Fri, 04 Mar 2005
Organization: EF! Media
Arcata resolution supports city residents -- and the Constitution
Friday, February 25, 2005
by Dave Meserve
The proposed "Resolution Supporting Troops Who Refuse to Serve in
Illegal Wars," currently being considered by the Arcata City Council,
lays out a fully documented logical argument:
1. The war against Iraq:
a. violates Article I, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which
grants only to Congress the right to declare war.
b. violates Article VI of the US Constitution, in that it violates
ratified treaties, which have the status of the "supreme law of the
2. Therefore it is an illegal war.
3. Orders to serve in an illegal war are unlawful orders.
4. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, armed forces members
must obey only lawful orders.
5. Therefore, enlisted city residents who choose to disobey orders
when called upon to participate in the war against Iraq, or any
illegal war, should have protection from prosecution, because they
are in compliance with the law and the Constitution.
If it adopts the resolution, the council will be protecting its
enlisted citizens from forced participation in wars that violate the
Constitution. These enlisted citizens may be our family members or
our neighbors. If they consciously consent to serve in Iraq, then we
will work for their safe and speedy return home (as we already have
by passing Resolution 045-10, last July, demanding immediate
withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan and Iraq). If enlisted
residents choose to refuse to serve in Iraq, or any illegal war, then
we support their resistance and will endeavor to protect them from
military prosecution for desertion or related crimes.
What form of protection the city can provide is a subject for further
discussion by the people of Arcata and the council at a future town
hall meeting. Should we support those who refuse unlawful orders by
connecting them with pro-bono legal support? Should we instruct our
police, by ordinance, to disregard the enlistment status of any
person they contact? Should we demand that our school board only
allow military recruiters on our high school campus during career
fairs, where non-military career options are also featured?
Why is the council taking time discussing national issues instead of
dealing with Arcata's pressing problems? The first fallacy included
in this question is the word, "instead." All councilmembers work very
hard to serve the people of Arcata. Almost all our work is on issues
that everyone would agree are local: directing and supporting staff
in maintaining and keeping our streets safe, providing affordable
housing, developing good planning policies, providing good
transportation, working toward a sustainable and healthier community,
providing diverse recreational opportunities, maintaining fiscal
responsibility and funding community projects.
Most of this happens, not at council meetings, but in consultations
with our staff and through our participation in regional
organizations. If we then choose to spend some of our time on "larger
issues," we have earned that right. Furthermore, like all enlisted
military personnel, all elected officials take the same oath: to
"support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all
enemies, foreign and domestic." It is the right and the sworn duty of
the City Council to defend the Constitution and members of our
community when they are threatened by the imperial ambitions of this,
or any other, federal administration.
Resolutions addressing the Iraq war certainly have national and
international aspects, but they also have a strong local component.
If the child of a local family joins the Army right out of high
school, lured by the promise of a cash bonus and a free education,
and if that young person is then ordered to serve in an
unconstitutional war like the one in Iraq, that is profoundly local.
And is it not a local issue if residents who are in the Reserves or
the National Guard are called up to serve in Iraq? Who will coach the
Little League team, or mow their lawn, or support their families on a
reduced paycheck? One could argue that service in some wars is
necessary for the defense of the nation, but clearly the Iraq war is
both unnecessary and unconstitutional.
Will our actions change U.S. policy? Not as long as it's just Arcata;
but San Francisco plans to consider a similar resolution next month,
and other cities are watching what happens here. The council is our
smallest, most democratic and most accessible level of government.
Historically, the American Revolution actually began years before
1776, when small western Massachusetts towns ran the British out.
City resolutions have had powerful effects on national policy in
ending the Vietnam and Central American wars, controlling nuclear
weapons and in opposing the USA Patriot Act.
Is there a threat to Arcata businesses from a potential boycott? I
think not. People visit here from around the world to see our
redwoods and our coastline and to applaud Arcata, the little town
that has consistently stood up for environmental, human and
constitutional rights. We should be proud of that tradition and make
sure that we continue it.
Dave Meserve serves on the Arcata City Council.
The opinions expressed in this My Word piece do not necessarily
reflect the editorial viewpoint of the Times-Standard.
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