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The city council and the war, take 2

Last week I chastised the Houston City Council for taking time away from cleaning up its perilous finances (today’s cheery news is the possibility of unpaid furloughs for city workers and even fewer services for the city’s 100,000+ mentally ill folks) to discuss a resolution opposing an invasion of Iraq. While I am with them on the issue of invasion, I firmly believe that it’s not the City Council’s purpose to spend time on such questions.

The op-ed pages of today’s Chron are chock full of discussion on this topic. There’s an unsigned editorial that disagrees with me on the relevance of this issue for the Council:

Houston City Council Wednesday will consider two resolutions opposing precipitous war in Iraq. Foreign policy is not council’s bailiwick, but there is no harm and some virtue in using part of one council meeting to debate an issue that has captured most of the world’s attention.

The editorial goes on the specifically criticize some portions of Council member Carroll Robinson’s resolution. Robinson has his own op-ed piece which defends the Council’s position:

Elected officials at the local level must now be aware of the domestic threat level based on events happening all around the world in order to help ensure the safety and security of our residents and community’s infrastructure — from airports to seaports to water and sewer systems to tourist attractions and beyond.


Locally, I believe it is necessary to combine our police, fire, and health and human services departments into a new Public Safety Department to more effectively and efficiently respond to the new threats to our city’s safety.

What our nation does abroad now more than ever has life-and-death repercussions and consequences at home.

The discussions and decision about disarming Saddam Hussein are now as much a domestic as foreign affairs matter.

Decisions about the use of U.S. military forces and foreign aid throughout the world are now both domestic as well as foreign affairs matters.

How America is viewed in the world has consequences at home.

How we balance investing in domestic priorities such as funding first responders, universal health care, prescription drugs for seniors and education for our children against maintaining foreign military commitments is an issue that must be addressed by local elected officials. It impacts our constituents, our bottom line and our ability to improve homeland security.

These are just a few of the reasons why I believe that City Council now has a responsibility and obligation to share its thoughts and let its members’ voices be heard on what use to be considered solely foreign affairs issues.

His position, implied though not stated, is that the proposed invasion would increase the risk of domestic terrorism, not decrease it. That’s a position I share, though I’d argue that we’d get more bang for our buck on this issue by having our city lobbyists harangue the local Congressfolk and our Senators.

(Those of you who favor invasion, by the way, might note that if the focus had been strictly on containing Iraq’s nuclear capabilities, instead of getting bogged down in bogus al Qaeda allegations, Robinson’s argument would be essentially rendered moot. Another example, in my opinion, of the piss-poor job Team Bush has done in explaining the reason why we’re going down this path.)

Finally, there are six (count ’em) letters to the editor trashing the Council, not one in support. Given how far backward the Chron bends to try and present a “balanced” picture of such things, that’s a pretty strong statement.

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