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Iraq Activists to Enlist City, State Governments

Between the Lines Q&A
A weekly column featuring progressive viewpoints
on national and international issues
under-reported in mainstream media
for release Jan. 25, 2007
http://www.btlonline.org

Activists Opposing Iraq War Campaign to Enlist City, State Governments

Interview with Joel Barkin, executive director of the Progressive States Network conducted by Melinda Tuhus

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According to public opinion polls, the American people are by a margin of 2 to 1 opposed to the Iraq war. They also line up 3 to 1 against President Bush's plan to escalate the war by sending more than 21,000 additional troops there. A majority of Democrats and even some Republicans in Congress are now opposed to the war, although whether they'll take meaningful action to end the U.S. occupation by cutting funding, remains to be seen. Although they have no direct say in U.S. foreign policy and no control over military funding, some American cities and state governments have passed resolutions condemning the war. The clearest link they have with the issue is that residents of cities and states pay federal taxes, where an ever-increasing share is going to fund the war, thus reducing resources for social programs.

Now the Progressive States Network has initiated an organized effort to urge the legislatures of at least 20 states to go on record opposing Bush's escalation of the Iraq war. In many cases, the resolutions also oppose the war in general and call for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops. Between The Lines' Melinda Tuhus spoke with Joel Barkin, executive director of the Progressive States Network, who discusses the campaign, which states have taken up the fight, and why.

JOEL BARKIN: There are a couple of points here. One, there is all kinds of historic precedent for states speaking out against international issues. And you cannot deny the fact that this war has had an incredible impact on the states, both in the cost that filters down to the states, loss of National Guard, loss of troops -- many of our states have bases on them, which has implications for our states, and a whole host of other issues that affect states directly. So I think if you look historically, there were states that passed resolutions against Vietnam, against apartheid. So, it’s certainly within the states’ purview to be pushing this type of resolution. And also, it’s what they’re hearing from their constituents. One example -- we have a sponsor in New York, Assemblyman Adriano Espayat, from Washington Heights, who, literally, when he talks to his constituents, they ask him, “Do something about this war.” So, we are hearing this from every level of government, from federal down, that American citizens a

Sen. Ted Kennedy’s bill would require Bush to come to Congress for authorization to increase troop strength in Iraq, even though Bush is already implementing his surge by keeping some soldiers there longer and sending others earlier.

Kennedy’s was the first bill, but several others have since been introduced that are almost the same (Chris Dodd, Carl Levin and Chuck Hagel, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama). House Majority Leader Rep. Harry Reid will schedule debate on the bills late next week or early the following week (big hurry!).

BETWEEN THE LINES: Are these resolutions just focusing on the surge, or on the war as a whole?

JOEL BARKIN: The draft model resolution that we helped distribute focuses primarily on the recent escalation and some of the congressional efforts to stop President Bush’s escalation in Iraq. Specifically, we mention Sen. Kennedy’s from Massachusetts legislation that would call on the president to go through Congress – get congressional approval – before he escalates this war any further. Having said that though, this is a model resolution and many states are adding different parts to this resolution so that it’s clear that not only is this a resolution against this escalation, but more broadly, it’s against this war in general. It’s time to end this war and we want to see it come to an end.

BETWEEN THE LINES: In which states so far have legislators agreed to bring up the resolution?

JOEL BARKIN: We have commitments, and this number is growing every day, from Washington State, Rhode Island, Oregon, Montana, California, Connecticut, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Missouri, Minnesota and a handful of other states. People are looking to introduce resolutions in red states, blue states, purple states, you name it. I think there is vast and very deep opposition to this escalation.

BETWEEN THE LINES: Joel Barkin, do you know if any states have already passed non-binding resolutions against the war, before your organization started this coordinated effort across the country?

JOEL BARKIN: There have been efforts, I believe, prior to this escalation. I think there are a handful of city councils and county councils; I think in Vermont, there was an effort to pass a resolution. There have been efforts at the state level; this one is more tied to the escalation and we see this as a critical time because if we aren’t able to stop this escalation, who knows how many more troops we’re going to lose, how many more lives will be lost and how much more money will be thrown down the sink.

BETWEEN THE LINES: You mentioned that the basic resolution focuses on the escalation, but that horse has kind of left the barn, I think. But different states are adding other things as well. Do you know if any of them are calling for an immediate withdrawal, or re-deployment, of troops, like the bill that Congresswomen Lynn Woolsey, Barbara Lee and Maxine Waters have just introduced in the House?

JOEL BARKIN: It’s calling for troops to be brought back as soon as possible, immediately.

BETWEEN THE LINES: I live in a city that’s always passing non-binding resolutions on foreign policy issues. They then get sent to our federal elected officials in Washington -- our congresswoman and our two senators. Is that what would happen with these resolutions?

JOEL BARKIN: Once these resolutions are passed, they will be sent to congressional delegations as well as the White House. Contact the Progressive States Network by calling (212) 680-3116, or visit the group's website at www.progressivestates.org.

For a breakdown on U.S. spending on the war by state, visit the website of the National Priorities Project at www.nationalpriorities.org

Related links on our website at http://www.btlonline.org/btl020207.html#2hed: "Kennedy: No Funds For More Troops," CBS News, Jan. 25, 2007

*************

Melinda Tuhus is a producer of Between The Lines, which can be heard on more than 40 radio stations and in RealAudio and MP3 on our website at http://www.btlonline.org http://www.btlonline.org. This interview excerpt was featured on the award-winning, syndicated weekly radio newsmagazine, Between The Lines for the week ending Jan. 25, 2006. This Between The Lines Q&A was compiled by Melinda Tuhus and Anna Manzo.

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