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Volume 77, Number 8 | July 25 - 31, 2007

Villager photo by Jason Sperling

Congressmember Nydia Velazquez announcing her Opt Out of Iraq War Act at City Hall last week.

Velazquez: Funding war should be taxpayers’ choice

By Lincoln Anderson

After the recent failure of another attempt by Congress to set a deadline for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq, Congressmember Nydia Velazquez has decided it’s time for a new approach.

Last week, at a City Hall press conference — surrounded by peace activists, parents of soldiers serving in Iraq and an Iraq war veteran now advocating for U.S. withdrawal — Velazquez announced her Opt Out of Iraq War Act of 2007. The act would give taxpayers the option of checking a box on their tax forms declining to have their taxes fund the Iraq war.

“We are standing here today over four years after the start of the Iraq war,” Velazquez said. “Nearly 4,000 U.S. soldiers have died in Iraq, and over 150 of those are from New York alone. While members of Congress continue to push for an exit strategy, the Bush administration continues to refuse.

“The power needs to be put where it belongs — in the hands of the people,” Velazquez said. “The Opt Out of Iraq War Act will allow all of you to put an end to this conflict. We all know that it is time to bring our troops home. This is our country, this is our money, this is our decision.”

What’s more, the congressmember added, the war is draining the country’s finances.

“This country has spent nearly $477 billion on the war,” she said. “And the national debt is now $8.8 trillion — a 54 percent increase since Bush took office.”

Under Velazquez’s act, the money that taxpayers decline to have fund the war would instead go to Head Start and children’s programs, or even rebuilding efforts in Iraq.

Fabian Bouthillette, a Navy veteran who served on a carrier in the north Persian Gulf, also said we must pull out.

“I was proud to be in the Navy,” he said. “But we have to start letting the Iraqi people heal.”

Drawing her walker up to the microphone, Betty Brassell, a member of Grandmothers Against the War, said, “This war is illegal, immoral and criminal. This bill, I’m hoping that it can get through Congress. I’m praying that it can go through.”

Carolyn Eisenberg of Brooklyn Parents for Peace called Velazquez “one of the most consistent opponents of the Iraq war.” While Congress wants to get out of Iraq, Eisenberg said, “We have a rogue administration that is ignoring them and a rogue minority in Congress that is not allowing them to vote.” She noted that Brooklyn alone has spent a staggering $5 billion on the war.

Vicki McFadyen, also of Brooklyn Parents for Peace, said she fears for the safety of her son, an Air Force reservist in his 40s who just headed back to Iraq for his second tour of duty.

“I don’t believe this war had anything to do with W.M.D.s,” McFadyen said. “I believe it was a cynical attempt to gain control of Iraq’s oil. As long as my taxes are supporting the occupation of Iraq, then I am complicit.”

Velazquez said she didn’t want to handicap the bill’s chances.

Eisenberg, however, predicted it will be “an uphill battle.”

“But I think every bill that is introduced to get the troops out builds momentum,” she said.

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