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Vermont Becomes First State to Call for U.S. Troop Withdrawal from Iraq

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The Vermont state Legislature made headlines yesterday when lawmakers passed resolutions in both the House and Senate calling for the immediate and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. We speak with the original author of the House resolution, Representative Michael Fisher. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: The Vermont state Legislature made headlines yesterday when lawmakers passed resolutions in both the House and Senate calling for the immediate and orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. Vermont has lost more soldiers per capita than any other state in the nation. It’s the first state to pass a resolution calling for troop withdrawal. The majority of Democrats supported the resolution. Most Republicans opposed it, contesting a passage that suggested the presence of U.S. troops would not bring stability to Iraq or security to the United States.

Representative Michael Fisher, a Democrat, was the original author of the House resolution. He joins us on the phone from Montpelier, Vermont, the state’s capital. Welcome to Democracy Now! Hi, Michael Fisher.

REP. MICHAEL FISHER: Good morning.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. Can you talk about this groundbreaking resolution, or both? One was passed in the Vermont Senate, one in the state Legislature in the House.

REP. MICHAEL FISHER: Yes. Sometimes states have to step up and lead, when Congress is not doing enough. And this was a time when Vermonters were able to speak up and say clearly that it was time to take some real leadership and to end this war.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain exactly what the resolution says.

REP. MICHAEL FISHER: The resolution, the key resolve calls for the immediate and orderly — well, it calls for Congress to commence immediately the orderly withdrawal of American military forces from Iraq.

AMY GOODMAN: And this was passed by both the Vermont Senate and the House?

REP. MICHAEL FISHER: That’s correct. The Senate vote was 24 to 5. And the House vote was 95 to 52.

AMY GOODMAN: Now, this was introduced last year, but it didn’t make it. What was the difference this year?

REP. MICHAEL FISHER: Well, it’s hard to say. The numbers have changed in our Legislature. The issue has changed. While I’ve been advocating for the Vermont Legislature to take an official stance against the war since before it started, I suppose, it now is a popular position, I suppose. And I think after the recent election, more politicians were willing to go on the record.

AMY GOODMAN: Vermont — it may be a surprise to many people, but has the highest per capita, I guess you’d say, death rate of soldiers in Iraq of any state in the country. Why is that?

REP. MICHAEL FISHER: Well, it’s hard to say. We may have a higher rate of people signing up than other states, as well. I guess I don’t really know why it would be that we have the highest per capita. But in addition to the number who have lost their lives and those who have been injured in this war, it’s also important to remember that 2,300 Vermont families have sent a loved one to this war. And the cost to those families, to the workplace, is tremendous, the worry that those families have to live with day in and day out.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you talk about the role of the Vermont National Guard in this debate and how it changed from last year to this year?

REP. MICHAEL FISHER: The Vermont National Guard did testify in one committee about — a member from the National Guard testified, and they really did not take a stance this year. They very much — they recognized the positive — the appreciations in the resolution for the Guard and for the armed forces, and they recognized that there were members who would be upset by the resolution and members who would be very happy about the resolution.

AMY GOODMAN: The politics of the National Guard last year and this year: Last year, the head of the National Guard, Rainville, she ran against, well, who is now the congress member, Peter Welch, replacing Bernie Sanders, who became senator — she was the head of the National Guard; but now you have a new head of the National Guard, General Dubie — right? — the brother of the Republican lieutenant governor.

REP. MICHAEL FISHER: That’s correct.

AMY GOODMAN: Has there been a change in their attitudes towards this?

REP. MICHAEL FISHER: Well, I think you’re right to remind us that last year we had an adjutant general who was planning a run for Congress. It’s hard for me to know how much that was the factor or how much it was the personalities in play that are a factor and how much there is really a change — a possible change of heart on the part of our military about this war.

AMY GOODMAN: And the role of the governor, the Republican Jim Douglas, what has his position on this? Doesn’t he have to sign off on the ultimate law?

REP. MICHAEL FISHER: No, the governor does not have to sign off on this. This is a non-binding resolution. It does call on him to take a leadership role in bringing governors from other states together to not only oppose the surge, but also to say enough is enough and it’s time to bring our troops home.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you explain that? It’s calling on the National Governors Association, on your governor to make this call at the National Governors Association?

REP. MICHAEL FISHER: It urges our governor to enlist the support of other members from the National Governors Association to speak out against the war and the troop surge and to support a withdrawal from Iraq of American troops. Our governor, Jim Douglas, has spoken out against this troop surge. For me, that’s enough. The surge, to me, is more of the same. What we really need to call for at this point is a withdrawal of our troops.

AMY GOODMAN: Are other legislators calling you, Representative Michael Fisher, from around the country, looking at this as a model? I mean, you have the Iowa state Senate that has just passed a resolution against the escalation of troops, but yours is the first to call for troops to come home.

REP. MICHAEL FISHER: No, I have not yet experienced that. I understand there are 22 states that are contemplating resolutions against the escalation. As I’ve said, I didn’t feel like that was enough. I was unwilling to sign onto a resolution that just did that. And it is my hope that other states recognize that not only is the Iraq War a Vermont issue, but, as you say, it’s an Iowa issue or a Kansas issue or a California issue. All of us are paying a great deal, both financially and in human terms, for this war.

AMY GOODMAN: And what practically does this mean? So the Vermont Legislature passes this resolution. It doesn’t have any kind of legal binding, does it?

REP. MICHAEL FISHER: No, it has no legal binding. And I really — you know, it’s hard to know what impact our actions will have. This may be, you know, but another pebble of ripples about — you know, of Vermonters — of Americans speaking out against the war. It may also be a part of a larger movement of citizens really expressing through their own action and through their representatives’ actions to call for a change in foreign policy.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you very much for being with us, Representative Michael Fisher, representative in the Vermont state Legislature. He sponsored the House resolution that passed yesterday for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. The Senate resolution passed, as well. Thanks for joining us. Representative Fisher joined us from Montpelier, Vermont.

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