Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy Co-sponsors Mayors' Resolution Against Attacking Iran

Chris Lowe

Preventwariran

Mayor Kitty Piercy of Eugene is one of 21 original co-sponsors of a powerful resolution on peace with Iran to be considered at the annual meeting of The National Conference of Mayors, June 20-24 in Miami, Florida. Initiated by Mayor Bob Kiss of Burlington, Vermont in co-operation with Global Exchange and CodePink, the resolution calls on President Bush to pursue diplomatic engagement with Iran, and on Congress to prohibit the use of military force against Iran without explicit Congressional authorization.

CodePink and other groups have called for people to ask our mayors to sign on and to vote for the resolution at the conference. Although I received notice about the resolution late in the day, relative to the timing of the conference, it may still be possible to contact mayors who are attending before the vote through their home offices and the wonders of modern communication technology.

In the case of Portland, Mayor Potter is being represented by Dan Bates, Director of the Office of Government Relations for the city. It is not clear whether he has a proxy vote for Mayor Potter on this matter or not, I will update when I find out. The number for Mayor Potter's office is 503-823-4120, and it can't hurt to register support for the resolution.

In any case, the full text of the message is well worth considering, as it presents a cogent analysis of the background and stakes of current efforts to whip up greater belligerency toward Iran, with which, among other things, John McCain has been seeking to attack Barack Obama. The resolution is in effect a rebuttal to the continuing Republican posture of aggression that threatens both global peace and security, and the true national interests of the United States:

1. WHEREAS, the President and members of his Administration have alleged that Iran poses an imminent threat to the United States, U.S. troops in the Middle East and U.S. allies; and

2. WHEREAS, these allegations are similar to the lead-up to the Iraq War and U.S. occupation, with the selective use of information and unsubstantiated accusations about Iran's nuclear program and its supply of weapons to Iraqi forces as centerpieces of a case to the American people for aggression against Iran; and

3. WHEREAS, Iran has not threatened to attack the United States, and no compelling evidence has been presented to document that Iran poses a real and imminent threat to the security and safety of the United States that would justify an unprovoked unilateral pre-emptive military attack; and

4. WHEREAS, we support the people of Iran who are struggling for freedom and democracy, and nothing herein should be misconstrued as support for the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran, but it should be understood that a unilateral, pre-emptive U.S. military attack on Iran could well prove counterproductive to the cause of promoting freedom and democracy there; and

5. WHEREAS, a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), representing the consensus view all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, concluded that Iran froze its nuclear weapons program in 2003, and an earlier NIE concluded that Iran's involvement in Iraq "is not likely to be a major driver of violence" there; and

6. WHEREAS, an attack on Iran is likely to cause untold thousands of American and Iranian casualties, lead to major economic dislocations, and threaten even greater destabilization in the Middle East; and

7. WHEREAS, a pre-emptive U.S. military attack on Iran would violate international law and our commitments under the U.N. Charter and further isolate the U.S. from the rest of the world; and

8. WHEREAS, an attack on Iran is likely to inflame hatred for the U.S. in the Middle East and elsewhere, inspire terrorism, and lessen the security of Americans; and

9. WHEREAS, the Iraq war and occupation has already cost the lives of over 4,000 American soldiers, the maiming and wounding of over 38,000 American soldiers, the death and maiming of over one million Iraqi civilians; and

10. WHEREAS, the Iraq War and occupation has cost U.S. taxpayers more than $500 billion, depriving our cities of much-need funds for services and infrastructure; and

11. WHEREAS, except at our peril, we cannot ignore the history of U.S. government misinformation used to inspire U.S. aggression in Vietnam and again in Iraq, as embodied in the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution and more recently in the what we know now as false claims of weapons of mass destruction; and

12. WHEREAS, any conflict with Iran is likely to incur far greater costs and divert more precious national resources away from critical human needs,

13. NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors hereby urges the Bush Administration to pursue diplomatic engagement with Iran on nuclear issues and ending the violence in Iraq; and

14. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the U.S. Conference of Mayors urges Congress to prohibit the use of funds to carry out any military action against Iran without explicit Congressional authorization; and

15. BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that suitable copies of the resolution be forwarded to President George W. Bush and all members of Congress. Projected Cost: Unknown

Submitted By:

The Honorable Bob Kiss, Mayor of Burlington

Co-Sponsored By:

