Vermonters ignite effort to bring troops home

MONTPELIER, Vt. — About half of Vermont’s Army National Guard is over in Iraq. Now, there’s a grassroots campaign to bring them home. Organizers of the Iraq Resolution Campaign say at least 47 Vermont communities will vote on a resolution regarding the war in Iraq on Town Meeting Day in March.

Beyond votes on fixing local roads, or debating local taxes, the communities will consider the war and the role of the National Guard in fighting it when they vote on Town Meeting Day.

“There needs to be a conversation, throughout the country, about this war and role of war. We hope we can start that,” said retired lawyer Ben Scotch. “Of course, we’d like [a resolution to bring the troops home] to carry, but the process of discussing it and looking into some of the reasons for the war and the origins of the war will be a real eye-opener for people. There really is no losing. The whole idea is to get a conversation going.”

High school student Aaron Voldman collected signatures in South Burlington. “I think it’s really important that 17- and 18-year-olds, especially, get involved in this because some of my friends are being shipped off to Iraq,” he said.

The resolution to be discussed in the 47 towns expresses support for the troops, while asking President George W. Bush to bring the troops home. Organizers say they’re pleased to be on the ballot in so many communities because they believe the issue is inherently local.

The resolution asks the Legislature to set up a commission to investigate whether the devotion of the Vermont National Guard to Iraq is hurting the state. More than 1,100 Army Guard members have been mobilized since Nov. 19, 2004 and about 450 of them are scheduled for duty in Iraq. Another 240 Guard soldiers are serving there. Four Guardsmen have died in connection to the war, three in combat and one of natural causes.

Scotch believes the resolution has a legal basis because it doesn’t call for withdrawing Vermont soldiers from their federal mission but instead advocates a hard look at the effect of that mission.

“We’re proud of the Guard. We’re proud of the people who serve in the Guard,” Scotch said. “Let’s go out there and see what is the best way to support our troops.”