City councilor plans to ask for vote against Iraq war
The Duluth City Council may soon be asked to wade into the political morass that has become President Bush's policy on the war in Iraq. Third District Councilor Russ Stewart had planned to ask his colleagues to vote Monday on a resolution calling...
The Duluth City Council may soon be asked to wade into the political morass that has become President Bush's policy on the war in Iraq.
Third District Councilor Russ Stewart had planned to ask his colleagues to vote Monday on a resolution calling on Bush to reverse his decision to send an additional 21,000 U.S. troops to Iraq this winter. Stewart, who represents downtown, Central Hillside and Park Point, also would ask the governor and state congressional delegation to withdraw Minnesota National Guard soldiers and airmen already stationed there.
But on Thursday Stewart pulled the resolution from the council agenda, saying he needs more time to lay groundwork for a "yes" vote.
Early word of Stewart's intent, however, prompted criticism from the conservative Connect Duluth organization.
"Councilor Stewart's proposal is extremely misguided and inappropriate given the fact the City of Duluth is facing extremely serious issues here at home," according to a statement by Connect Duluth, which was co-founded by computer business owner Bob Hansen.
Instead of wasting time debating Iraq, councilors should focus on fighting crime, attracting new jobs and solving the city's retiree health-care debacle, wrote Connect Duluth, which has about 200 people on its e-mail database.
The City Council does not neglect city business, especially retiree health care, Stewart responded.
"I was inspired by the action on the part of the administration to extend the stays of the Minnesota Guard in Iraq, unnecessarily disrupting lives and causing financial and other hardships on their families," Stewart said. "It's clear that the tide of public opinion on this war is turning, and the more people get involved and tell this president that his policy is misguided, the sooner we can bring this illegitimate war to an end."
Stewart, who teaches ethics and philosophy at Lake Superior College, said it is "an unwritten trust" that people who join the National Guard will not be called to service unless there is a credible threat to national security. He said nation-building and regime change in a country that did not invade America is a violation of that trust.
Earlier this month, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Minnesota's bipartisan eight-member Congressional delegation issued a letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, saying they are "frustrated and disappointed" with Bush's decision to extend the stay of Minnesota National Guard troops by three months. They also asked for additional pay and resources to assist their families at home.
More than 2,600 members of the guard's 1st Brigade Combat Team of the 34th Infantry Division probably will be in Iraq through July. About 450 airmen from Duluth's Minnesota Air National Guard 148th Fighter Wing are scheduled to leave for Afghanistan and Iraq in the next few months.
"Also disconcerting is the fact that the councilor [Stewart] is exhibiting complete disregard for the sustained vitality of Duluth's own [Minnesota Air National Guard] 148th Fighter Wing, which we nearly lost just a short time ago," according to Connect Duluth. "Did he consult with base leadership when drafting this resolution? Mr. Stewart needs to leave these matters to people more informed and better trained than him and stop distracting the council from policy matters over which they can actually exert some control."
More than 200 cities and counties across the United States, including cities in Minnesota and Wisconsin, have passed anti-Iraq war resolutions, according to Cities for Peace, a national nonprofit organization.