Thursday the Greater Lansing Network Against War in Iraq presented
a resolution to Lansing City Council members, asking them to take
a stance against the war. If adopted, copies of the resolution
would be sent to Washington, calling upon President Bush to place
greater emphasis on nonviolent diplomatic efforts to resolve the
conflict, to call back forces and to repeal the USA Patriot and
the Homeland Security acts, which have been said to threaten rights
and liberties guaranteed by the Constitution. Fourth Ward City
Council member Harold Leeman commented: Im supportive,
but youve got to have five votes. The antiwar network
plans to campaign for its resolution at City Councils meeting
on Feb. 10.
Theres also another resolution sitting on the desks of City
Council members: Lansing resident Ray Ziarno, the Green Partys
2002 candidate for Michigan secretary of state, recently submitted
an antiwar resolution in concert with the Green House Peace Project.
Ziarno presented the resolution to Lansings City Council
on Jan. 23, reading excerpts from it and asking City Council members
to adopt it. The Councils Committee of the Whole will consider
Lansing is one of 16 communities in Michigan in which efforts
are underway to get local governments to adopt antiwar resolutions.
Moreover, of the 58 local governments nationally that have approved
antiwar resolutions, five are in Michigan. Taken together, Michigan
leads all states in the national effort to express antiwar sentiment
through governmental resolutions.
The Michigan cities already on record as against the war are Ann
Arbor, Detroit, Ferndale, Kalamazoo and Traverse City. Besides
Lansing, campaigns are underway in Alma, Berkley, Charlevoix,
Clawson, Grand Rapids, Hamtramck, Lake Orion, Livonia, Marquette,
Petoskey, Plymouth, Resort Township, Royal Oak, Southfield and
Michigans record of having 21 resolutions and proposals
outpaces even the countrys most populated state, California,
where 19 resolutions have been passed or are under consideration.
To make a stark contrast, there are just five cities in Texas,
the state ranking second in population size. Could Michigan, the
home of Kelloggs Cornflakes and great automakers, be a hot
bed for peacemakers, too?
Karen Dolan of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington,
which organizes the Cities for Peace project, confirmed that Michigan
is definitely the home of a burgeoning peace movement. Some
of the resolutions like the ones in Ann Arbor and Detroit passed
early on, and this must have just caught the attention of other
Michigan folks. Its the kind of campaign thats really
word of mouth.
said that the Cities for Peace project started to gain momentum
in October 2002, when Republicans and Democrats alike began to
report that they were hearing from many concerned residents who
did not support military action in Iraq. But last fall the Bush
administration seemed determined to take military action anyway.
This is supposed to be a democracy, and the folks in Washington
are supposed to represent us. There is such a groundswell of opposition
that there needs to be some way in which it can be forced into
the consciousness of the congressmen, Dolan said.
The Institute for Policy Studies helped create a peace resolution
for Washington, D.C. Afterward, the institute created a Web site
that offered a tool kit to help other cities pass their own resolutions.
It seemed like a terrific idea for people who were feeling
frustrated and powerless to take action in their own communities,
Dolan said. She recalls that during the apartheid era 800 cities
passed resolutions and that during the nuclear freeze in the 1970s
a few hundred cities passed nuclear-free zone resolutions.
In the last four months many antiwar resolutions have passed in
liberal bastions like Boulder, Colo., Santa Fe, N.M., Cambridge,
Mass., and Berkeley, Calif., where opposition to government policy
is a tradition. But places known for less radical politics have
also acted, from big cities like Chicago and Tampa to smaller
ones like Fairbanks, Alaska, and Grants Pass, Ore.
Responding to critics who argue that antiwar resolutions were
largely symbolic, Dolan said: Its truly participatory
democracy in action. I think its terrific that folks are
making the case that war is not a foreign policy issue. It directly
touches all of us. The bodies that present us most directly are
our City Council.
Some resolutions have had a sharper tone, like the one passed
by Amherst, Mass., which goes so far as to direct city employees
not to help federal or state officials in any activities that
could be considered in violation of civil rights or liberties.