* Bob Kiss, Burlington, VT;
* Joy Cooper, Hallandale Beach, FL;
* James M. Baker, Wilmington, DE;
* Dave Norris, Charlottesville, VA;
* R.T. Rybak, Minneapolis, MN;
* William D. Euille, Alexandria, VA;
* Marty Blum, Santa Barbara, CA;
* Dan Coody, Fayetteville, AK;
* Kevin Foy, Chapel Hill, NC;
* Gayle McLaughlin, Richmond, CA;
* Kitty Piercy, Eugene, OR;
* Elaine Walker, Bowling Green, KY;
* Jeff Prang, West Hollywood, CA;
* Rhine McLin, Dayton, OH;
* Jennifer Hosterman, Pleasanton, CA;
* Laurel Lunt Prussing, Urbana, IL;
* Anthony B Santos, San Leandro, CA;
* J. Christian Bollwage, Elizabeth, NJ;
* Scott J. Brook, Coral Springs, FL;
* Bruce R. Williams, Takoma Park, MD;
* Craig Covey, Ferndale, MI

A great many of these are mayors of university towns, which may reflect something about how support was generated initially.

Update 6/20: Dan Bates informs me that Portland Mayor Tom Potter added his name as a co-sponsor of the resolution and that it passed out of committee on a 7-5 vote, so it will be debated by the general U.S. Mayors' Conference meeting.

Comments

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    As a reminder, Kitty is engaged in a very very tight battle for reelection, and could use your help.

    If you want the mayor of Oregon's second-largest city to be a progressive, pitch in a few hours or a few bucks.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    Thanks for the post on Piercy. She eked into a runoff with Republican Jim Torrey, 48.6 to 47.6, and needs our help.

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    Chris, you can go back into typepad and add your name (it's the category field at the top)

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    Hey Chris -- Welcome to BlueOregon, and congrats on your first post! It's a great one!

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    Thanks Kari. The one thing I meant to put in the post that got left out due to hurrying to get somewhere was to thank Mayor Piercy for her leadership, which in my view exemplifies a perfect exercise of an important role of local officials too often overlooked: Acting thoughtfully, informed by conscience and judgment, as tribunes of the people to whom ordinary citizens have easier and fuller access, to amplify our voices to more distant officials at higher levels of government in this huge country of ours (when the nation was founded, its entire population was approximately that of Oregon today).

    Evan, thanks for the link. I'll use it.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    With hairbrained ideas of what a local mayor should be concerned about, it is no wonder the incumbant is in a tight run-off race. While I applaud the sentiment, what possible issue could running Eugene have to do with Iran?

  • mlw (unverified)
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    I love Kitty, but this issue has nothing to do with local politics and her position on it ignores the extremely irresponsible acts of the Iranian government. This is a government that is actively providing the means to kill US soldiers to Iraqi insurgents and continues to threaten US ships in the Persian Gulf with speedboats. The best reason for not attacking Iran is that it would push the Iranian people closer to their autocratic government, regardless of the provoking act. Under international law, the Iranian actions in illegal arms transfers and interfering with freedom of the seas are already sufficient to exercise self defense. It sucks to have to trust the administration on this one, but I have to give them a modicum of credit for seeing the damage that even a limited attack would do over the long term to US interests. However, what will we be saying about the administration's restraint when one of those speedboats is full of explosives and sinks one of our ships? These are difficult and nuanced issues - absolutist stances don't help matters.

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    Jim is not a Republican, he is a former Republican. He is now an Independent.

  • mlw (unverified)
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    Tom - I won't dispute that there has been some progress on the weapons issue, although the Pentagon keeps reporting that they find them and both of your sources are far from impartial. However, can you really say that a naval commander would not be justified in taking out these marauders? Remember the Cole? This is serious business involving the lives of our military members. Requiring the consent of Congress before taking action seriously interferes with our forces' right to self defense.

  • James X. (unverified)
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    Sal, I know his registration. I call him a Republican anyway.

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    both of your sources are far from impartial

    The CommonDreams.org link Tom gave is a reprint of an article from the Los Angeles Times.

    It's an organization not without its troubles, but it is one of the largest newspapers in the country. What greater authority do you want?

  • Ed Bickford (unverified)
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    How serious is his alignment with the Oregon Independent Party? His website seems not to mention it.

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    Jim Torrey became Independant when he realized that he couldn't get elected in Eugene on the Republican ticket as shown in the Senate race against Vicki Walker. His reasoning was that the Republican party had become too extreme to represent him.

