AUGUSTA The Maine Senate endorsed a resolution Tuesday that asks President Bush to pursue a diplomatic solution with Iraq rather than going to war. The House is expected to take up the proposal on Thursday at the earliest. The 18-15 Senate vote represents the first time nationally that a state legislative body has taken a stance against a war in Iraq. Sixty-three U.S. cities, including Portland, have voted to support similar resolutions. The Senate vote was partisan, with every Democrat supporting the measure and every Republican in attendance opposing it.
The Senate debate lasted a half-hour and centered on whether the Legislature had any business voting on matters of foreign policy.
Sen. Ethan Strimling, D-Portland, who introduced the measure, compared the huge cost of the war, which he projected at $200 billion, to Maine's pressing economic issues. He said the federal government should be spending money to keep factories open in Maine rather than destroying them in Iraq.
For more information on the Maine resolution contact:
State Senator Ethan Strimling
email@example.com or 207-287-1515
State of Maine
In the Year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Three
Joint Resolution Memorializing the President of the United States to Support the Full Pursuit of Diplomatic Resolutions and Weapons Inspections
WE, your Memorialists, the Members of the One Hundred and Twenty-first Legislature of the State of Maine now assembled in the First Regular Session, most respectfully present and petition the President of the United States, as follows:
WHEREAS, there is an urgent need for genuine multilateral action to eliminate weapons of mass destruction worldwide; and
WHEREAS, governments around the world oppose unilateral action regarding Iraq and support the full pursuit of diplomatic resolutions and weapons inspections before any further military action is taken against Iraq; and
WHEREAS, a war with Iraq will jeopardize the lives of American soldiers and will kill many innocent Iraqi civilians who have already suffered enormously under Saddam Hussein's rule and sanctions of the United Nations; and
WHEREAS, a United States military attack on Iraq threatens the stability of the Middle East region; and
WHEREAS, military action will likely result in a long-term United States military presence; and
WHEREAS, conflict in the area may result in the widespread destruction of the environment and the civilian infrastructure of Iraq; and
WHEREAS, military expenditures will cause ballooning federal budget deficits, further weakening an already sluggish economy and ensuring reductions in federal aid to the State; and
WHEREAS, the State of Maine is suffering from a fiscal crisis such that its ability to stabilize the taxes of the people of the State is being threatened, and programs that benefit working people and the poor are being threatened by severe budget cuts; and
WHEREAS, it has been estimated that a war in Iraq would likely cost the United States taxpayers over $100 billion which would include $267,000,000 from Maine taxpayers, and that could go a long way to meeting our health and education needs; and
WHEREAS, if the country does go to war, this resolution should in no way be interpreted as not supporting the troops, and We, your Memorialists, stand in full and unwavering support of our brave young men and women of the Armed Forces whenever they are called to action; now, therefore, be it
RESOLVED: That We, your Memorialists, respectfully urge and request that the President of the United States support the full pursuit of diplomatic resolutions and weapons inspections; and be it further
RESOLVED: That suitable copies of this resolution, duly authenticated by the Secretary of State, be transmitted to the Honorable George W. Bush, President of the United States, and to each Member of the Maine Congressional Delegation and the Governor of the State of Maine.
"The economic situation in Maine needs our attention and needs it now," he said. "This war will distract us from that."
Sen. Kenneth Blais, R-Litchfield, said the resolution would be used by enemies of the United States to attack its foreign policy. He said Bush will make his decision based on the nation's intelligence-gathering resources and that the Legislature should not interfere with a president's duty as commander in chief.
"I'm saddened," Blais said, "by the attempts to link national security with financial aid to our state."
If approved by the House, copies of the resolution would be sent to Maine's congressional delegation and the White House.
The resolution is more vaguely worded than the one approved Monday by the Portland City Council on an 8-1 vote. The Portland measure opposes a pre-emptive invasion of Iraq by the United States without a clear showing of need, while the Legislature's resolution urges Bush to "support the full pursuit of diplomatic solutions and weapons inspections."
Hundreds of people have been calling Maine Senate offices during the past two days and nearly all of the calls have been in support of the resolution, according to Nina Wickenheiser, senior office administrator for the Senate Majority Office, which received 50 to 75 calls Monday. The Secretary of the Senate's Office received more than 300 calls. The Senate Minority Office received at least 50 calls, many of which were targeted at Republican senators in the midcoast region.
The peace movement in Maine is most active in the midcoast region, Portland, Bangor and Hancock County, said Greg Field, executive director of Peace Action Maine. He said his group, working with a loose coalition called Maine Win Without War, sent out e-mails urging members to call the Legislature. The coalition is composed of 22 groups, including the Maine Council of Churches, Physicians for Social Responsibility and the National Organization for Women.
News of the Senate's vote has inspired activists in Vermont to push for a resolution in their state legislature, said Karen Dolan, director of the Institute for Policy Studies. The Washington think tank runs a Web site, citiesforpeace.org, to provide civic and legislative entities support for anti-war measures.
Dolan said people are taking the issue of war to their local governments because they don't believe they have any other way to express themselves. "People are frustrated that their voices are not being heard at the federal level," she said.
When it comes to war, Maine politicians have never been shy about making their opinions known. The War of 1812 was hugely unpopular along the coast and in commercial centers because it cut off trade with Canada, and many in the province of Maine talked about secession, said Rep. Herb Adams, D-Portland, also a historian.
Maine's Thomas Brackett Reed, the powerful speaker of the U.S. House, was so bitterly opposed to the "imperialistic" Spanish-American War that he resigned in protest, Adams said.
There were a lot of Maine pacifists during World War I, Adams said, and Republican Maine was deeply isolationist during the period between the two world wars. Ken Curtis, who was governor during the Vietnam War era, was a harsh critic of that war, Adams said.
In 1991, the state Senate and House approved a Gulf War resolution supporting U.S. troops and the former President Bush. Debate over the wording of the non-binding resolution, particularly whether it should mention Bush, stalled it for weeks. Adams, a legislator at the time, worked for several days to craft language that would appease both Republicans and Democrats.
"After all that sound and fury, I cannot today remember which version finally passed," Adams said.
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