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Wisconsin Wants Peace Now

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Michael Leon
Message Michael Leon
-Madison, Wisconsin

Wisconsin voters called for bringing the troops home from Iraq yesterday amid mounting death tolls and increasing doubt of the sincerity of the Bush administration.

Referendums were on the ballot yesterday in 32 communities ranging from tiny villages to the city of Madison representing some 325,000 Wisconsin citizens.

By an overwhelming margin, voters sent the message that we should withdraw the troops now. Anti-war advisory referendums passed in 24 of the 32 communities in which they were placed on the ballot.

"This a total victory for the peace movement and the people of Wisconsin. It shows that democracy stands strong here in our state and that people voted their conscience in saying that they want to see the war in Iraq end now," said Rae Vogeler, peace activist and Wisconsin Green party candidate for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Herb Kohl (D), who is running for reelection this November.

The anti-war position expressed by the referendums is advocated nationally by a growing number in Congress, inlcuding Rep. John Murtha (D-Pennsylvania) and Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and by Senator Russ Feingold (D-Wisconsin).

Anti-war political forces here - traditionally strong since the days of Senator Bob LaFollette in the early 20th century - as represented by the referendums and Vogeler's candidacy are garnering the notice of Senator Kohl and other pro-war Democrats, and the Bush administration.

In a nod to this growing anti-war sentiment, many observers predict a move by the Bush administration to accelerate withdrawal in Iraq, or alternatively to divert political attention from Iraq by striking neighboring Iran sometime before November.

Kohl has been criticized for his affirmative votes on the Patriot Act and Iraq war, strongly opposed by fellow Wisconsin Senator Feingold, and unpopular in Wisconsin.

Kohl has been running early TV spots since March in a bid to scare off a strong Republican challenger who might benefit from a significant vote for Vogeler as a protest against Kolh's pro-war stances.

"Like the referendums, my campaign will show a strong organized effort for peace and justice and we intend to send a new Senator to Washington who will reperesent the people of Wisconsin and not special interests," said Vogeler.

In anti-war hotbed Madison, the referendum passed by 68 percent to 31 percent.

Wisconsin's most populous city, Milwaukee, will have a similar anti-war referendum on the ballot in November, where it is expected to easily pass.

The successful effort to place and pass the community referendums was organized by the Bring the Troops Home Now coalition, the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice and the Green party.

Sone 65,000 Wisconsin citizens voted on the 32 referendums.

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Michael Leon is a writer living in Madison, Wisconsin. His writing has appeared nationally in The Progressive, In These Times, and CounterPunch. He can be reached at maleon64@yahoo.com.
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