    In 2004, Jim Torrey didn't think that George W Bush was too extreme to represent him so he contributed $2000, the maximum allowable contribution, to his campaign. I think that says it all.

  • Jim is not a Republican, he is a former Republican. He is now an Independen (unverified)
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    Jim is not a Republican, he is a former Republican. He is now an Independent.

    Ha-ha-ha! And I've got a bridge to sell you!

    Torrey may be successfully confusing people about his party affiliation, but he's still as conservative as Hannity. And only twice as honest.

  • RALPH (unverified)
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    Kitty..................you are the epitome of ignorance of history.........somehow you believe that "nice" will protect you from all the evils of the world.......you may live to see people you love die because of your "nice" elitist mentality.....

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    mlw,

    The right of a military commander to tactical situational self-defense is not at stake here, such self-defense being part of the ordinary purposes for which military budgets are appropriated, without regard to the attacker. The language of this resolution is not legislation, and should Congress take up such a law, it certainly would be drafted in a way that would not interfere with such ordinary rights of self defense.

    What the resolution clearly refers to is systematic military action directed at Iran by the president.

    The scale of Iranian irresponsibility is minuscule by comparison to that of the U.S. Let's set aside for a moment that those acts of irresponsibility occur within a context created by the U.S. through its criminally irresponsible aggression in the first place, its irresponsible incompetence in preparation for bringing a new order to Iraq after conquest in the second place, and the by now well-documented uninterest of the U.S. military in "nation-building' over the longer term of the occupation that have extended the initial basic incompetence and contributed materially to Iraqi civil war. Let's take those as given.

    Let's begin with the irresponsibility of harshly belligerent rhetoric (found on the Iranian side too of course). Next, sources that hardly are left-wing such as the Israeli-based Debka have reported U.S. special forces incursions into Iran on more than one occasion (though to be fair, Debka may be far enough right to have an interest in raising U.S. Iranian tensions). The U.S. has massed multiple aircraft carrier groups close to Iran several times, in a cruise missile and jet update of the old gunboat diplomacy, a threat similar in kind to the Iranian gunboats and the U.S. ships, but on a scale many orders of magnitude greater. And credible reporting by Seymour Hersh in The New Yorker provides evidence of war planning against Iran so irresponsible as to include the use of nuclear weapons at one stage, though apparently dropped in later iterations. Let's finish with the simple irresponsible refusal of the U.S. to engage in diplomacy with Iran as a means of dispute resolution, which both international law and common sense dictate as the proper course of action before contemplating war, much less threatening it as the U.S. has done.

    None of the threats or damages you cite come close to justifying the consequences of a large-scale U.S. attack on Iran

    As for administration "restraint", this is not a matter of systematic, coherent, unified policy. It reflects a potentially precarious predominance of cooler heads within the administration. That possibly has been sustained by more technocratic analyses of lack of capacity deal with the consequences of an attack, over still-powerful forces that favor aggression.

    I further believe that public opposition to starting another war, in fact, open-mouthed incredulity at the idiocy of even considering such a venture, also has been part of that restraint. Yet the war drums keep beating from the spider holes of the the Vice-President and his remaining allies, and too many of the people in the press and Congress and the tendentious hawkish think tanks who said "everyone knows" Iraq has weapons of mass destruction by defining those who disagreed as nobody are up to the same thing again -- your own lack of sense of proportion as to who is threatening whom fits the part of the pattern that says listening to such nonsense is reasonable.

    In this context it is a great national service the mayors will do if they pass this resolution, and that the sponsors will have done even if it does not pass, to voice the popular opposition to reckless aggression and the sure and true fact that the consequences would come back to haunt every city and town in this country.

    As I said before, they are acting as tribunes of the people, to help make sure that the restraint holds, in Congress as well as the White House. It is an entirely appropriate and laudable role.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Chris Lowe said, "Let's set aside for a moment that those acts of irresponsibility occur within a context created by the U.S. through its criminally irresponsible aggression in the first place..."

    No, Chris, let's not set that aside. All other arguments are tangential at best. A murderer cannot complain that someone else is trying to murder him while he himself continues to murder, particularly if that someone else is the neighbor/relative of the victims.

