Updated at 8:35 AM, March 7 with more towns reporting on both resolutions, and additional comments.
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Voters in three dozen Vermont towns want Congress to begin an impeachment probe of Pres. George W. Bush and Vice Pres. Dick Cheney.
Two towns, Clarendon and Dover, voted the measure down. Nearly a half dozen towns agreed to not take up, or table, the resolution.
There are 251 towns in Vermont, but not all hold town meetings.
More than a dozen towns passed measures calling for the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq, and to care for them when they were back on U.S. soil. Dover also rejected the troop measure. About 20 towns had one of the items warned on their town meeting ballot, while many others took up the issue during “other business” at the end of the meeting.
The votes come after a whirlwind, four-day tour of Vermont with antiwar icon Cindy Sheehan and three Vermont Iraq War veterans, along with organizers of the resolutions. Sheehan testified before a state Senate committee on Friday, along with war supporters.
“I’m happy with it. I think we’ve got a very good number of towns that have reported so far and passing it, and it’s pretty overwhelming that didn’t pass. And, just one that voted it down,” said Jimmy Leas, a South Burlington lawyer who crafted the troop withdrawal resolution.
Newfane Selectman Dan DeWalt is the major organizer of the impeachment resolutions. His effort has drawn global media attention and scorn. Last year, six towns passed impeachment resolutions.
The impeachment resolutions have passed so far in Bristol, Burke, Calais, Craftsbury, Dummerston, East Montpelier, Greensboro, Guilford, Grafton, Hartland, Jamaica, Jericho, Johnson, Marlboro, Middlebury, Montgomery, Morristown, Newbury, Newfane, Peru, Plainfield, Putney, Richmond, Rochester, Roxbury, St. Johnsbury, Springfield, Stannard, Sunderland, Townshend, Tunbridge, Vershire, Warren, Westminster, Wilmington, and Woodbury, according to organizers. Organizers based their information on reports from people in each town.
DeWalt said organizers will use these votes to urge state lawmakers to take up a measure in the House calling for Bush’s impeachment. The bill is currently in the House Judiciary Committee.
“This is clearly not a cry of protest, but the start of action — an impeachment insurrection that will lead to the reclamation of our Constitution,” said DeWalt. “Vermonters are angry and energized. We are taking the power that is sovereign in us and will use it to restore the Constitution. We will show the world that America has not sunk to the depths of violent madness that is the Bush administration.”
Several towns voted to not take up the measure: Bakersfield, Londonderry, Dorset, Stamford, and Walden.
Additionally, 20 towns approved a measure calling for troops to be withdrawn from Iraq: Bristol, Calais, Cornwall, Greensboro, Guilford, Hardwick, Jamaica, Jericho, Johnson, Marshfield, Middlebury, Newfane, Peru, Plymouth, Rockingham, Roxbury, St. Johnsbury, Townshend, Waldon, and Woodbury.
According to a Guardian reader, in Pomfret the impeachment resolution was moved under “other business,” but a voter countered with an amendment not to vote on the resolution because many of the town’s residents had already left the meeting. Voters agreed and voted to table the resolution was 43 to 28. In this context, the troop resolution was not moved. Supporters of the measure, however, will raise the issue again.
In Middlebury, where Gov. Jim Douglas, a Republican, is the town moderator voters approved both the impeachment and troop withdrawal measures. Douglas, ironically, was the chairman of Bush’s 2000 election committee and 2004 reelection committee in Vermont.
Ellen McKay, a backer of the impeachment measure, said some members of the Middlebury select board and Douglas tried to limit debate to one minute per person. Douglas also questioned whether something that was not warned should warrant a vote.
“But, there were a lot of people in Middlebury who understood what other business was going to mean and this huge issue for our community,” said McKay, who says the Iraq War, proportionally, has cost Middlebury $8 million to fund the war.
In Dover, the impeachment topic sparked a heated debate.
“I do not want my senators or representatives for the next two years trying to bring down this president. I want them to focus on bringing the best possible outcome to the chaos that is now in Iraq,” said Laura Sibilia, a school board member, and sister of four brothers currently in the armed forces. Sabilia trembled as she spoke, and at times had tears running down her face. “I do not believe that demanding that our troops come home now will help and I will not debate this with anyone.”
A supporter countered that the impeachment resolution wasn’t about the war, but the Constitution.
“We have to stand up and respect the constitution that our [founding fathers] stand for. Our troops will not come home during their time in office, and as far as impeachment goes, it only means they are investigated and whatever happens off it will happen,” said Sue Rand. “It’s not about removing Bush and Cheney but investigating.”
Gloria Levine, the person who brought up the resolutions up at town meeting, was dumbfounded by the rejection.
“I’m not disappointed, I’m just absolutely dumbfounded at how the things said today came in light of the facts that nine more military personnel were killed in Iraq,” said Levine.
In Jericho, home of Democratic House Speaker Gaye Symington, who is not supportive of the impeachment measure, voters approved the impeachment resolution 88-67, as well as the troop withdrawal measure.
Leas and other backers hope the impeachment and troop withdrawal measures will help to focus Vermont’s congressional delegation on ending the war, and investigating Bush and Cheney for what h they believe were deliberate lies to get the nation into the war.
“This war is going to continue for another year or two years if this funding request is approved, and we don’t have confidence that they will vote to end the war,” said Leas. “It’s time for the people to get involved and the people have to push what may not be on their agenda — that’s our leadership.”
The Vermont Legislature recently approved measures in both the House and Senate calling for an immediate and orderly withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
In Stamford, voters tabled both articles. Helen Fields, a co-organizer of the Stamford effort to get the resolutions on the warning, was disappointed but hopes to bring the issue up again in the near future.
“We have parents in our town with [sons in Baghdad] that are at risk, so our town has a lot of people that very much want this war to be over and don’t quite understand why their children’s lives are at stake,” said Fields. “It’s hard for me to say that this vote was a vote for or against the articles. I think this vote was for or against discussion on a very debatable topic. People have very strong feelings whether or not the president should be impeached and we have very strong feelings about pulling out of a war that many soldiers and soldiers’ families have made the ultimate sacrifices for.”
Here is the text of each of the two resolutions:
Whereas George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney have:
1. deliberately misled the nation about the threat from Iraq in order to justify a war,
2. condoned the torture of prisoners in violation of the Geneva Convention and US law,
3. approved illegal electronic surveillance of American citizens without a warrant, and,
Whereas these actions have undermined our Constitutional system of government, damaged the reputation of America, and threatened our national security,
Therefore, the voters of the town of _____________________ call upon the U.S. House of Representatives to investigate these charges, and if the investigation supports the charges, vote to impeach George W. Bush and Richard B. Cheney as provided in the Constitution of the United States of America. This resolution shall be signed by the Town Clerk and forwarded to both the Speaker and the Clerk of the US House of Representatives, and Representative John Conyers of the House Judiciary Committee.
SOLDIERS HOME NOW RESOLUTION
“Shall the voters of the town of ____________________ advise the President, Congress and Vermont’s state and federal officeholders that _____________________ and its citizens strongly support the men and women serving in all branches of the United States Armed Forces in Iraq and believe that the best way to support them is to bring each and every one of them home now and take good care of them when they get home.”
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