Backers of Guard resolution take cause to Statehouse

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(Host) Organizers of a Town Meeting vote on the Iraq War say their next stop is the state Legislature. Last week, 50 towns passed some form of a resolution questioning the role of the National Guard in the conflict. Those who worked on the effort say they hope lawmakers will now set up a commission to examine the war’s impact at home.

VPR’s John Dillon has more.

(Dillon) There’s a legal rationale behind the Iraq War resolution. If the call-ups have stretched the Guard so thin that it can’t handle emergencies at home, then under federal law the governor could try to veto their deployment.

Organizer Ben Scotch hopes the Legislature will take the next step and form a commission to examine this question of readiness.

(Scotch) “That’s the technical, legal hook into the commission. But once the commission is set up, there are other things that we want the commission to look at: the impact on families, businesses, and on first responders, and on the fabric of the community.”

(Dillon) But even in Vermont, it may be tough to argue that the deployments have weakened the Guard’s ability to help at home. Governor Jim Douglas says the Guard still has enough people on hand to respond to natural disasters or other emergencies.

Ellen Kaye, an activist from Brattleboro, says the question has to broader.

(Kaye) “If you’re looking at a very narrow way, the effect of these deployments on the ability of the Guard to deal with an ice storm, for example, then I could see how they could answer the question that that way. If you’re looking at the double whammy of these people who are fulltime citizens as well as Guard members leaving their businesses and their families, that’s a different question.”

(Dillon) Joseph Gainza of the Vermont chapter of the American Friends Service Committee said national organizers are now looking to the Vermont vote as an example of how to get the debate started in their own communities.

(Gainza) “It opened up a dialog which hasn’t been happening across this country, people to people dialog. And I think that’s what people across the country are seeing, that Vermont with its wonderful tradition of Town Meetings had an opportunity to talk about the meaning of this war as people, as citizens. And they want to see that replicated across the country.”

(Dillon) Gainza says that United for Peace and Justice, an umbrella organization of about 800 groups, recently endorsed the idea of a national grassroots, town-by-town campaign.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon.

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