Portland residents will finally have a say about the war in Iraq when the Portland City Council conducts a public hearing on a resolution calling for the United States to make a "rapid and orderly" withdrawal of its troops.
The public hearing will begin at 2 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 30, in Portland City Hall.
Proposed by City Commissioner Randy Leonard, the resolution "urges the United States government to immediately commence an orderly and rapid withdrawal of United States military personnel from Iraq, dismantle U.S. military bases in Iraq, relinquish control of Iraq's economy and provide the necessary financial compensation and resources for Iraqis to rebuild Iraq."
If the City Council adopts the resolution, Portland would be the 277th city to adopt such a resolution. The resolution then would be read on the U.S. Senate and House floors and submitted to the Senate President and the Speaker of the House.
The resolution also urges Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski and all Oregon local, state and nationally elected officials "to support rapid withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and to oppose deployment of Oregon national guard troops."
Instead of using financial resources to conduct the war, the resolution says, Congress should redirect funds to "address the urgent needs of the most vulnerable portions of our population, including education, health care and full benefits for returning veterans."
Response to the public hearing – and to a blog Leonard wrote on the Web site BlueOregon — has been good, and Leonard said he expected a big turnout on Thursday. He has worked on the resolution for six weeks; it was first brought to him by Dan Handleman, publisher of the local "Copwatch" newsletter. Since then, drafts have been given to and revised by local officials and members of Oregon's congressional delegation, including U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore.
"Right after the election, I wondered if I needed to do it," Leonard said. "But I heard the Democrats talk about extending the timetable (to remove troops from Iraq) more than I or most Americans like. I decided that Congress needs to know what the 30th largest city in the U.S. thinks about having the nation's young men and women put in harm's way."
The proposed resolution notes that the Portland City Council supports the men and women deployed in Iraq but that families in the United States have "paid a heavy price … with the deaths of more than 2,500 U.S. troops and the wounding and disabling of more than 17,000 U.S. military personnel" along with a minimum of 100,000 Iraqi civilian deaths. Those deaths include "many men, women and children who simply found themselves 'in the wrong place at the wrong time' in this ill-conceived conflict," the resolution says.
It also notes that more than $300 billion has been spent by Congress to finance military operations and reconstruction in Iraq and adds that more than $370 million was spent by Portland taxpayers on the war and occupation of Iraq.
The local share could have provided one year of Head Start for 50,000 Portland children, one year's medical insurance for almost 223,000 Portland children, one year's salary for over 6,000 public school teachers, 3,600 additional housing units or more than 18,000 four-year scholarships at public universities in Oregon, according to the resolution.
The figures cited in the resolution come from the National Priorities Project, which keeps a running tab on the national cost of the war and has broken down the cost by state and cities in the state. The state contributions are based on tax revenues, according to data from the Internal Revenue Services, and cities' costs are based on state costs, population and income levels in each location.
Leonard said several people have told him that the war is wrong, and he agrees.
"We were misled by the president into invading Iraq," he added. "We have lost nearly 3,000 American lives for the purpose of achieving a set of goals based on a set of untruths. I'm concerned that the Democrats don't back out" of its stated resolve to get the troops out of Iraq.
Leonard's timetable for an "orderly and rapid" withdrawal of the U.S. military, which the resolution calls for, would end sometime around July 1, 2007.
"There is a legitimate concern that withdrawing too rapidly would expose the troops that are left to more danger," Leonard said and "the country as a whole needs to do more "self-examination."
It's (Iraq) a hell on earth, and we should be humiliated that our country had a part in it," he added.