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Sheehan will have floor to herself at Statehouse
By DANIEL BARLOW, Vermont Press Bureau
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MONTPELIER — When anti-war mom Cindy Sheehan testifies against the Iraq war before a state Senate committee Friday, there may be no voice in favor of the conflict.
Committee Chairman Sen. Vincent Illuzzi, R-Essex-Orleans, said Monday he has been unable to find anyone to testify in favor of the four-year-old war during the noontime hearing in the Senate chambers later this week.
Illuzzi said he contacted the state departments of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion along with representatives of the Vermont National Guard Enlisted Association, but no one wanted to come before the committee opposite Sheehan.
"I wanted a balanced hearing to show that there are two sides to the question," Illuzzi said. "But so far, everyone has declined the opportunity to speak in favor of the war."
Sheehan's testimony before Illuzzi's Senate Committee on Economic Development, Housing and General Affairs comes weeks after the Vermont Legislature became the first in the country to pass a resolution calling for the withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Although the Senate and the House supported the nonbinding resolution earlier this month, Illuzzi said Sheehan will be allowed to speak again on that measure during the committee hearing Friday.
The session has been moved from its traditional committee room into the Senate chambers because lawmakers are expecting a large crowd for Sheehan. She will also give a press conference outside the Statehouse following her testimony.
Sheehan's testimony is the first stop on a three-day tour of Vermont aimed at building support for a series of nonbinding town meeting resolutions calling for withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Iraq and the impeachment of President Bush.
Twenty-three towns have the impeachment and end of war questions on their warnings. Organizers of the grassroots movement, which started last year in the rural Windham County town of Newfane, say more towns may tackle the issue under other business.
Sheehan will make stops during the tour in Middlebury, Castleton, Rutland and Brattleboro along with a half-dozen more towns, according to Dan DeWalt, a member of the Newfane Select Board, who kicked off the impeachment movement and organized Sheehan's visit.
DeWalt said Sheehan, who was in Jordan this week and unavailable for comment, will speak about ending the war and efforts to push the U.S. Congress to impeach Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney.
She also plans to raise the impeachment issue during her Senate testimony, DeWalt said. A bill calling for Bush's removal has been introduced, but the committee it has been referred to is unlikely to act on it.
"The Vermont Legislature seems intent on avoiding the issue of impeachment, but Cindy will talk about the need to remove this man from office before he does more damage," DeWalt said.
This will not be Sheehan's first visit to Montpelier.
Two months before her demonstration outside of President Bush's Texas ranch in August 2005, Sheehan and other anti-war activists, including family members of other soldiers killed in Iraq, rallied for peace at the Unitarian Church in Montpelier.
"Our children are cannon fodder for the war machine," she said at that meeting, which occurred about 16 months after her son, Casey, was killed in Iraq. "We have to make it a country we can be proud of again."
Illuzzi said he is looking forward to hearing Sheehan speak Friday. Although her activism following her son's death has resulted in acclaim from other anti-war activists, some conservatives have been critical of her comments.
"I'm curious to see which side of that fence I'll be on after hearing her speak," Illuzzi said.
Contact Daniel Barlow at Daniel.firstname.lastname@example.org.
On the Web: www.vtimpeach.com