    Furthermore, the problem with calling "...on Congress to prohibit the use of military force against Iran without explicit Congressional authorization" is that Congress has been a rubber stamp for Bush hegemony, including H.J. Res. 64, the original "Authorization for Use of Military Force", which authorized Bush to single-handedly conduct war against unspecified nations, organizations, or persons for an unspecified duration, and which appears to me to be still in effect.

    There are two ways out: defund and impeach, neither of which the DP is prepared to do. All this other stuff is mere pandering to the progressive loyalists who are starting to wake up.

  • Mitch (unverified)
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    I don’t think we are going to strike Iran, Israel will do it and once they do then we will see gas go to $10.00 a gallon. Why will Israel attack or are planning to attack, Obama. If he wins and pulls the troops crap is going to hit the fan. Gas will jump and shut this country down, we need to drill for oil now because we don’t have any alternative fuel, I ask every time I fill up if the gas station has any alternative fuel I can fill up with that is cheaper then reg. gas. According to Ted and other Dem’s we have this alternative fuel, I’m ready to start buying it, does anyone know how much it’s going to cost or how long its going to take to get here and will I have to buy a new car that I can’t afford or will I need to convert my existing cars to run on this new fuel? Just wondering

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    Actually Harry there is a very interesting argument being developed in a number of states to back state-level efforts to prevent National Guard deployments that the conditions of both authorizations have either expired, or if they have not, were too broad because they would entail the permanent federalization of the Guard. We will have to see how that goes, it would need to get through at least one state lege, and then would face a court challenge. But it's an interesting strategy, one among many.

    The "let's set aside" paragraph is ironic in the literary sense, i.e. something that says the opposite of what it means -- if I'd really set it aside I wouldn't have brought it up.

    The point of that para and what follows was a specific response to the "Iran is to blame because the Iranians are irresponsible," which is just a point.

    I have to disagree with you partially about the authorization part, for a couple of reasons. First, Bush pretty clearly has been contemplating any attack on Iran without seeking authorization from Congress. Requiring such a new authorization in part would amount to a statement that the previous authorizations are not in force. Bush might ignore it, but that would set up conditions to have a battle out in public including perhaps impeachment (even after he's out of office) that could reassert the Congressional role in warmaking (or not) against some of its erosion.

    Second, I really do think that the conditions are quite different "in the present conjuncture" as some of my old theory readings would put it than they were in 2001 and 2002. So if this got passed to begin with, which might be the real sticking point what with Democratic unwillingness to change the filibuster and cloture rules in the Senate, I think that for a while, at least, there would be a substantial likelihood of denying authorization. We're both speculating, of course, and I certainly could be wrong.

    In the longer term there might be a reversion to form, but in any case that risk couldn't be dealt with in a law like this -- Congress can't in statute forbid itself from doing something in a meaningful way because it always retains the power of legislation.

    Anyway, putting opposition from as many quarters as possible to any attack on Iraq into the public discourse is a useful thing to do, and having a pretty decent specification of crucial facts in a body of officials isn't bad either. IMO. For the short term needs.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    One more huge act of DP complicity, this one coming on the heels of Nancy Pelosi's House giving George Bush more money than he asked for to fund the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan for another year:

    What Nancy Pelosi, Steny Hoyer and Fred Hiatt Mean by 'Bipartisanship'

    by Glenn Greenwald

    It's bad enough watching the likes of Steny Hoyer, Rahm Emanuel and a disturbingly disoriented Nancy Pelosi eviscerate the Fourth Amendment, exempt their largest corporate contributors from the rule of law, and endorse the most radical aspects of the Bush lawbreaking regime. But it's downright pathetic to see them try to depict their behavior as some sort of bipartisan "compromise" whereby they won meaningful concessions:

    "When they saw that we were unified in sending that bill rather than falling for their scare tactics, I think it sent them a message," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). "So our leverage was increased because of our Democratic unity in both cases."

    Not even the media establishment and the GOP can refrain from mocking this pretense they're trying to peddle.

    What's amazing is that they're actually as devoid of dignity as they are integrity. As I noted yesterday, the GOP couldn't even wait for the ink to dry on this "compromise" before publicly - and accurately - boasting that they not only got everything they want, but got even more than they dreamed they would get. To The New York Times' Eric Lichtblau, GOP House Whip Roy Blunt derided the telecom amnesty provision as nothing more than a "formality" which would inevitably lead to the immediate and automatic dismissal of all lawsuits against the telecoms, while Sen. Kit Bond taunted the Democrats for giving away even more than they had to in order to get a deal: "I think the White House got a better deal than they even had hoped to get."

