A Little Debate Never Hurt Anyone

March 29 2007, 2:27 PM
The Colorado state Senate today passed a resolution against escalating the war in Iraq. According to a press release from the Senate Democrats:
On the day the U.S. Senate passed a bill providing $122 billion to pay for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and ordered Bush to begin withdrawing troops, the Colorado Senate Democrats passed a resolution opposing the escalation of the war in Iraq. Senator Ron Tupa (D-Boulder) and Senator Ken Gordon (D-Denver) passed Senate Joint Memorial 2, which opposes President Bush's plan to increase the number of American troops in Iraq by 21,500. "The purpose of this joint resolution is two-fold," noted Sen. Tupa. "First and foremost it is a statement in support of our troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Secondly, it sends a message to the President that we are opposed to his ‘go it alone' strategy of sending even more of our troops into the middle of a civil war."... ...The resolution mirrors a similar measure, HCR 63, which passed in the U.S. House of Representatives with bi-partisan support on a vote of 246-182 on February 16, 2007. The resolution is part of a nationwide effort by at least 29 state legislatures to put pressure on the President to stop the escalation of the war. During debate today Senate Republicans argued that the memorial was not a state issue. "Of course the war in Iraq is a state issue," said Senator Gordon, "we are not in favor of cutting funding. Voting on and debating this issue is the kind of thing you do in a democracy. As humans and elected officials it is our right and obligation to bring this resolution forward." Senator Moe Keller (D-Wheat Ridge), a member of the Joint Budget Committee, pointed out the cuts that the state was faced with because of the war in Iraq. Senator Keller stated, "$16 million in homeland security funds were cut by the federal government which would have been used to protect our state. $5 million cut used in incarcerating illegal immigrants. $11 million cut to criminal justice funds for local law enforcement. $128 million cut for hospitals. $25 million cut in health care for the mentally ill. $99 million cut in transportation. We have other costs we are facing because the federal government must find money to support the war. This is a state issue and we are being hit hard, we cannot absorb the cuts." The Joint Resolution passed on a party line vote of 20 to 14 with 1 excused, and will be carried in the House by Representative Terrance Carroll (D-Denver) and House Majority Leader Alice Madden (D-Boulder).
While the Iraq war is certainly a hot issue around the country, the main debate surrounding this resolution revolves around a point addressed in this press release: Should state legislatures really be debating something that they have no control over? Today's vote was for a resolution, which is non-binding, and so you could make the case that it doesn't really do anything. On the other hand, if passed it does send a small message to congress and the rest of the country that Colorado's legislature opposes the escalation in Iraq. I wasn't sure where I stood on whether or not the legislature should debate foreign policy issues until the state Senate last week passed a different resolution on a different subject. As the Rocky Mountain News reported:
Sen. Nancy Spence's eyes welled with tears when she recounted how the U.S. stood by while her adopted granddaughter's parents were among a half-million Rwandans slaughtered in that country's civil war in 1994. "She was 3 years old at the time," Spence said. "I have firsthand accounts from her relatives who survived and talked about visiting mass graves. They identified the bodies of her mother, who was pregnant." The Centennial Republican urged the Colorado Senate on Friday not to stand idly by and do nothing while similar genocide occurs in Sudan. She stood with a majority of the Senate and backed a bill that requires the state's pension fund to divest in companies financially involved with Sudan. House Bill 1184 is sponsored by Denver Democrats Sen. Peter Groff and House Speaker Andrew Romanoff... ...Congress estimates that from 300,000 to 400,000 people have been killed in the Darfur region and another 2 million people have been displaced from their homes by the Sudan government and its allies since the Darfur crisis began in 2003.
Everyone argues whether or not the U.S. should continue its fight in Iraq, but I doubt you'll find someone who can really argue that what is happening in Darfur is not a terrible tragedy. I'm glad that the legislature is addressing the issue of Darfur because anything helps when it comes to drawing more attention and focus on the genocide there. I realized that if I don't have a problem with the state legislature discussing Darfur, I guess I can't have a problem with a discussion about Iraq. The latter is obviously a much more political issue than the other, and I understand that complaints that perhaps the legislature is wasting "valuable tax dollars" in discussing foreign policy issues. But as long as it doesn't get out of hand - as long as the legislature limits its foreign policy debates to just a couple of resolutions or bills - then I guess I don't see the problem with it. If the legislature's discussion of a few top foreign policy issues attracts attention and gets other Coloradans thinking about the subjects, I don't think that's a bad thing. After all, we can only discuss "Dancing with the Stars" to a certain degree.