Burlington Free Press
Saturday, March 5, 2005
49 communities OK Iraq item
By Adam Silverman
Free Press Staff Writer
Now that voters in 49 Vermont communities have approved a resolution against the war in Iraq, organizers are working to sustain the energy generated by their victory and seek out ways to expand the conversation nationwide.
The town-meeting initiative passed in 86 percent of the 57 communities statewide where it appeared before voters. Only three towns rejected the measure. Four tabled the proposal, and there was one tie vote.
"It's important to keep up momentum and not just have the last discussion be at town meeting," said Ben Scotch of Montpelier, an organizer of the resolution drive.
The initiative in most towns called for the Legislature to study the effect of National Guard deployments on the state; implores the state's congressional delegation to work to restore a "proper balance" between state and federal control of the Guard; and asks Congress and the Bush administration to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq in accord with international humanitarian law.
In Burlington the resolution read differently. The one-sentence measure expressed support for U.S. soldiers and said "the best way to support them is to bring them home now." City voters approved the initiative, 4,674 to 2,500. Each of the city's seven wards endorsed the resolution.
Colleen McLaughlin of the Burlington Anti-War Coalition said the strong show of support means city residents believe the Iraq war was started under false pretenses, that there's no exit strategy and that the time is now to send a message to Washington.
"Burlingtonians feel the war was a mistake," she said.
McLaughlin is also a member of Military Families Speak Out, an anti-war group composed of relatives of soldiers. McLaughlin's 21-year-old son, a specialist in the Vermont Army National Guard, returned home Feb. 21 with his unit after a year in Iraq.
"Speaking against the war is not not supporting the troops," McLaughlin said. "We are supporting the troops by saying, 'We want them home now.'"
Vermont Guard spokeswoman 1st Lt. Veronica Saffo said the statewide resolution led to important discussions about the Guard, the war and U.S. soldiers. The proposal fostered thoughtful conversations between people of opposing views on the war, she said, but the measure also led people to discover common ground.
"People gained a better understanding of each other's thoughts," Saffo said. "One thing they share is they all support our soldiers."
And because people's voices were heard, she added, the town meeting discussions could lead to healing in Vermont of divisions about the war. Many realized the debate about the war and the Guard's role in it is not "us against them," Saffo said.
Scotch, McLaughlin and other resolution organizers said their next step is to begin working with the Legislature to create the study commission called for in the initiative; talking to Vermont's three congressmen about Guard-related legislation; and seeking to expand dialogue about the war beyond Vermont's borders.
National and international media attention has shone on the state about the resolution. Reports have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe and the Christian Science Monitor, among other publications. ABC News' "Nightline" devoted Thursday's broadcast to the Vermont resolution.
That media attention is one of the ways to help discussions about war and peace spread across the country, Scotch said.
"All that coverage has not been done because Vermont is quaint," he said. "That's been done before. The coverage is being done because there's a lot of unease about this war, it's not easy to talk about, and here is a place that's talking about it." Contact Adam Silverman at 660-1854 or [EMAIL PROTECTED] tally
Here is how Vermont towns voted on a non-binding resolution that calls for the state Legislature and the state's congressional delegation to examine how the Vermont National Guard is being utilized and asks that U.S. troops be pulled out of Iraq (several towns amended the latter provision):
YES: (49) Bethel, Brattleboro, Burlington, Cabot, Calais, Cavendish, Dummerston, East Montpelier, Fayston, Greensboro, Guilford, Hinesburg, Huntington, Jamaica, Jericho, Johnson, Marlboro, Marshfield, Middlebury, Middletown Springs, Monkton, Montgomery, Montpelier, Moretown, Newfane, New Haven, Norwich, Plainfield, Putney, Randolph, Rochester, Rockingham, Roxbury, Salisbury, Sharon, Strafford, Thetford, Tinmouth, Waitsfield, Walden, Warren, Weathersfield, Westford, Westminster, Weybridge, Wheelock, Windham, Worcester, Woodbury
NO: (3) Athens, Underhill, Waterville
PASSED OVER: (4) Bristol, Lincoln, Starksboro, Wardsboro
TIE: (1) Craftsbury
Sources: Free Press, iraqresolution.org (organizers of the resolution)
For complete Town Meeting Day coverage, go to www.burlington
The following national media organizations posted stories and features related to the Iraq resolution voted during Tuesday's meetings. Here are the Web addresses:
LOS ANGELES TIMES: www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/iraq/complete/la-na-vermont2mar02,1,5892908.story?
CHICAGO SUN-TIMES: www.suntimes.com/output/iraq/cst-nws-ver28.html
BOSTON GLOBE: www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2005/02/26/for_many_vermonters_iraq_is_on_the_ballot/?
WASHINGTON POST: www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A64186-2005Mar1.html
NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO: www.theconnection.org/shows/2005/03/20050302_b_main.asp
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