Vermont is paying a particularly heavy price for the war in Iraq. With military deployments sapping the state's infrastructure as well as the lives of its young service members, communities from Bennington to Burlington are starting to rally against Bush administration policy. The Washington Post reports:
"Vermont's National Guard and reserve units have the second-highest mobilization rate per capita, trailing only Hawaii's. And, with seven active-duty service members and four Guard members who have died in Iraq, it has lost more residents as a percentage of its population than any other state. While military service is a source of pride in local communities, the activation of 1,400 troops also has taken a heavy toll on hundreds of families and left small businesses and police barracks understaffed.
"'We lost two out of 14 troopers in one barracks,' said Maj. James Baker, field force commander for the Vermont State Police. 'When you are trying to fill 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, it becomes a challenge.'
"'All of this has certainly had an impact on a broad cross section of the Vermont community, economically, socially and in every other way. With so many deployed so far away from such a small state, the war touches the lives of every one of us,' said Peter Clavelle, the seven-term Democratic mayor of Burlington, the state's largest city."
The trying situation has created some interesting political crosscurrents. The Post notes that while American flags and yellow ribbons blanket many Vermont towns, a recent petition drive has led roughly four dozen of them to place a resolution opposing the use of Vermont's Guard in Iraq on the agenda for town meetings to be held on March 1. In addition to asking the president and the Congress to withdraw the U.S. military from Iraq, the resolution calls for the legislature to study the effect on Vermont of numerous deployments, and asks Vermont's congressional delegation "to work to restore a proper balance between the powers of the states and that of the federal government over state National Guard units."
The Bush administration might be well advised to pay attention to the groundswell, or it could eventually find it has a bona fide secession on its hands.