    Lichtblau himself noted that "the White House immediately endorsed the proposal" and wrote that the bill "represents a major victory for the White House after months of dispute." Reporters Dan Eggen and Paul Kane were even more blunt and derisive in The Washington Post, noting that the Democrats "hand[ed] President Bush one of the last major legislative victories he is likely to achieve"; that "the deal appears to give Bush and his aides, including Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell, much of what they sought in a new surveillance law"; and that "the negotiations underscored the political calculation made by many Democrats who were fearful that Republicans would cast them as soft on terrorism during an election year."

    Surrendering and fearful: that's the face of the Democratic Party. It's how they show they're not weak.

    The most succinct summary of what the Democrats just "negotiated" came from Russ Feingold: "The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation."

    Numerous other Democratic office-holders and Congressional candidates scornfully characterized this bill for what it is, including Andrea Miller, a Democratic nominee for Congress in Virginia, who said: "We have a Democratic majority in the House and yet they seem to be as confused by the meaning of the Constitution as the Republicans." (And as the vocally pro-Obama Nation notes, the Democratic presidential candidate - who had been so outspoken against telecom amnesty and warrantless eavesdropping in the past - is still deafeningly silent today, even as the House prepares to vote today).

    Needless to say, Beltway denizens such as The Washington Post's Fred Hiatt are patting the Democrats on the head:

    CONGRESSIONAL leaders of both parties should be commended for drafting legislation that brings the country's surveillance laws into the 21st century . . . It also provides some welcome evidence that congressional leaders remain capable of achieving delicate compromise in the national interest.

    But this absurd praise underscores what the Washington power structure means when they speak of "bipartisanship" - it means having the Republican Party demand something, and then having enough Democrats agree to it to ensure it passes in essentially undiluted form. In January, I compiled a list of the Great Bipartisan Compromises of the Bush era and demonstrated that they are characterized by one common attribute: namely, they are supported by almost all Republicans and then enough Democrats from a split caucus to ensure its passage. As I wrote:

    But more importantly, "bipartisanship" is already rampant in Washington, not rare. And, in almost every significant case, what "bipartisanship" means in Washington is that enough Democrats join with all of the Republicans to endorse and enact into law Republican policies, with which most Democratic voters disagree. That's how so-called "bipartisanship" manifests in almost every case. . . . On virtually every major controversial issue - particularly, though not only, ones involving national security and terrorism - the Republicans (including their vaunted mythical moderates and mavericks) vote in almost complete lockstep in favor of the President, the Democratic caucus splits, and the Republicans then get their way on every issue thanks to "bipartisan" support.

    That's what "bipartisanship" in Washington means.

    That's exactly what is going to happen with this latest FISA "compromise." Republicans will be virtually unanimous in their support of it, while the Democratic caucus will split and enough of them will join with their Republican colleagues to make sure it passes. "Bipartisan compromise" means that Democrats comply with GOP demands.

    While huge numbers of civil liberties advocates, Democrats and prominent libertarians are furious and disgusted by this bill, is there even a single hard-core, right-wing Bush supporter remotely unhappy with it? No. Because it gives them everything that that faction ever wanted - actually, as Kit Bond said, more than they ever dreamed of getting. But in Washington World, that is a grand "bipartisan compromise," by definition: when the President's demands are complied with.

    In the course of criticizing the "compromise" bill, Andrew Sullivan wrote yesterday that he's "not as livid as" I am because "at least the White House appears to have conceded that the Congress has the final say on what is and what is not legal in eavesdropping." But that's actually not true, and that really underscores the key point here.

    This whole controversy began because George Bush, in December of 2005, got caught breaking our spying laws for years. He did so because he embraced a radical and un-American theory that asserted he has the power to break all of our laws provided such lawbreaking is, in his view, related to "defense of the nation." That lawbreaking theory is at the heart of virtually every major controversy of the last seven years, and it remains entirely in tact and preserved:

    At the meeting [with the DOJ], Bruce Fein, a Justice Department lawyer in the Reagan administration, along with other critics of the legislation, pressed Justice Department officials repeatedly for an assurance that the administration considered itself bound by the restrictions imposed by Congress. The Justice Department, led by Ken Wainstein, the assistant attorney general for national security, refused to do so, according to three participants in the meeting. That stance angered Mr. Fein and others. It sent the message, Mr. Fein said in an interview, that the new legislation, though it is already broadly worded, "is just advisory. The president can still do whatever he wants to do. They have not changed their position that the president's Article II powers trump any ability by Congress to regulate the collection of foreign intelligence.

