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IRAQ WAR -
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Resolution seen as initial step in war challenge

Posted in the database on Wednesday, March 02nd, 2005 @ 01:42:42 MST (1307 views)
by Peter Hirschfeld    Times Argus  

Untitled Document 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 policy change.

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 three initiatives:

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."



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