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Sheehan storms Vermont

Not all Vermonters roll out the welcome mat

By Christian Avard | Vermont Guardian

Posted March 1, 2007

The word is out that antiwar activist and Gold Star Mother for Peace Cindy Sheehan will be coming to Vermont this weekend.

From Friday to Sunday, impeachment resolution guru Dan DeWalt of Newfane, The Nation’s Washington editor John Nichols, and three Iraq War veterans from Vermont — Drew Cameron, Matt Howard, and Adrienne Kinne — will accompany Sheehan on a whirlwind bus tour of the state.

The tour is largely to urge Vermonters to vote in favor of two resolutions appearing on many Town Meeting Day ballots. Voters in 23 towns will be asked to approve an impeachment resolution calling for investigations into the actions of Pres. George W. Bush and Vice Pres. Dick Cheney. Voters in 20 towns will take up the “soldiers home now” resolution calling for an immediate troop withdrawal from Iraq. The Iraq War is seen as a major concern for most Vermonters, especially since Vermont leads the nation in per capita deaths of U.S. soldier and guardsmen in Iraq.

But, while much of Vermont is anticipating Sheehan’s visit this weekend, some Vermonters are not happy, and they plan to shadow the tour.

A group of Vermonters will counter-demonstrate at the stops where Sheehan plans to visit. Lynn Baldwin of Chester is one of the major organizers of the counter demonstrations.

“What is coming together as a counter-protest to Cindy Sheehan began last week. It is not an ‘organized action committee’ of any sort, nor is it partisan,” said Baldwin in an e-mail interview with the Vermont Guardian. “This is a grassroots ‘growing snowball’ that began when I sent out an e-mail that several others and I were going to show up in Montpelier with ‘Vermonters for Victory’ signs. It was just an invitation to anyone to join us.”

Baldwin says the victory message is spreading, adding that what Sheehan stands for does not represent the views of all Vermonters.

“The message is growing as well. There are perhaps thousands of people across Vermont who disagree with Cindy Sheehan’s message to pull our troops out of Iraq,” said Baldwin.

“While many sympathize with Sheehan as a grieving mother who has lost her son in the war, many also believe that her alliance with anti-American interests, namely Hugo Chavez, a sworn enemy of the United States and ally of Mamoud Ahmedinejad of Iran — who is sending weapons into Iraq that are killing American soldiers — is an act of treason,” said Baldwin.

“I cannot speak for everyone who may show up to support our U.S. Soldiers and their mission, but for me, I believe Sheehan is not only a traitor to her own country, but also, in that act, she has become a traitor to the legacy and sacrifice of her own son.”

DeWalt, an organizer of Sheehan’s bus tour, said that anyone who may disagree with Sheehan’s beliefs would be welcome at the rallies.

We hope “to bring people out in great numbers to town meeting. Even if people are coming out and they’re going to counter protest also, we want them to come to town meeting too. I want to revitalize town meeting and I think this is a perfect example of why it should be,” said DeWalt. “I hope they’ll come and pose hard questions during the question and answer session that will follow” the Senate Hearing Committee.

On Friday, Sheehan will testify before the Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing, and General Affairs. The hearing was called to give proper testimony on a Senate resolution calling for an immediate troop withdrawal. Due to the debate on Iraq at U.S. Congress, legislative leaders felt it necessary to act swiftly at the time to represent Vermont’s concerns during the debate.

Some Republicans have raised concerns that Democratic leaders pushed a troop withdrawal measure through the Legislature without going through proper committee channels, and therefore didn’t allow amendments to be debated. Instead, the resolutions went directly to a floor vote. A GOP effort to have the resolution sent to committee was rejected.

A troop withdrawal measure passed earlier this month in the Senate 24 to 5 and in the House by a 95 to 52 vote.

Aside from Sheehan, the three Iraq War vets traveling with her — Cameron, Howard, and Kinne — will testify in favor of the resolution.

In addition, three Gold Star Mothers will testify against the resolution — Vicky Strong, Helen Therrien, and Marion Gray.

“We wanted to have proponents and opponents of the war because we wanted to get a balanced presentation,” said Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex/Orleans, the committee’s chairman. “We are providing a forum for Sheehan and her group and anyone else who wants to come in and present an opposing view. The resolution passed on short notice to get them enacted so that the U.S. Congress could know where the state stood on this issue. Hopefully we’ll have a balanced presentation.”

While impeachment may be a major theme at the committee hearing, the Senate Committee is not likely to address it formally. That doesn’t mean Sheehan (or the others) won’t pressure the Legislature on the issue.

“I imagine the topic of impeachment will be raised because everyone understands you can’t have one without the other,” said DeWalt. “Bush has made it clear he’s not going to pay attention what Congress says about the war. He’s running the war he sees fit. So there’s no real separation between those two things.”

Regardless of how the Legislature voted, Baldwin wants to make it clear that the resolution doesn’t represent the views of all Vermonters.

“Cindy Sheehan and Dan DeWalt do not speak for me,” said Baldwin. “I suspect we may see that hundreds may show up at her appearances all across the state. It is illogical to state that one ‘supports the troops’ but does not support their mission. I hope that mainstream Vermonters, who are disgusted with the circus our politicians have made out of the Iraq War, will come out to show support for the mission our soldiers continue to sacrifice for. Cindy Sheehan’s anti-American message is an affront to their service and I won’t stand by in silence while she ‘barnstorms’ Vermont.”

For more information on the counter protests, contact Baldwin at baldwin@vermontel.net.

For more information on the Sheehan tour, go to www.vtimpeach.com/