(Host) The Vermont Senate and House
both gave their approval today to a resolution calling for the immediate and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
The Senate supported the plan after less than 30 minutes of discussion, but in the House, the debate was long and heated.
We have two reports tonight on the debate at the Statehouse starting with VPR’s Bob Kinzel
(Kinzel) Both chambers considered the same resolution but in the end they voted on slightly different proposals.
The original resolution opposed President Bush’s plan to increase the number of combat troops and it also called for the immediate and orderly withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq.
The Senate Economic Development and General Affairs committee reviewed the resolution last week and supported it on a 5 to 0 vote.
Chittenden senator Hinda Miller spoke for the committee:
(Miller) “I think this resolution will let the President know that this government is of the people by the people and for the people. And we must listen to what the people think about our policies.”
(Kinzel) Several senators spoke against the resolution in brief speeches. The Senate then adopted the plan by a vote of 24 to 5.
In contrast to the calm discussion in the Senate, the House engaged in a passionate and often heated debate for several hours.
Lincoln Rep. Michael Fisher is the lead sponsor of the resolution:
(Fisher) “Vermonters have paid enough for this war. Given the reality of what’s going on in Iraq today it’s time to start an orderly withdrawal of American military forces. Enough is enough. It’s time to bring our troops home.”
(Kinzel) Bennington Rep. Joseph Krawcyzk served in the military for 27 years and is a Vietnam War veteran. His daughter is currently serving her third tour of duty in Iraq. Krawcyzk strongly opposed the resolution because he says it sends a mixed message to soldiers in Iraq.
(Krawcyzk) “I know from personal experience the effect a message like this has on the morale of our armed forces. I along with my brothers and sisters who fought in Vietnam received the same message. And many still carry the wounds not received from an enemy but by the wounds caused by a message they received from the American people who thought they were doing the right thing.”
(Kinzel) But Colchester Rep. John Zenie, who’s also a Vietnam veteran, had a very different point of view about the impact of protests:
(Zenie) “While in Vietnam I and many others in my unit wanted to go home as soon as possible because our mission goals were undefined. We hoped that protests at home would lead to our going home so we waited and we prayed and we counted the days until we would be allowed to go home. I wish that more people would have protested sooner back then so that I and my fellow soldiers could have come home even if one day sooner.”
(Kinzel) The House amended the resolution to include a provision that encourages the safe and swift return of any Vermont soldiers who are called up as part of the troop escalation. The amendment also offers the hope that the troops will be successful in stabilizing the situation in Iraq.
The House then passed the measure by a vote of 95 to 52. The resolution will come for a final vote in the Legislature on Wednesday.
For Vermont Public Radio I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier
(Dillon) And I’m John Dillon.
Two recent military veterans were in the Statehouse to make the case that the best way to support the men and women in uniform is to end the war.
Adrianne Kinne of Sharon was trained as an Arab linguist. She was in the Army Reserve and was activated after the 9-11 attacks. She left the service in 2004 after she began to question the war.
(Kinne) “I firmly believe that the future of Iraq can only be determined by Iraqis. We cannot impose their fate upon them. They have to decide their fate themselves.”
(Dillon) Kinne got a masters degree in psychology and worked for the Veterans Administration. She says the VA doesn’t have enough money to help everyone coming back from the war.
(Kinne) “And I can tell everybody that if they want to support the troops then they need to make sure that the Veteran’s Health Administration has every singly dollar that they need in order to provide the treatment to the troops upon returning.”
(Dillon) Former Marine corporal Matt Howard did two tours in Iraq. He now lives in Burlington.
The former Marine had a response to critics of the Vermont resolution, who argued that it would harm the morale of the troops.
(Howard) “They say that we don’t want to send the wrong message to the troops. The average troop on the ground is not paying attention to what is going on in the Vermont state legislature. While I commend what we’re doing here, this is directed towards our country and our federal government. The average troop on the ground is concerned about staying alive and making sure his buddy stays alive.”
(Dillon) Howard says that many of his fellow soldiers questioned the Iraq war policy.
(Howard) “They, the people on the ground know the reality of the situation. They know what’s going on and they know the policy has failed. And they know that their presence is inflaming the insurgency.”
(Dillon) The two veterans say they’re supporting the troops by talking about their own experiences and their own opposition to the war.
For VPR news, I’m John Dillon in Montpelier.