WARREN – Drafters of an anti-Iraq War resolution appearing on more than
50 Town Meeting Day warnings across the state told Mad River Valley residents
Monday night that small-town democratic forums are the birthing center for national
In an informational meeting designed to explain the resolution and its relevance
at Town Meeting Day, contentious back-and-forth debate between some of the 40
people gathered in the Warren Elementary cafeteria revealed intense philosophical
division over the conflict in Iraq. But Ben Scotch, former director of the Vermont
ACLU and co-drafter of the resolution, said civil exchange of opposing viewpoints
is the intent of the initiative.
"It starts with conversations like this in gymnasiums and cafeterias and
it spreads," Scotch said Monday night. "The work starts here, and
we send those messages and ideas over the horizon."
The resolution is not without its detractors. John McClaughry, president of
the Ethan Allen Institute, calls the resolution an attempt by anti-war activists
to "hijack" Vermont's town meetings.
"I'm tired of fighting the election of 2004 all over again with the left
wing screaming 'Bush lied' and finding ever new venues to raise that position,"
McClaughry said Monday. "We counted the votes. It's over. Let's move on.
If they want to have a rally on the Statehouse lawn, fine. But I have a problem
with the hijacking of town meeting to serve ulterior motives and that's what
I see this as doing."
Scotch Monday said such assertions are off the mark. He called the war in Iraq,
specifically its impact on Vermont National Guard troops and their families,
a "quintessentially local issue."
"There is nothing more quintessentially local than war, and the local
connection is the National Guard," Scotch said. "The guard members
and their families are our first concern. Discussions over the appropriateness
of their use in the war need to start in our own communities."
Independent organizers spearheaded petition drives to get the Iraq resolution
on 52 Town Meeting Day warnings. Operating on the premise that the Iraq War
was based on a network of lies and propaganda, and that Vermont Guardsmen are
unnecessarily risking their lives in an unjust war, the resolution calls for
For the Legislature to study the impact of Vermont Guard deployments on emergency
readiness in the state;
for Vermont's Congress-ional delegation to work to return power over state guard
units to the state instead of the federal government;
and to ask George Bush to withdraw troops from Iraq.
Vermont, which has the second-highest guard mobilization rate next to Hawaii,
has earned a share of the national media spotlight for its military contribution
to the Iraq conflict. With 11 active duty and guard personnel dead, Vermont
has lost more servicemen per capita than any other state.
The Iraq War resolution has intensified the national attention. Publications
including the New York Times, Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, Boston
Globe and Chicago Sun-Times have in recent days and weeks featured bylined stories
by staff writers on the resolution.
Sara Just, senior producer for ABC's Nightline, said the network will send
a correspondent and camera to Warren's Town Meeting Day to cover residents'
discussions on the resolution. Michael Larkin, deputy managing editor for news
operations at the Boston Globe, called the resolution "the first popular
referendum on the war in Iraq, as far as anyone can determine."
Most of the 40 people attending Monday night's meeting agreed wholesale with
the anti-war, anti-Bush resolution. Some, however, characterized the anti-war
message as activist rhetoric and said public airing of domestic opposition to
the war would only fuel the enemy. One Vietnam veteran said the National Guard
was designed specifically for use in the U.S.'s international military conflicts
and that while the government may have made strategic mistakes, the war was
not fundamentally unjust.
"You guys are going to be a poster child forAl-Jazeera. You're going to
make it worse," the valley resident said. "I think you guys are on
the wrong track."