Peace activists won a major victory on Monday, June 20, when the US Conference of Mayors voted to adopt two resolutions that call for a drawdown of troops in Iraq and Afghanistan and the abolition of nuclear weapons. Both resolutions also demand the reprioritization of defense spending, including the $126 billion spent each year in Iraq and Afghanistan, toward the needs of municipalities.
The group, which represents mayors of municipalities with 30,000 or more residents, has not passed such a resolution in 40 years.
Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) fellow Karen Dolan directs IPS's Cities For Peace project, which organizes elected officials and activists to take action against war on a local level. In a statement to Truthout, Dolan said that the mayors, "are responsive to the needs of the people in a way in which Congress and the president have not been. Unless money is better spent at the state and local level, we will not see an economic recovery." According to IPS, hundreds of municipalities around the United States have called for the end to the wars in the Middle East.
While the antiwar resolution was subject to vote after a contentious proposal to pull it, the nuclear weapons resolution passed unanimously, according to observers.
Jackie Cabasso of the Western States Legal Foundation and the North American organizer of Mayors for Peace said that the antinuclear weapons resolution puts the mayors squarely in opposition with President Obama, "who has maintained, and even modernized, nuclear weaponry."
Peace activists such as Cabasso were a major thrust behind the resolutions. According to C.J. Minster, an organizer with Codepink's "Bring the War Dollars Home" project, the resolution "calling on Congress to redirect military spending to domestic priorities" came after years of work by peace activists to have similar resolutions passed by municipalities.
The resolutions come on the heels of a report released by the conference that shows that, "double-digit unemployment rates persist in 103 (28%) of the 363 U.S. metro areas." Some areas, like Dayton, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan, are not forecast to see a return of jobs lost to the recession until at least 2020.
In 1971, the conference passed a hotly contested resolution demanding an end to the war in Vietnam. Introduced by Jack Maltester, then-mayor of San Leandro, California, the resolution was opposed by Richard Nixon and numerous conference attendees but ultimately passed - with support from the mayors of both Chicago and New York.
Participants said this year's antiwar resolution, which included amendments on support for troops serving overseas, was much tamer than the Vietnam resolution.
And rightfully so, said submitting mayor Kitty Piercy of Eugene, Oregon, in a separate statement. Piercy believes the resolution's primary message is about meeting the needs of cities. "Our city has had to cut $20 million from our budget in the last three years," said Piercy. "Our children and families long for, and call for, a real investment in the future of America."