The New Haven Board of Aldermen passed a resolution opposing the “impending U.S. military action against Iraq” at Monday’s biweekly meeting by a vote of 24-2.
The resolution serves as a report to the federal government that New Haven political leaders do not support a preemptive strike on Saddam Hussein.
While members of the board discussed the subject of war and American exceptionalism, they also speculated on the dubious role of a municipal government in addressing national defense.
“We were elected to serve locally, not globally,” said Ward 26 Alderwoman Lindy Gold. “[We should] focus on what we have been elected to look at.”
Ward 9 Alderman John Halle, the author of the resolution, took issue with the perceived distance of a federal decision like a declaration of war.
“This is a distinctly local issue for cities like New Haven,” Halle said. “A number of people from this city could be coming home in body bags. It’s going to be on your conscience.”
Halle also said that since the United States fields a volunteer army, soldiers from New Haven would likely come from low-income neighborhoods like Newhallville and the Hill and would enter the army only because they have no other recourse.
“They’re going to be doing the fighting and the dying,” Halle said.
Ward 23 Alderman Yusuf Shah rebuffed these comments, saying bombs do not discriminate in who they maim.
“If we go to war, it’s going to be all of us,” Shah said. “Let’s be real about what’s happening here.”
Ward 11 Alderman Walter Wells, who was a soldier in northern Africa and Vietnam, spoke poignantly about his adopted Vietnamese daughter and the ravages of warfare.
“I abhor the idea of using war as an instrument of policy,” Wells said. “I feel too that a ‘pre-emption’ is a synonym for aggression. I hate to see us be any part of it.”
Ward 2 Alderwoman Joyce Chen likened the current crisis to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis and advocated the 11th-hour prudence of former President John F. Kennedy.
“We do not want to make that same type of mistake [that Kennedy almost made],” Chen said.
Dressed in a purple sweatsuit and with an anti-war sign draped around her neck, Anna Aschenbach, a member of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, joined the handful of onlookers in applauding the approval of the resolution. She summarized her views in a pithy verse.
“War is costly, peace is priceless,” she said.
The resolution was originally slated to go before the Human Services Committee of the Board, but Halle pressed for an immediate vote, citing the urgency of the matter in his appeal to his peers.
“I ask my colleagues to give ourselves the option to vote on this issue,” he said. “Now is the time.”
Although many aldermen questioned their own expertise on the issue, most seemed to rely on their inclinations and voted for immediate passage.
“My knowledge is not complete enough, and I’m not sure my constituents sent me here to do this, but I reluctantly support [the resolution],” said Ward 29 Alderman Carl Goldfield.
Ward 1 Alderman Ben Healey ’04 said he was satisfied with the result.
“It’s clear that my constituents have spoken strongly in opposition of a war against Iraq,” Healey said, alluding to a well-supported petition sent to him by Yale students. “I was very happy to represent them in this case.”
The two dissenting votes came from Ward 18 Alderwoman Arlene DePino and Ward 8 Alderman Vincent Mauro.