On Oct. 7 the mayor and city council of Northampton passed a resolution called, “Bring the War Dollars Home,” which calls on the Northampton’s congressional representatives to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the grounds of economic cost to the city.
Six council members voted for the resolution, two voting against it and one City Council member abstained. A copy of the resolution will be presented to Senators John Kerry and Scott Brown along with Representative Richard Neal to urge them to oppose further funding of these wars.
This is the first resolution of its kind to be passed in the state of Massachusetts. The efforts in Northampton were prompted by a similar resolution that was adopted in Portland, Maine.
The resolution was introduced on May 6, 2010 with the recommendations of mayor Clare Higgins and City Councilors Jesse Adams, Maureen Carney, Marianne LaBarge, David Narkewicz, Pamela Schwartz and Paul Spector. Concerns about the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were brought to the attention of these public officials by the Alliance for Peace and Justice which led to the drafting of the resolution.
“There is not much discussion in Northampton or the United States about what these wars are costing us. Whether people are for or against this bill, it is important to talk about these wars and what they are costing us instead of being disengaged,” said Spector.
A public forum was held on June 23 and 42 citizens from the area expressed their views on the resolution to the Mayor and City Counselors. Marty Nathan, a resident of Northampton’s Ward two presented to the mayor 500 signatures supporting the Bring the War Dollars Home resolution at the beginning of the forum. The mayor and city council was present but did not speak.
Concerns expressed at the public forum varied, with Evelyn Robb of Northampton who addressed why Northampton should be concerned with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, “A city that spends $40,000 a day is affected in its educational needs, environmental and transportation.”
Estimates of how much Northampton is putting towards the war were provided by the National Priorities Project, which calculates the cost of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars based on how citizens taxes fund the wars’ budget. The resolution lists the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 as $1.07 trillion and points out that Northampton has spent over $114 million funding this budget.
The loss of life in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and the sacrifice of the soldiers is another issue that the resolution touched upon. The resolution commended the, “valiant efforts,” of US troops. According to the Department of Defense, 4,400 US troops have been killed in Iraq while 1,140 have lost their lives serving their country in Afghanistan. Over 39,000 US troops have been wounded in both conflicts since 2001.
Many people that expressed their viewpoints in the public forum were concerned with how this resolution would be viewed by those serving in these conflicts.
“This sends the wrong message to our local military serving overseas. You may say that the resolution doesn’t say that we don’t support the troops,” said Mary Lou Jillson, a Northampton resident who opposed the measure, “It isn’t what we say, but what we do that shows our support. Do not insult the troops and reduce the dollar support of the military.”
City council members Eugene Tacy and Angela Plassmann opposed the resolution.“[I] voted against the resolution because the assertion that the resolution was in support of the troops was not accurate. The resolution is detrimental to the troops, their morale and the mission,” said Plassman. “Furthermore, the resolution is purely symbolic and the negative message to our servicemen and women is more significant than the message to our legislators.”
Following the June public forum, the resolution went to three subcommittees in Northampton; the committee for social services and veteran affairs, the human rights commission and the committee for economic development and land use. At the Sept. 16 meeting, an amended resolution went through its first reading and as is required underwent its second reading on Oct. 6 where it was passed.
The final clause of the resolution calls for Northampton’s congressional members, “to support federal funding for the over 2 million new Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, particularly the thousands who have become disabled or otherwise physically or mentally wounded, to ensure that they receive the support they deserve on behalf of our grateful nation. This support should also be extended to the military spouses and families of our veterans.”
According to an August poll by CBS News, 6 out of 10 people in the US oppose the war in Afghanistan.
City counselor Spector gave comment to how he hopes the resolution will stimulate conversation about the wars in the middle east.
“More people are educated about these issues, and 9 years ago you couldn’t find many people who were opposed to the war,” said Spector, “This resolution should provide support to President Obama by starting a dialogue and encourage him to leave Afghanistan.”
Sara Jackson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.