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Vermont Town Meetings Call for Withdrawal from Iraq by a Score of 46-3
an article by Robin

There is a tradition of annual town meetings across the state of Vermont at the end of February. This year they all took up the question of the war in Iraq, voting on a resolution that calls for the Vermont 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 administration of President Bush to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq at a quick but "humanitarian" pace. By a margin of 46-3, with a few abstentions and one tie, the town meetings supported the resolution.

There is excellent media coverage of this on the Internet, including newspaper articles from the Burlington Free Press, Vermont Guardian and New York Times, and it was even featured on television on the ABC NEWS “NIGHTLINE” for Thursday, March 3. Here are some excerpts from the newspaper articles:

Responding to a returning serviceman at the Underhill meeting who complained that the resolution would disrespect the work of the military, one person replied that the town meeting, is the place to speak out against the war. "We live in a country where silence is not patriotism. If someone in this room disagrees with the war in Iraq, it has nothing to do with kicking our sons and daughters in the pants."

Another person said, "It was an excellent example of democracy. I was real proud to be a Vermonter, where you can sit and discuss issues like this respectfully. I was amazed people could lay out their hearts to each other like they did. Some people walked out really mad, but other people came together. Talking is not a bad thing."

Vermont leads the nation with the highest per capita death rate in Iraq. The state's National Guard has deployed 1,350 soldiers to Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East since January 2004. Three Guardsmen have been killed in combat, and a fourth died of a heart attack. In total, 16 men with strong Vermont ties have died in Iraq or Kuwait.

"A lot of folks are hoping to use Vermont as a model," said Peter Lems, the Iraq program coordinator for the American Friends Service Committee, which along with other antiwar organizations, like Military Families Speak Out, helped organize petition drives to get the measure on town meeting ballots.

This is not the first time weighty national issues have appeared at town meetings. Two years ago, about 15 towns debated the antiterrorism law known as the USA Patriot Act. And in the 1980's, various towns voted on the issue of nuclear weapons.

DISCUSSION

Question(s) related to this article:


The town meeting: can it be a basis for culture of peace?,

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Latest reader comment:

Town Meetings could also be used for the Mayors for Peace Campaign. How many towns are represented by CPNN club members? If we all followed Vermont's example, could we make a difference?
I am inspired by your article to see when the Farmington town meeting is scheduled.


This report was posted on March 12, 2005.