Campaign to Divest Seattle's Retirement Fund from Illegal Wars & Occupations in the Middle East
For Immediate Release: April 7, 2008
A citizens group called Seattle Divest From War and Occupation has launched a ballot initiative this week that aims to divest city employees' retirement funds from corporations that are participating in illegal wars and occupations in the Middle East. The group is taking specific aim at two corporations, Halliburton Holding Company and Caterpillar, Inc.
"It's time to divest," said Chanan Suarezdiaz, Seattle chapter president of Iraq Veterans Against the War. "As an Iraq combat veteran, I would like to see our city divest from companies that are profiting from wars that affect the lives of other human beings � people who are being occupied, jailed, and dehumanized."
"The people of the city of Seattle pride ourselves on being progressive and thoughtful," said campaign endorser Amy Hagopian, a former Seattle school board member and a University of Washington faculty member. "It's time to put our money where our mouths are. We have to stop investing in the companies that fuel war and occupation." Hagopian led efforts at Garfield High School to end high school military recruiting in 2005.
The initiative sponsors urge disinvestment not only for moral reasons, but also for financial stewardship reasons. Carla Curio, campaign spokesperson, noted that the city has a responsibility to look after the financial health of its employees' retirement system, by avoiding investment in companies whose illegal or immoral activities can turn into financial liability in the future. "As the historic 1998 settlement between major tobacco companies and various state attorneys general demonstrated, poor practices that are tolerated today could well become major financial liabilities tomorrow," said Curio.
Only last week, our nation marked the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., after whom this county is named. As Dr. King reminded us, "There comes a time when one must take the position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must do it because conscience tells him it is right."
This initiative mandates that the city of Seattle not invest its employees' retirement funds in corporations that participate directly in or profit from the US-led military occupation of Iraq, corporations that provide direct material support for activities of the [apartheid] Israeli government within the occupied territories of West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights, or corporations with a presence in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. Furthermore, the initiative mandates that if the government of [apartheid] Israel were to launch a military attack on Iran, the city of Seattle would divest its funds from Israeli government bonds.
The initiative takes specific aim at two corporations, Halliburton Holding Company and its subsidiaries, which have a major presence in Iraq, as well as Caterpillar, Inc. which sells armored bulldozers to the [apartheid] Israeli military for use in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights. It was one such Caterpillar bulldozer that took the life of peace activist and Olympia, WA resident Rachel Corrie during at attempted demolition of a home in the Gaza Strip on March 16th, 2003.
In the Gaza Strip, 1.5 million people, mostly refugees from [apartheid] Israel in 1948, live in an open-air prison, unable to exit, and with electricity, fuel, and water under [apartheid] Israeli control. In Iraq, several hundred thousand civilians and over 4,000 US service people have lost their lives.
The city of Seattle boycotted corporations doing business with apartheid-era South Africa under resolution 27220. As it was then, it is the responsibility of the city of Seattle and its citizens to take a strong moral and fiscal stand against companies that violate international law, by not investing in them.
"We must prevent our financial investments from subsidizing the destruction of communities where these companies do their business, while maintaining a sober understanding of our fiduciary responsibilities to the city's retirees. As Seattle led the way during apartheid, when many ridiculed our efforts, we must lead the way again," Hagopian said. "On this fortieth anniversary of Dr. King's assassination, it is the least we can do."
Seattle Divest From War