    This scandal began by revelations that the President broke the law - committed felonies - when spying on our calls and emails without warrants, because he believes he has the power to break the law. The scandal all but concluded yesterday, with the Democratic Congress (a) protecting the President, (b) permanently blocking the lawsuits which would have revealed what he did and would have ruled that he broke the law, and (c) legalizing the very illegal spying regime that he secretly ordered in 2001. Only in the twisted world of Washington can that be described as a "compromise." * * *

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)
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    Chris: I understood the irony in your statement, and I think there is very little difference in our positions on this matter, i.e., we both want to avoid an attack on Iran. My point is that we need to focus on the implicit agreement by the duopoly that the Iraq occupation is both legal and moral. I hope you're correct about the promise of these new tactics, but I still maintain that defund and impeach are our only valid options.

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    Interesting factoid: Kitty's husband, David, and I served together in the Peace Corps in Iran from 1964-66. We have followed events there closely ever since, understand the Persian culture, and decry falseness of Bush's saber-rattling rhetoric about Iran. The Gulf of Tonkin, Al-Qaida's ties to Sadaam, and now imminent danger from Iran. All part of the same big lie. When will Americans learn?

  • (Show?)

    Nothing to add to your great post and cogent, insightful comments other than WELCOME to BlueOregon! It will be a better place with you here!

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    Thanks Kristin, I'm honored to join such good company as yourself.

    Stephen, that is interesting. I know just enough about Persian history and culture to wish I knew more. The Iranian American Friendship Council is part of the Portland peace movement with which I am active, the PDX Peace coalition, and had a presence at day long educational "tent city" we organized, along with the more typical rally and march, when marking 5 years of invasion and occupation in Iraq. I concur with your other remarks.

  • (Show?)

    Update 6/20: Dan Bates informs me that Portland Mayor Tom Potter added his name as a co-sponsor of the resolution and that it passed out of committee on a 7-5 vote, so it will be debated by the general U.S. Mayors' Conference meeting.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Great one other mayor, and a lame duck at that, who doesn't understand the meaning of "local politics". The voters of Portland and Eugene got what they deserve.

  • Aaron (unverified)
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    Excellent post Chris.

    Kitty could really use some help in her race as Torrey is outspending her 2-1. And don't be fooled by Torrey's party change, his large contribution to the 2004 Bush campaign says it all. Also he was a Republican when he ran against Senator Vicki Walker. But you can't say he's stupid because he realized he can't win as a Republican so he switched for this race.

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    Kurt, the Iraq occupation is affecting me locally, in bad ways, and an Iran attack would be worse. Same applies to the city as a whole, IMO. If local leaders think national policies are hurting their localities, should they just stay out of it?

    Should local leaders affected by federal timber policy just stay out of it? How about federal immigration policy?

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    OK Chris, I'll play - Please cite me specifically how an invasion of Iran could possibly directly affect local issues in Eugene, Portland or any other city. Furhter, please let us all know how the use of force by the United States military against a foreign country could directly affect a small city in the Pacific Northwest.

    Personally, I wouldn't support armed intervention in Iran, just like I didn't in Iraq.

    I leave your other stalking dogs alone.

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    Kurt, I'm glad to learn that you are part of the majority of Americans who oppose attacking Iran. Quite why you object to a group of prominent & influential citizens acting in concert to voice that opposition in a way likely to draw public attention and press coverage, and thereby make such an attack less likely (see "tribune of the people" argument above) still remains a mystery to me.

    However, that is not what you asked. In general my argument is an opportunity-cost argument, which could be argued either from a lost opportunities for local and regional federal public investment point of view, or from a lost opportunities to reduce public spending point of view, according to your preference.

    The Iraq occupation is a borrow-and-spend proposition, a deficit-funded war contributing a large portion to the Bush budget deficits ($150 billion for the next 12 months, roughly, as we learned with yesterday's war supplemental). That means that the costs are not only the direct expenditures, but also the compounding interest costs that make debt service a growing portion of the federal budget, crowding out other potential uses of revenue, or entailing government spending that can't be cut, according to your preference.

