By BEN SWARTZ
WASHINGTON (Sept. 22, 2008)—Montgomery County is poised to join more than 200 places nationwide that have signed resolutions to end the U.S. conflict in Iraq, according to Cities for Peace.
The Montgomery County Council will present a resolution to end the U.S. occupation of Iraq Monday at a town hall meeting moderated by County Executive Isiah Leggett. If passed, Montgomery County would become the first county in Maryland and the fifth county in the nation to adopt such a resolution.
The meeting will focus on linking the nation's and the county's recent economic slumps to the ongoing war in Iraq.
"Montgomery County taxpayers have already contributed over $2 billion to this failed policy in Iraq," said Karen Dolan, director of the Cities for Peace Project. "This amounts to about $4,000 per household, so you have a direct economic effect just on family pocketbooks."
Cities for Peace is a project of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington dedicated to raising awareness about the local costs of the Iraq war.
Dolan and Brendan O'Flaherty, an economist from Columbia University, will lecture on this topic at the meeting.
"I think the economic reality of the war is coming home," said Pat Salomon, a spokeswoman for PeaceAction Montgomery, the lead group in the coalition pushing for the resolution. "This is a $3 trillion war. And basically the expense of this war is ongoing even if we were able to stop it today."
The resolution comes at an economically uncertain time, with the county facing a projected budget shortfall of nearly $250 million for the next fiscal year.
The ballooning expense of the Iraq war has dried up federal funds for public services, meaning the county can't have a reasonable budget until the end of the war, Salomon said.
"The dollars for local public services, the healthy growth of communities, the protection of our system of education—it's all going unattended to, and it's because we're in a war economy," she said.
The resolution needs the support of five of the nine council members to pass. The council has not yet scheduled a vote.
"I think state governments and local governments are being strangled at a time when we have a great need for resources," said Councilman Marc Elrich, D-At Large, a supporter of the resolution. "We're just not getting any help."
Proponents of the resolution do not expect it to have any immediate effect on the war or the economy, but most are quick to say its passage will be an important symbolic gesture.
"When people's voices aren't being heard on Capitol Hill the closest that they have for a democratic expression on this war, like half the population of the United States, is to express it through their local city, county and state representatives," said Dolan.
Advocates hope Montgomery County will help call attention to the war as an issue; supporters hope to end what they feel is a disconnect between federal policies and local views.
Similar resolutions passed at state and local levels account for more than half the U.S. population, according to Cities for Peace. Each resolution is specific to the city, town, county or state that develops it. Baltimore passed a resolution calling for a complete withdrawal of U.S. forces in Iraq, and the state of Maryland passed a resolution calling for an end to the escalation of the Iraq war.
"We will be one of the last, not one of the first," said Elrich. "There are hundreds of cities and counties that are joined in this effort to say, 'Let's get out of here and deal with our own stuff.'"
The meeting is from 7 to 9 p.m. in Globe Hall at Montgomery College, Germantown Campus.
Capital News Service contributed to this report.