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On Vermont's Ballots: Iraq War

In Strafford (pop. just over 1,000), one of the measure's strongest proponents was the older brother of Rev. William Sloane Coffin, 80, the fiery former Yale University chaplain and antiwar icon during the Vietnam era, who lives quietly along the town green.

A sign at the front of the white steepled Town House, which was heated by a pair of potbellied stoves, read: "Please speak your name loud and clear. Sometimes it is hard to remember every name."

Voters cast ballots in Woodbury, Vt., on Town Meeting Day. About one-fifth of towns voted on an Iraq war resolution. (Toby Talbot -- AP)

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"I can't think of another forum in which people can express their views on any subject, even ones of national importance," said Ned Coffin, 83, a retired poultry farmer and windmill manufacturer. "The war was a mistake, and this is a way for that message to be heard."

But it was in Bethel, a working-class town of less than 2,000, that some of the most intense discussions took place. About 30 speakers came to the microphone in an hour-long debate that resulted in voting to remove some of the Iraq resolution's most controversial clauses.

"I think this has more to do with politics than it is about caring for the National Guard. I think there are people against this war and against this administration," said Vietnam veteran Lucien Hinkle, 62, a construction manager and farmer who spoke against the resolution.

James Bennett, 38, an Army National Guard staff sergeant who returned to the state last week from a year-long tour in Iraq, said Vermont soldiers are needed there.

"We are as much a part of the mission as anyone else, and we should stick with it," he said

Jeanne French Mattson, 68, disagreed, arguing that Guard units were needed to protect U.S. borders. "I don't want to wake up some morning and look out my window and see mushroom clouds," the retired secretary said. "I want my National Guard here in this country."

Federal control over the deployment of the Guard was challenged in the 1980s, when the governors of California, Maine and other states tried to resist sending troops to conflicts in Latin America. But Congress and the Supreme Court reinforced the president's authority to deploy the Guard. In Iraq, Guard and reserve units make up about 40 percent of U.S. forces.

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