    It's in the nature of localism that I don't know exactly what kinds of federally-assisted investment in Eugene might be affected, but I am sure there are some. Among the things which the budget deficits affect is federal financial aid to college and university students, including grants, federally subsidized work-study programs, and federal backing of student loans. They also cut into federal funding for academic science and medical research. Both Eugene as the home of U. of O. and Portland, with PSU and OHSU (where I am currently a graduate student) as well as the largest concentration of other colleges in the state are affected by these cuts. Students at PCC and Lane Community College may be especially affected by the student aid cuts.

    Among the victims of Bush administration efforts to make a show of spending restraint to soothe the Republican wing (ineffectively) is funding of Department of Energy clean-up of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Richland, WA. The quantity of nuclear and other toxic waste being sequestered and vitrified or otherwise dealt with annually has been reduced to such a low rate that the full clean-up would take about 300 years if that rate persists. Meanwhile the wastes continue to leach into the soil and migrate slowly toward areas where they will begin to enter the Columbia River, a prospect affecting localities all up and down the Columbia, including especially downstream localities including Portland (you can make the list), but also upstream potentially, e.g. through negative effects on salmon recovery efforts that might raise pressures for dam breaching.

    The budget deficits have had an effect on items like the State Children's Health Insurance Program ("S-CHIP"), which is an important contributor to state efforts to insure low-income children. Lack of such insurance affects localities in a number of ways. It may mean that local governments have to pay a larger proportion of subsidies for childhood immunizations provided through county public health clinics, or have more children go without them for reasons of cost, with more children seeking publicly subsidized treatment of preventable diseases later at county clinics. More generally, lack of insurance leads to lack of other kinds of preventive care and the inappropriate use of emergency departments for primary care treatment of diseases at later and more expensive to treat stages of illness. This has local effects on public, non-profit and for-profit hospitals, and on the complex of cost-shifting and differential rate negotiations with insurers, raising premium rates to employers and to individuals either through their employers or in being priced out of the individual market. (Pressure on other federal Medicaid funding and local state responses to restrictions or cuts also play into these processes).

    Although you choose not to address my "stalking dog" about federal timber payments and localities in southern Oregon from the point of view of the legitimacy of local official advocacy, the situation also provides and example of something that the substantially though not exclusively Iraq occupation driven deficits have (or probably have) crowded out.

    Deficits limit potential federal contributions to infrastructure improvement and especially maintenance, leading to maintenance deferral infrastructure degradation.

    Federal borrowing to fund occupation-war deficit spending competes with other borrowing and contributes to the "credit crunch," which affects abilities in particular of small-business entrepreneurs to start or sustain businesses, and local efforts to foster economic development. Likewise the debt service competes with other government spending, both civilian and military, and to the extent that reduction of that other spending is not elastic, for legal and political reasons, raises the "size of government" measured in dollar terms.

    In Portland-Vancouver, various plans for dealing with the "Columbia Crossing" of I-5 depend on federal funding; although the proponents of the most expansive plan favored by state transportation departments appear confident of gaining the projected level of federal funding, the federal deficits and their contribution to the overall economic slowdown probably will make competition for this "round" of such funding fiercer, as well perhaps as affecting local willingness to pay local taxes for the local share (as happened when Vancouverites rejected paying what would have been their share of a projected light-rail plan in the 1990s, resulting in the loss of huge federal contributions). Regardless of what one thinks of any particular version of ways to handle the future of the I-5 Columbia Crossing, it indubitably is a matter of local and regional political focus that is affected by federal actions and resources affected by Iraq costs.

    I am quite sure I could come up with other examples if I were more intimately familiar with what other local activities federal money supports, sustains or promotes. I know they exist.

    None of this begins to address the most local level of all, that of families and individuals. Although it doesn't involve Iran, yet (keep your fingers crossed), next year 3500 National Guard personnel from Oregon are scheduled to be deployed in Iraq, the largest deployment since World War II. They and their families are the most affected, but the effects ripple out to our communities. Employers must find and train replacements, then deal with requirements to rehire returning Guard soldiers. My child may find that one of her classmates has a parent who is far away and in danger, who has to try to cope with that, whose emotional struggles could affect my child in any number of ways. The towns and friends of mostly young men and women who may be killed, physically wounded, or harmed in less visible psychological and emotional ways, and the friends of spouses, parents and other relatives who are worrying and who have to cope with the effects of harms their loved ones may suffer are affected too -- all of these represent local effects of federal war and peace decisions.

