You can vote for or against Iraq war on Tuesday
November 5, 2006 - Daily Southtown - LINK
Nothing is more unpatriotic than taking a vote on whether to make war.
That's the reaction of many readers who have called or e-mailed in response to a referendum question on Tuesday's election ballot in Cook County.
"Shall the United States Government immediately begin an orderly and rapid withdrawal of all of its military personnel from Iraq, beginning with the National Guard and Reserves?" the referendum asks.
To which one caller said, "Since when do the people get to vote on whether we go to war? I thought that was the president's job."
I put that question to Carl Davidson, a spokesman for Chicagoans Against War and Injustice, one of more than 100 organizations that gathered signatures to place the referendum on ballots in Cook County and in several cities and townships across the state.
"First of all, the president doesn't have the power to declare war," Davidson said. "That power belongs to Congress. You can find it in the Constitution."
"Second, we're just trying to give people an opportunity to express their opinion about the war. What can be more democratic than letting people vote?"
The referendum is advisory. The result won't force the government to withdraw troops, or keep soldiers in Iraq.
So it's really nothing more than a public opinion poll and not a very effective one at that.
About one-third of the population votes in nonpresidential elections, and less than half of those who do bother to vote on referendum questions which appear at the end of the ballot.
Still, Davidson, 63, a resident of Chicago's Logan Square community, said he feels such votes give elected officials the courage to speak out against the war.
Davidson's an old hand at this sort of thing.
"I demonstrated against the Vietnam War," he said. " I just believe that an unjust war can only lead to greater injustice."
Some of the readers who contacted me seemed surprised to see a referendum question about the war was on the ballot when they went to vote early, or obtained copies of sample ballots.
Others seemed to think the question bordered on treason.
At least one suggested that a popular vote against the war would demoralize our troops.
"I think the best way we can show support for our troops is to bring them home now, before more of them are maimed or killed in a war that is not going to end in victory," Davidson said.
"There is no light at the end of the tunnel here, only darkness. We either end this war sooner and save lives or wait a while longer and watch more people die. In the end, there's going to be a civil war in Iraq."
I supported the war at the outset, to remove Saddam Hussein.
Haven't said much about it since.
I expected our country would be prepared to deal with the dangers of the occupation, which seemed obvious.
Obviously, I was wrong.
Now, the situation is a mess, I suspect it will get worse and I'm not sure there will ever be an "honorable" way out.
I can't see anything wrong with allowing people to vote, even if that vote seems as pointless as, well, the continuing occupation of Iraq.
Some of the organizations that are members of the coalition that put this referendum on the ballot include:
"American Friends Service Committee, Chicago Area CodePink, 8th Day Center, Champaign Urbana Citizens for Peace and Justice, Chicago Democratic Socialists of America, Communist Party of Illinois, Episcopal Peace Fellowship, Gay Liberation Network, International Socialist Organization, Nicaragua Solidarity Fair Trade Resource, and SouthSiders for Peace."
Not exactly mainstream America.
But they have the same right to put referendums on the ballot as anyone else.
As an anti-war protest, it's sure less confrontational then setting American flags on fire.
People who believe the patriotic thing to do is support the war should vote "No" on the referendum question.
Those who feel the war is wrong can vote "Yes."
The president is not likely to be moved either way.
As for the troops, if they don't realize by now that a large and growing percentage of the U.S. population wants out of Iraq, their friends and relatives back home haven't been telling them the truth.
But I think they know what's going on.
One of the reasons often cited in defense of the Iraq occupation is to bring democracy to the people who live there.
Well, the freedom to criticize your government and its policies is what democracy is all about.
It's ironic that so many defenders of this war are so quick to jump down the throats of those who would exercise that right.
By the way, if you get to the referendums on the election ballot, congratulations.
Most "patriotic" Americans won't even bother to vote.
Phil Kadner may be reached at email@example.com or (708) 633-6787.