The Amherst measure, states, To the extent legally possible,
no town employee shall officially assist or voluntarily cooperate
with investigations, interrogations or arrest procedures
that may be judged to violate civil rights or liberties.
The resolution proposed by the Greater Lansing Network Against
War in Iraq is similar to the one recently approved by the Ingham
County Democratic Party. Both texts argue the cost of a war with
Iraq would be at least $100 billion and that at a time when the
national deficit is growing and many states and local governments
are in dire financial straits, such a war would be economically
According to the National Priorities Project, a nonprofit organization
that cooperates with the Cities for Peace project, in 2002 Lansing
residents paid $96 million in federal taxes for the military budget.
The tax money is being used for military construction, defense,
and nuclear weapons. NPP Research Director Anita Dancs estimates
if the United States decided to go to war, Lansing residents would
pay an additional $27 million. This year, Michiganders paid roughly
$10.3 billion in taxes to the Pentagon. A war against Iraq would
cost Michigan taxpayers an additional $2.9 billion, with an estimated
total national spending of $100 billion.
local resolution also considers the humanitarian costs of war,
arguing that 10,000 soldiers died in the first Gulf War and over
198,000 Gulf War veterans have filed disability claims. The resolution
states, moreover, that 320 tons of toxic and radioactive uranium
were dropped on Iraq and Kuwait in 1991, contributing to environmental
contamination, the Gulf War syndrome, and many thousands of Iraqi
civilian deaths and illnesses.
Asked why their state seems to be such a hot bed for peacemaking
activities, Michigan residents often point to Ann Arbor, where
activists agendas flourish at the progressively minded University
of Michigan campus. Lansing residents may draw ideas from Ann
Arbor, as they face the possibility of their own proposal being
turned down by a City Council that doesnt have a reputation
for pushing progressive agendas.
When at the Ann Arbor City Council meeting in December 2002 voices
argued against Americas move in the direction of war, they
found a sympathetic audience. Joining 21 other cities at the time,
which already included Washington and Detroit, the Ann Arbor City
Council voted 7-1 in favor of a resolution against war. Councilwoman
Heidi Cowing Herrell pitched the proposed resolution as a means
to support local representatives in higher government who oppose
the war. This is a question that concerns the whole nation,
she said. If we go to war there will be economic impacts
on our community. There will be members of our community who will
serve in the armed forces.
In retrospect, Herrell said one could see that elected city representatives
had quickly embraced the idea of an antiwar resolution. So
many activists contacted me and other City Council members, that
there was no question we would take action rather quickly,
she said. In the past, Ann Arbor has often been one to comment
on national politics. In 2000 the city passed a resolution urging
the immediate lifting of economic sanctions against Iraq. Responding
to the new USA Patriot Act in January 2002, Ann Arbor passed a
resolution for due process and the rejection of the racial profiling
of any group within the community. Herrell, whos been a
City Council member for the last seven years, said they certainly
wouldnt comment on every national policy issue, but
a declaration of war is different, because it effects all residents,
and primarily people on the lower level.
Last fall Barry Romo, a national coordinator for Vietnam Veterans
Against the War headquartered in Chicago, said he expected antiwar
protests to be strong in Michigan. Regions with a higher rate
of working-class people, such as Michigan, sent more soldiers
to the Vietnam war and are consequently more opposed to the idea
of war today.
Peter Dougherty, director of the Michigan Peace Team, said that
the large Michigan groundswell against the war in Iraq was probably
due to highly committed activists such as the adjunct Cooley Law
Professor Anabel Dwyer, or the non-violence trainer Tom Shea in
Traverse City. But Dougherty, who got involved in direct action
and non-violent civil resistance in the 1960s, said there was
no single avenue for success. Every aspect counts
vigils, demonstrations, e-mailing, phone calls, faxes, passing
city resolutions, networking of organizations, and supporting
countries like France and Germany that have spoken out against
the war. Its an exciting process, and it is possible to
prevent the escalation of war.