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State legislators urged to pass resolutions against escalation by grassroots coalition

Christian Avard
Published: Thursday January 18, 2007
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A coalition of grassroots organizations is kicking off a new campaign to encourage state legislators to introduce and pass resolutions preventing President Bush’s escalation of the war in Iraq, RAW STORY has learned.

One leading Democratic senator believes that, more than symbolic, such legislative actions could have a major impact, as long as they act now.

The Progressive States Network, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, the Women Legislators’ Lobby, and MoveOn.org are working in tandem to help state governments send a message that adding an additional 21,500 troops will have major implications at the state level.

“State legislators are closest to their constituents and it’s appropriate they take this issue on,” said Steve Doherty, co-chair of the Progressive States Network. “This escalation will have major costs. Many National Guardsmen and women serve in the local police force, fire departments, and sheriffs offices. Their services are being strained and when they are strained, it’s an obligation for each legislature to step up, look at what’s causing this and see what they can do about it. That’s where our role comes in.”

Legislators in California, Illinois, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, and Washington will introduce the resolutions in the coming weeks, and Progressive States executive director Joel Balkan believes more states will soon follow.

“I can attest that if more states take it up, the more these efforts will embolden our legislators in DC. It is key for our [elected officials in Washington] to cite how many state legislatures have debated and passed it,” said David Sirota, co-chair of the Progressive States Network and author of the best-selling book, Hostile Takeover. “States are struggling to deal with all kinds of fiscal priorities [at the state level] but now we have a critical opportunity to make an impact and stop a military escalation that the majority of the public opposes.”

Also present at Wednesday’s teleconference was Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA), who is sponsoring legislation in the Senate that would require the President to receive authorization from that body before sending an additional 21,500 troops to Iraq. Kennedy believes that state legislatures can make a major impact and that the time to act is now.

“When seven states passed an increase in the minimum wage, we got 380 votes to increase it [in the House] with 80 Republicans supporting it as well,” said Kennedy. “They did it because they knew what was happening at the state level. Our amendment says you have to come back to the Congress for authorization of the manpower; it will give the Congress a yes or no on the resoluton. It’s so important and timely because if we wait until there is a request from Appropriations, which will come in another six-seven weeks from now, the troops will already be over there by then. This is a timely issue and this has to get done expeditiously. We’re now talking within a week to 10 days prior to the day they send them over.”

Tom Matssie from MoveOn.org said their organization is currently putting all its resources on the table to push Congress to stop the escalation. It is also encouraging citizens to promote these resolutions by sending alerts to their members nationwide urging them to call their state legislators to sponsor and vote on the measure. “It is more urgent than ever we ramp up the grassroots efforts around the US,” said Matssie. “It’s so critical we get as much as we can out there to speak out on this escalation [and bring our troops home now].”

The Women’s Legislators Lobby, a nonpartisan network of women legislators, is also urging women to oppose Bush’s efforts. “Women legislators from around the country are hearing from their constituents that they are deeply concerned about the president’s actions to keep troops in Iraq,” said State Senator Nan Grogan Orrock of Georgia, the President of the Women’s Legislators’ Lobby. “With the costs of the Iraq War mounting, we expect a robust response from the states, and the Women’s Legislators’ Lobby will play a role in that.”

An earlier major grassroots effort that arose from state legislatures was the campaign to save Social Security from privatization. Brad Woodhouse of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq previously worked with Americans United to Protect Social Security and has seen the power states have in influencing policy.

“Last year we created a public uprising on the included resolutions on the local and state level on the privatization of Social Security,” said Woodhouse. “We can unify around anti-escalation just like we did against the privatization of Social Security, but this is a more serious and immediate concern… We thought we had no other choice after the election but President Bush has proved us all wrong. That’s why this is so important.”

“These coming weeks are vital. We as a nation will decide whether to embrace an escalation that is little more than grasping at straws – more troops send in to become targets and still no strategy for victory,” said Joel Barkan of Progressive States. “The time has long since passed when silence on these issues was acceptable and failure to act now at the state level may have dire consequences.”