The Sacramento City Council, in spite of vitriolic testimony by Iraq war supporters and hundreds of threatening e-mails from mostly out-of-town residents, has refused to back down on a resolution calling for the withdrawal of troops from Iraq. Approximately 100 supporters and 50 opponents of the resolution attended a recent council meeting, but only 15 minutes was allotted to each side during the public comments section of the meeting.
The resolution, passed by an 8 to 1 vote on November 1, called for “a humane, orderly, rapid and comprehensive withdrawal of United States military personnel and bases from Iraq.” The Council also asked Congress and Bush to deliver “promised veterans' health, education, disability, and rehabilitation benefits, and otherwise meet the needs of returning veterans.” Councilman Robbie Waters cast the lone vote against the resolution.
“I’m extremely disappointed by the council’s action,” said Deborah Johns, co-founder of Northern California Marine Moms and a leader of the national Move America Forward counter-protests against Cindy Sheehan in August. “This message has been heard by the military men and women who feel this town doesn’t support them.”
The most bizarre part of her testimony was when she singled out Steve Cohn, known as one of the more conservative members of the council, for criticism. Johns, a Roseville resident, said that she was “extremely alarmed that he (Cohn) would align himself with radicals like Code Pink and Moveon.org.”
“Why are you not standing up against the terrorists?” Johns quizzed the council. “If we pull out of Iraq now, it will become a breeding ground for terrorists.”
Several other people with Johns’ group spoke about their support for Bush’s war and their dismay with the council’s action. After their presentations, the pro-war group left the room in a loud and disorderly manner, shouting, “Rescind the resolution!” Repeated outbursts by one man, who stayed after the others left, prompted Mayor Fargo to tell him, “You’re out of order!” And he was escorted out of the room.
George McAdow of the Sacramento Community Forum and other speakers expressed gratitude to the city council -- and urged them to stand up to the onslaught of hate mail from the right-wingers.
“You made us very proud,” said McAdow. “There is nothing wrong with being peacemakers and saving lives. The air waves have been contaminated with hate speech and I offer you an apology for the racist and anti-Semitic language that has been directed at you by right wing talk show hosts and their supporters.”
“You deserve accolades, not threatening messages,” stated Ruth Holbrook, past president of the Sacramento Labor Council. “You and those who work for an end to the war are the true patriots in our country. I’m proud of you.”
Genevieve Shiroma, SMUD Board member and a city resident who has family members in the military, said, “We honor each soldier by getting them out of harm’s way. It is time for our leaders to bring back the federal dollars that we are spending on the war -- and to bring back our most precious resource, our men and women.”
Hugo Vera of the Mexican American Political Association, Harry Wang from Physicians for Social Responsibility, Ellen Schwartz of the Women's International League for Peace & Freedom, George Main from Veterans for Peace and CSUS Professors Eric Vega and Arline Prigoff also spoke in support of the anti-war resolution.
After hearing the testimony, Robbie Waters made a request to place rescinding the resolution as an item on the next meeting's agenda, but none of the other council members would second his motion.
“I oppose the resolution because it demoralizes the military in Iraq and their families and sends a message to the terrorists that we will not win,” said Waters. "Matters like this should be left to the President and Congress. I still believe that I did the right thing in opposing the resolution.”
However, Council Member Lauren Hammond strongly opposed revisiting the resolution, especially after receiving shockingly vitriolic e-mails, including death threats, from right wing war supporters. Hammond received a total of 1,300 e-mails, including those from both supporters and opponents of the resolution.
“What I find disappointing is that in America today we can't have a civil discussion about one of the most important issues,” said Hammond, who co-sponsored the resolution with Ray Tretheway. “One’s position on the war doesn’t mean you don’t love your county and are a traitor. I don’t believe any further vote should be held on this issue.”
Council Member Bonnie Pannell, who also opposed Waters’ request, said: “I didn’t realize we had the likes of these people out there with their hateful, nasty e-mails. I don’t understand how people can write the things they did.”
The nasty campaign by Move America Forward and right wing radio talk show hosts and their antics at the meeting did nothing to convince the council to change their minds, but only solidified their position in support of the anti-war resolution.
“It was the strangest group of rude, disorderly, emotional and vicious people I have ever seen in my life -- victimizers from start to finish,” commented Leuren Moret, an international expert on depleted uranium and Berkeley Environmental Commissioner, whose request to speak before the council was turned down by Mayor Heather Fargo in favor of people from Sacramento.
“This collection of cultish ‘group think’ people were not concerned in the least that they were sending their own children off to die in Iraqi violence and to become uranium meat,” she stated. “Some of the older women were running around with teddy bears in camouflage fatigues and muttering ‘my Jesus.’ They exactly reflect Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld, and are the core of the few Americans left that support this illegal war.”
Apparently, these folks have never read a book such as Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends and Influence People!
Dan Bacher is an outdoor writer, alternative journalist and satirical songwriter from Sacramento, California. He is editor of the Central America Connection and contributes to numerous publications and websites, including Dissident Voice, CounterPunch, Because People Matter and the Sacramento News & Review. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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