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Vichy New York By: Joseph J. Sabia
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, October 07, 2002

The City Council of Ithaca, New York has voted unanimously to oppose the war in Iraq. Ithaca is the second city in the nation to pass such a resolution, with Santa Cruz, California being the first. After over an hour of speeches — and without a single dissent from any member of the public — Ithaca's governing body proclaimed:

Common Council urges the city's representatives in Congress (Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton Senator Charles Schumer, and Congressman Maurice Hinchey) to vote against any resolution in Congress that would allow the President to declare war on Iraq.

Quick! Somebody tell President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld to pull out the troops! The Ithaca City Council has spoken. Forget the Bush Doctrine; we now have the Ithacite Doctrine: "Peaceful justice is achieved through the appeasement of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein."

The absurdity of a city government speaking out on national foreign policy issues is staggering. Who cares what a bunch of rapidly aging, 1960s-era local representatives think about the war in Iraq? If these people are so opposed to the war on terrorism, why don't they make individual phone calls to folks who actually have a Constitutional say on these matters (national representatives)? The City of Ithaca is a mess, with neo-communists raising property taxes and sales taxes through the roof, while at the same time increasing spending on multicultural idiocy and enacting strangling environmental regulations to keep businesses out. Surely, the Council ought to be spending more time on these local matters than instructing Donald Rumsfeld on military strategy. (Or maybe the Council is discussing Iraq to distract local voters from the failing economy…hmmmmmm.)

Mary Anne Grady Flores, one of Ithaca's prominent communist activists, began public debate on the matter by blaming the United States for Iraq's misery and proudly proclaiming her flouting U.S. law:

The Iraqi people suffer from depleted uranium contamination. They have endured the most brutal bombing, where the US led forces dropped more tonnage during the 45 days of the Gulf War in 1991 than all the wars since WWII, and who continue to suffer bombing for the past twelve years. The Iraqi people have been left with 800,000 pounds of the radioactive depleted uranium dust, causing horrible birth defects. I shared how my sister Clare went to Iraq with the Ithaca Catholic Workers and Voices in the Wilderness in defiance of the sanctions, bringing humanitarian aid to the children and women in the hospitals…I pointed out that the real reason Bush wants to invade Iraq was for the huge Iraqi oil reserves that the Bush administration wants control over. I asked all present to think about who their moral leaders are. Jesus, Ghandi, Martin Luther King, or Budda. Would they have us go to war for OIL?

As Boston radio talk-show host Jay Severin has pointed out, "If the first Gulf War were about oil, we would all be driving around in Ford Excursions with the safety brake up." Honestly, aside from the most psychologically-disturbed conspiracy-minded leftists, who could possible believe that the chief reason for the upcoming war in Iraq is our desire to get control over oil reserves? Saddam Hussein himself has offered the United States greater access to Iraqi oil if we would lift sanctions and not bomb them back to the Stone Age. Surely, this would be an easier path to getting more oil than, say, war.

The Bush administration believes that war is the answer because Hussein is hiding weapons of mass destruction and is dangerously close to developing nuclear weapons that will ultimately be used against the United States. Further, the administration believes that the Iraqi government has ties with al Qaeda and will not hesitate to give weaponry to terrorist organizations. The Ithaca City Council, of course, does not care about national security. Its members are more concerned with holding hands, singing peace songs, and making traitorous statements about their country.

Susan Blumenthal, the member of the City Council than penned the anti-war resolution, stated:

Most people in the city [of Ithaca] can see that the present situation relating to Iraq is ill-conceived and that they believe that out country isn't ready for the momentous decision to declare war, that we don't currently have enough information to make an informed democratic decision and that diplomacy hasn't been given enough of a chance or that it has run its course.

So, Ms. Blumenthal is angry that she does not have enough information. There is a reason for that — she is an alderman for goodness sake! Her job is to hold bake sales and give out commemorative pens at block parties. She is not privy to national security documents because (1) she was not elected serve in the Congress or as President and (2) she is a dimwit who could not possibly process information more technical than, say, a Betty Crocker recipe.

As for diplomacy, that has been going on since the Gulf War ended in 1991. 11 years of diplomacy have led us to the Iraqi government expelling weapons inspectors, developing weapons of mass destruction, experimenting with nuclear weapons, developing close ties with terrorist organizations, and plotting the assassination of a U.S. President. We gave peace a chance. Maybe it's time for another tactic.

Patricia Vaughn, another Council representative, put the vote in historical perspective:

In my somewhat more than five years on Council, I have seldom had as much constituent comment. In fact, I think I have had more than even — excuse me for sounding frivolous — but even more than on the Dog Park.

This is huge! The Dog Park is taking a backseat to the war! Call the New York Times.

David Whitmore, a representative of the city council, justified his vote for the resolution, saying:

Of all the responsibilities that I feel as an elected leader in a democratic nation, probably one of the most sacred is dissent. Dissent is one of the most powerful ways that we in a democracy can show our thinking in the face of powerful individuals, and in some cases, our own government. I think it only appropriate that we as elected leaders set the stage for more dissent against the United States government.

Liberal anti-war activists have found their new Holy Commandment: Dissent. They are unable to argue substantive points, so they cloak themselves in the "inherent holiness" of dissent. But there is nothing inherently good (or bad) about dissent. The First Amendment gives us the right to speak our views without government coercion, but it does not guarantee the right to be heard nor the does it decide what positions are right and which are wrong. Taking an anti-war position in order to uphold the principle of "dissent" is goofy. For instance, Senator Robert Byrd could dissent from 99 of his colleagues and vote to support mandatory cross burnings on black citizens' property. Should Byrd be praised because he had the guts to dissent?

Alderman Edward Hershey stated:

I remember in the 1960s when I worked on peace campaigns for Congress in New York City and on Long Island and in 1969 when on active duty on reserves of the United States, I was exposed first-hand to people on the way to Vietnam and on their way back. And in the early 1970s as a journalist when I covered a lot of the demonstrations and the common question that was asked again and again was 'How did we get here? What's this Gulf of Tonkin business?' Who was paying attention? I don't know how this is going to turn out…but this time we're paying attention and that's what this resolution is about.

Mr. Hershey is clearly among the 1960s relics who believe that every U.S. military action is the equivalent of Vietnam (which was a righteous war anyway). Now that he is middle aged, he feels impotent. Mr. Hershey is no longer the strapping young lad who could find "free love" from the flower girls. To regain his manhood, he must hearken back to the good old days of the 1960s and scream about the Gulf of Tonkin incident and anti-war demonstrations (which were really self-absorbed anti-draft demonstrations). Watching a middle aged man go through his midlife crisis during a public city council meeting is painful.

Ithaca Mayor Alan Cohen closed discussion on the matter with these remarks:

I support [the anti-war resolution] with reservations…Absent new information, yes, we do urge that our representatives not pass [a congressional war resolution]. But I think we need to be sensitive to the fact that the federal government operates differently than we do. Their information flow is different. We are talking about an issue of national security and there could be information out there that we don't have a clue about.

Finally, at least a partial admission of truth: the Ithaca City Council does not have a clue about anything related to national security. The time has come for our scientists in the Department of Defense to find a way to exempt the residents of Ithaca, New York from the protections of a missile defense system.

Joseph J. Sabia is a Ph.D. candidate in economics at Cornell University.

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