From the Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus, Feb. 14:
MONTPELIER — Vermont’s Legislature became the first in the country Tuesday to pass a resolution calling for an immediate and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
Although the Senate passed the measure without change and with little debate, members of the House spent much of the day on the issue and made a few modifications.
The key issue was whether or not the resolution would discourage and demoralize American soldiers, and whether it would carry any weight with the federal administration that oversees the war.
The Senate passed the resolution by a 24-5 vote with one absence. The House passed an amended version of the measure by a 95-52 vote in a debate that drew veterans to the Statehouse halls and saw impassioned comments on both sides.
Gov. James Douglas does not sign or veto nonbinding resolutions.
Matt Howard, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran of two tours in Iraq, said passing the resolution would not send a message to soldiers that the Legislature does not support them.
“They are doing their duty, but that in no way means they want to be there or that they are not counting every second before they can go home,” he said.
Howard, a member of a group of Iraq veterans against the war, was in Iraq for the initial push to Baghdad. He drove a supply truck with a tank battalion.
“That is what we do in Iraq, we go out until we get shot at and we hope we can shoot back,” Howard said. “That is our grand plan.”
The text of the Senate resolution, received via e-mail from the Vermont American Friends Service Committee:
State of Vermont
By Senator Lyons, White, Ayer, Bartlett, Campbell, Collins, Condos, Cummings, Flanagan, Giard, Hartwell, Kittell, MacDonald, McCormack, Miller, Racine, Sears and Shumlin,
S.R. 11. Senate resolution calling for the orderly withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq to commence immediately.
Whereas, in March 2003, the United States initiated a military incursion into Iraq, and
Whereas, every member of the Senate has only the greatest respect for our military forces now deployed in Iraq and the surrounding nations, and any criticism of our nationís policy in the region must not be interpreted as lack of support for the men and women in our armed forces whose bravery is on display each day as they risk their lives, and
Whereas, approximately 2,300 Vermont National Guard troops have served in Iraq since March of 2003, and
Whereas, Vermont has had the highest number of soldiers per capita who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives in this war, and
Whereas, approximately eighty Vermont National Guard troops are now deployed in Iraq, and more could be deployed in the coming months if the policies of the Bush administration continue in the current direction,and
Whereas, at the time the Iraq conflict started in March 2003, the American public was told that the primary reason for this incursion was to eliminate weapons of mass destruction that the Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein, had allegedly stockpiled, and it has been since documented that no weapons of mass destruction were stockpiled in Iraq at the time the American military forces entered that country, and
Whereas, it is now apparent that the United States Department of Defense did not develop an exit strategy prior to the invasion, falsely assuming that the Iraqi people would welcome United States forces with open arms and that withdrawal would not be a difficult problem, and
Whereas, the continuing and daily onslaught of sectarian violence and indications of ethnic cleansing in some areas of the nation have proven disruptive to nearly all aspects of Iraqi society, and
Whereas, over 3,000 American military personnel have died since March 2003, and
Whereas, many Vermont veterans have retuned home from Iraq and the region with significant unmet physical and mental health care needs, and
Whereas,the cost of this war according to the Congressional Research Service is at least $379 billion, and
Whereas, based on the state’s population, Vermontís share of the cost exceeds $750 million dollars, and
Whereas, these costs will have a significant impact on Vermont households and the Vermont state budget process for years to come, and
Whereas, the Bush administration recently called for and has started to implement an escalation in the number of American military troops actively engaged in Iraq,now therefore be it
Resolved by the Senate:
That the Senate of the State of Vermont believes that an escalation of American troops in Iraq is exactly the wrong foreign policy direction, and that the presence of American troops in Iraq has not and will not contribute to the stability of that nation, the region, or the security of Americans at home or abroad, and be it further
Resolved: That the Senate of the State of Vermont urges Governor Douglas to enlist the support of other members of the National Governors Association to speak out against the war in Iraq and the announced troop surge and to support a withdrawal from Iraq of American troops, and be it further
Resolved: That the Senate of the State of Vermont urges the President and Congress to commence immediately the orderly withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq,and be it further
Resolved: That the Senate of the State of Vermont calls on the Bush administration and Congress to fund fully all veterans’ benefits to care appropriately for our brave men and women when they return from this war, and be it further
Resolved: That the Secretary of the Senate be directed to send a copy of this resolution to the Governor James H. Douglas, and to the President of the United States, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, and the Vermont Congressional delegation.