington yesterday to oppose a U.S.-led attack on Iraq.
“The main message is that we can win without war,” said Martha Honey, director of foreign policy at the Institute for Policy Studies, the main group behind the grass-roots anti-war movement.
Instead of war, the peace group advocates that the United Nations continue its weapons inspections in Iraq. Cities for Peace estimates that the total cost of a war against Iraq will be more than $100 billion.
Almost 90 city councils and county governments in 28 states around the country have passed resolutions against the looming war on Iraq, including Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia and the District. Copies of their resolutions were delivered yesterday to the White House.
A spokesman for the peace group said that every day brings new city councils that are joining the anti-war movement.
“We learn of more every single day,” said Karen Dolan, coordinator of the grass-roots movement at the Institute for Policy Studies. Since the beginning of this month, 40 city councils have passed anti-war resolutions, and more than 100 additional cities have begun the process, including New York. In the past week, two state legislatures, in Maine and Hawaii, passed anti-war resolutions.
The Cities for Peace delegation, composed of council members and officials from 25 cities, began their day on Capitol Hill with a news briefing before delivering the resolutions to the White House and meeting with members of Congress.
“Those here today represent the collective conscience of our country. I am concerned over the complete disconnect between the decisions made in Washington and how people feel as elected officials of small communities,” said John Steel, a council member from Telluride, Colo.
Mr. Steel said that an attack on Iraq would be immoral and not in America’s national interest.
“We believe that it is morally wrong and dangerous,” he said.
Other council members who spoke at the briefing warned that the country’s sagging economy, not Iraq, poses the most imminent national threat. A war would drain funds from valuable social programs, including health care and housing assistance, said Joe Moore, an alderman in Chicago. In subsequent speeches, other city representatives added that a military attack would exacerbate the national debt, failing schools, inadequate transit systems and other domestic problems.
But some organizations dispute the claim that Saddam does not pose a grave threat to national security.
Kathy Wood, co-leader of the D.C. Chapter of Free Republic, a conservative Internet grass-roots group, said that these city councils are passing resolutions without seeing the full scope of the current security threat.
“Do they think these protests are going to keep a bomb from dropping on them?” Miss Wood asked. “In the long run, what they are doing is undermining the ability of the president to act in the best interest of the American public and our national defense.”
Maryann Mahaffey, a council member from Detroit, said the opposition to the looming war unifies people from both parties who on other issues hold divergent ideological views. Don Cooney, a council member from Kalamazoo, Mich., said that the resolution passed unanimously in his district, which is represented by a Republican congressman. However, all of the council members present yesterday at the briefing were either registered Democrats or independents.
Members of Cities for Peace will join a larger contingent of peace activists for an anti-war rally in New York tomorrow.