    And there are, for me at any rate, psychological effects of issues of conscience about my responsibility as a citizen of a nation that I believe is committing illegal aggression and operating in reckless disregard of the lives of innocent people, wreaking havoc on international law and on our own constitutional order in the name of erroneous claims of executive power and authority, and the apparent inability of my federal elected representatives to deal adequately with any of that.

    At this level, there is a fundamental philosophical question: is our relationship to the federal government and its actions purely direct and unmediated, so that our only proper way to communicate to our representatives and to the executive branch is directly (call this the "Protestant" option)? Or is our political system so much more complicated and intertwined at different levels that our political communications and expressions of public opinion need to take mediated as well as unmediated forms (call this the "Catholic" option)?

    My personal view, obviously, is the latter. This is partly because of the sheer size of the country. It also reflects the way that federal concentration and distance from localities (even in places much closer than Oregon) isolates federal officials of all sorts. I was able to take an initiative, get access to Mayor Potter's office, get a quick response and raise an issue that affected the mayor's actions at the U.S. Mayors' Conference meeting. That may play a small part in creating a voicing of public opinion about attacking Iran that may make it that much harder for irresponsible adventurists in the administrations to bring about such an attack much more powerful than I could make on my own. It also created an occasion for me and various other individuals working on the issue to communicate laterally and improve our more direct advocacy as a group or movement. If the mayors actually pass the resolution, it will become a tool we can use for further cooperation to raise more voices.

    All of this seems good to me, like something that makes political life in our oligarchical polity a little more democratic (small d). So I'm going to continue to ask local and state officials to play such roles when the opportunity presents itself, or if I/we can create them.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)
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    Chris, I truly appreciate your reasoned and well thought out responses. I certainly agree that the war in Iraq is a deficit spending war. At that point many against the war distance themselves from reality (the presumptive democrat presidential nominee included) by saying, "we could spend X mmillions, billions if we weren't fighting a war in Iraq. That is purely hyperbole as it has always been spending dollars that didn't exist. Would our country have spent those dollars elswhere? No one can ever tell for sure.

    I understand your concern about federal deficit reduction in other areas to make up for the cost of IRAQ. While I fail to grasp the more direct cause-effect scenarios that you do, I certainly can not argue effectively against it. Your most compelling and personal argument is the best - that Oregon National Guard personnel will be deployed once again. The last war that was fought primarily by state National Guard and reserve units was Korea. To begin serious consideration of wasting our folks in yet another middle eastern country I would agree with that premise.

    However, I have a very large concern with various municipal leaders wasting time on such a Quixotic (sp?) undertaking. Wouldn't these mayors better spend their efforts on other federally funded programs such as Education, Hazardous Materials Clean-up, Roads and Transportation and Work Opportunity?

  • (Show?)

    Kurt,

    Thanks for your generous and thoughtful reply. It may be that what looks Quixotic to you doesn't so much to me because I'm doing a lot of anti-war work that you might also regard as Quixotic, I'm not sure. The fact that I'm involved that way probably influences why it doesn't look like a waste of time to me.

    As we saw with Iraq, if the administration and the Congress and the Washington pundits and the Washington think-tankers are let alone to carry out foreign policy and war & peace debates, they create an echo chamber in which they convince themselves that things are true because everyone in their closed circle conversations thinks it is -- and they mistake "everyone around here who I pay attention to thinks" for a real "everyone thinks."

    The problem as I see it with the risk of an attack on Iran is to prevent the formation of another such echo chamber. It is hard to know how to do that. Contacting Congress doesn't get much response. So I tend to support whatever ways of getting other voices in to break up the closed Washington circuit.

    I do see your final point, but just think that the potential risks of unintended consequences of attacking Iran spinning out of control are big enough, and likely to come back to bite American domestic affairs badly enough, on top of it being wrong and also bad foreign policy as such, that it doesn't seem like such a lot of time to put into getting another voice out there that may have a decent chance of getting heard and reported.

    If the country weren't so darn big some of this might look different to me. The sheer scale makes democracy difficult IMO.

    Anyway, even if we don't quite have a meeting of the minds, thanks for keeping me honest by pressing me to get more specific about where I think the connections lie. It was interesting to think about and to see what I think I know and realize that there are other places where I suspect there would be effects but can't name them clearly. Something to work on.

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