State of discontent

There's a growing movement in states across the country to bring the Army Reserves home from Iraq.

By Julia Scott
Published March 15, 2005 8:20PM (EST)

There's a growing movement in states across the country to bring the Army Reserve troops home from Iraq.

On March 1, more than 50 Vermont communities passed a nonbinding resolution calling on President Bush to "take steps to withdraw American troops from Iraq." At issue was the use of the National Guard troops, a disproportionate number of whom have hailed from the tiny Green Mountain State. More of the state's troops have died in Iraq, per capita, than from any other in the country.

The losses have affected many communities across the nation in critical ways, says Nancy Lessin, co-founder of Military Families Speak Out, one of the antiwar groups instrumental in organizing the resolutions. "This is a local issue," she told War Room. "Firefighters and police officers may not be there when they should be. The National Guardsmen are in the state to help deal with everything from forest fires to natural floods, and they aren't there."

Vermont isn't the only state feeling the pain. On March 4, the governor of Montana predicted a disastrous wildfire season if his state continued to go without its firefighting helicopters and National Guardsmen currently deployed in Iraq (about 40 percent of the troops currently in Iraq are National Guard or Reservists). Activists in Oregon and Washington state are petitioning lawmakers to consider a resolution similar to Vermont's. A grassroots group in Michigan is hoping to have a resolution adopted by state Democrats. And similar efforts are underway in Massachusetts, New York and Pennsylvania, according to Lessin.

As Rosalind Andreas, who helped place the antiwar initiative on the agenda in Westford, VT, told the L.A. Times this month, "we saw the resolution as a way to start a very important conversation at the local level about the social consequences of this war."

It may also reignite a conversation about its strategic consequences: National Guard recruiters continue to see their jobs grow more difficult. They fell short of recruiting goals last year and are lagging substantially again in the first four months of this one. In addition to publicity that more antiwar resolutions could generate, the recruiters are also dogged by counter-recruiters and negative publicity over lack of equipment for reservists.

Julia Scott

San Francisco-based freelance journalist Julia Scott writes about water and energy issues for various publications. She also covers the environment for Bay Area News Group, a chain of newspapers in Northern California.

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