View Full Version : Wis. communities will vote on whether to get out of Iraq

03-31-06, 06:08 AM
Wis. communities will vote on whether to get out of Iraq
By Judy Keen, USA TODAY

EVANSVILLE, Wis. — — Cheryl Hurst doesn't hesitate when asked whether U.S. troops should be withdrawn from Iraq. "Bring them home," the 47-year-old restaurant manager says. "They've been there long enough."

Matthew Persons, 30, is just as emphatic. "Leave them there until the job is done," says the Air Force veteran, who works for an aviation company. "Pulling out won't solve anything and will let the terrorists know that what they do works."

On Tuesday, they can express their disparate opinions in a voting booth. People in 32 communities across Wisconsin, including Evansville, will vote on referendums calling for the "orderly and rapid" withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. This town of 4,000 is the only place where residents also will vote on a separate referendum stating that U.S. forces should remain until "unquestioned victory is clearly won."
Bring them home or finish the job?

Texts of dueling referendums to be voted on Tuesday in Evansville, Wis.

"It is hereby resolved that the people of the city of Evansville, Wisconsin, request that the United States Government immediately begin an orderly and rapid withdrawal of all its military personnel from Iraq, beginning with the National Guard and Reserves."

"We, the citizens of Evansville, Wisconsin, USA, while not necessarily fans of war, nor supporting or understanding every decision of this war, do desire to express by public referendum our strong support for our honorable President's leadership, and to express to our honorable men and women in uniform our great esteem and appreciation for their dangerous sacrifices on our behalf, as they labor without rest to protect our freedoms, and our way of life against the unfathomable wickedness of the forces of terror, and we desire our President and troops to not quit this fight until unquestioned victory is clearly won."

The outcome won't carry any legal weight here or in Washington. But if all the anti-war measures pass, politicians might not be able to ignore the results, says Kenneth Mayer, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"If enough people are willing to say 'enough,' and elected officials start thinking they need to be responsive, it will embolden opponents of the war and ... the administration will have to take that into account," he says.

Anti-war resolutions have been adopted by more than 50 local governments across the USA and at more than 40 town meetings in Vermont. Wisconsin's capital, Madison, is the largest city that will vote Tuesday on the measure. Milwaukee will vote on it in November.

Neighbor against neighbor

Here in Evansville, the competing measures pit neighbors against each other and has stirred passionate debate. No one from here has died in Iraq, but many residents have relatives who served there.

The withdraw-now referendum originated with the state's Green Party and the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice. Fred Juergens, 67, a retired chemistry professor and chairman of the liberal group Citizens United of Union/Evansville, organized a drive to gather enough signatures to add it to local races on Tuesday's ballot.

"The people have to lead the leaders out of this war," says Juergens, a city alderman. "If we didn't think it would make a difference, we wouldn't bother doing it. We're not protesting just for the sake of whining."

When the City Council voted to put the anti-war referendum on the ballot, neighbors Tony Ryerson and Ron Gay wrote their own referendum saying troops should stay in Iraq and collected enough signatures to put it on the ballot, too. "We all complain a lot, but I thought it was about time I got involved," says Ryerson, 45, a public works employee.

Gay, 51, is pastor of Grace Independent Baptist Church and has served in the Marines. Some of his parishioners wish he would keep out of politics, he says, "but American citizenship is a responsibility, and sometimes you have to face burdens for the better good."

National polls show that many Americans have soured on the war. A March 10-12 USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll found that 54% say U.S. troops should be withdrawn now or within a year, and 60% say the war wasn't worth it.

Debating the issue

In Evansville, which voted for Democrat John Kerry in the 2004 presidential election, some people say they're torn. Joanne Dean, 60, isn't happy about the war and says President Bush "doesn't listen to the people." But she adds, "I don't support another Vietnam walk-away" that would leave the Iraqi people fending for themselves.

At a forum on both referendums Wednesday night, Gay and Ryerson made their case for keeping troops in Iraq, and two members of Veterans for Peace argued against the war. Withdrawal is "logical, practical and absolutely necessary" and should be followed with humanitarian aid, said David Giffey, a Vietnam War veteran from nearby Arena. "If we leave, (Iraq) belongs to the insurgency," Gay said. "Part of the cost of freedom is sometimes people have to risk their lives."

Special education teacher Robin Van Rooy, 41, listened attentively. "I'd like to see the troops come back now, but I guess I worry about the consequences," she says. She's dismayed by the growing number of U.S. dead in Iraq. However, she worries that withdrawal would leave Iraq "a big mess."

Heather Heinzer, 28, a mom who works from home selling custom photo albums, shares Van Rooy's concerns. "It's not a cut-and-dried issue," she said at the forum. "I could sit here and cry at the thought of all the things the people serving in Iraq are missing. But if we leave, where does that leave the Iraqi people?"

Nurse Barbara Buttchen, 56, isn't sure how she'll vote but says giving people a chance to have their say is important: "The president is supposed to listen to all of us."