By Sam Laird
Four years ago, Santa Cruz was the first American city to officially object to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Remaining on the cutting edge of anti-war politics, the city council passed a resolution two weeks ago opposing the ongoing conflict in Iraq, as well as the possibility of United States military involvement in Iran.
City leaders feel the resolution reflects the great majority of their constituents’ beliefs and consider it a crucial statement against the possibility of a wider military incursion in the Middle East. Council members also believe that Santa Cruz is the first city to take an official stance regarding the possibility of military action against Iran.
“I think what has happened in relation to Iran is very similar to the buildup to the involvement in Iraq, which was a terrible mistake,” said City Councilmember Mike Rotkin, who authored the resolution. “It’s making things worseâ€“not betterâ€“for us on a global level.”
Over the last several months, members of the Bush Administration have emphasized the possibility that Iran has been supplying weapons and explosives to Iraqi insurgents, while government officials have also decried Iran’s efforts to build nuclear weaponry.
The city council’s three-page resolution rails against “questionable information about Iran” that mirrors the “lies that led to the ill-considered and ill-fated occupation of Iraq.” It also mentions the more than 3,000 American soldiers killed in Iraq, “the death and maiming of countless hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians,” and the “waste” of more than four hundred billion American tax dollars.
Mayor Emily Reilly said she was inspired to introduce the resolution after hearing Representative Maxine Waters (D-Los Angeles) urge people to act against the war during a February speech in Santa Cruz. Reilly added that local citizens had compelled her to take action as well.
“People all over this community have been saying to me, ‘I’m not an activist and I don’t usually speak out or march against things, but I’m so sick of this and we’ve got to stop it now,’” she explained.
While Reilly said that public response to the resolution has been “overwhelmingly positive,” some have expressed dissatisfaction with the declaration for a couple reasonsâ€“that the war isn’t a municipal issue and that the resolution ignores citizens who may be in favor of the war.
“The City Council should focus less on their international concerns and more on the city positions into which they were elected,” UC Santa Cruz College Republicans President Kelly Hayes told City on a Hill Press via e-mail. “Their opinions and resolutions regarding the U.S. military are useless; their time would be better spent making Santa Cruz a better place to live.”
Rotkin addressed the concern that the Council was misrepresenting a portion of its constituents, and Reilly adamantly refuted the notion that the war overseas is not a local matter.
“I know and feel very confident that the vast majority of the people in our town don’t want us to get involved in Iran and want us out of Iraq,” Rotkin said. “Not a 51 percent majority, but the overwhelming majority.”
Reilly agreed, explaining, “I completely disagree with anyone who says this isn’t a local issue. Tell that to someone who has somebody over there. It’s a local issue because local people are over there fighting, local lives are at risk, and it’s local money not being spent on schools, health care, and our children.”
Councilmembers hope that the resolution against action in Iran will spur other communities to voice concern on a national issue, much the way their resolution four years ago did.
“When we were the first city to come out against bombing Iraq, it was seen by some as something that wasn’t really important,” Reilly said. “But we ended up having 153 cities come out against the war in Iraq. Sometimes one little thing can create a ripple effect.”