Compromise Emerges From Many Voices On Anti-War Article

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By: Brian Kehrl
Published: 05/07/10

Town Meeting found a compromise on a controversial anti-war petition article on Monday night, urging Mashpee’s Congressional delegation to pursue the “speedy withdrawal” of American troops from Iraq and Afghanistan rather than to cut funding for the two wars.

The issue generated an emotional discussion, prompting half a dozen voters to express a wide spectrum of opinions about the purpose of the two ongoing American wars.

The civic debate was unexpected coming after the selectmen’s statement that Town Meeting was the wrong forum for such a debate. The symbolic gesture on a national issue is unprecedented in recent Mashpee Town Meeting history.

The petition article, submitted by congressional candidate Peter A. White, passed 160 to 115 after the funding clause was removed through a floor amendment. The final wording urged Congressman William D. Delahunt, Senator John F. Kerry, and Senator Scott P. Brown to quickly remove American troops from the two countries. The article carries no legal weight, but both Rep. Delahunt’s and Sen. Kerry’s offices answered a request for a response by saying that they agree with the petition article. Sen. Brown’s office did not respond to a query from the Enterprise by press time this week.

To open the discussion, Mr. White introduced himself as “a patriot for peace,” and read his short petition article.
Kathleen M. Lynch then immediately offered the amendment. “As a mother of a Marine, I am insulted by the wording of this article,” she said. Ms. Lynch’s son, John W. Lynch, was injured during his service in Iraq. Ms. Lynch argued that urging Mashpee’s congressional delegation to “vote no on any more funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” was, in effect, undercutting the troops. Voters agreed to delete the phrase.

Karen A. McGuire carefully enunciated her continuing belief in the value of the two wars. “What we are offering to the people of Iraq and Afghanistan is nothing less than freedom, and that has no price tag,” she said. Ms. McGuire’s son was also a Marine. Daniel A.C. McGuire was killed by small arms fire in Iraq in August 2008 at the age of 19. “What we are offering is beyond all measure, and I know that personally,” she said.

After the meeting, Ms. McGuire said she voted against the article because she disagreed with the premise that the Iraq war has had no benefits, a view she said is held by many others. The troops in Iraq have built schools and clinics, helped farmers, and protected a young government, she said. “Daniel saw democracy blossom in a way that most Americans have never seen.”

Jose L. Franco, a ranking official in the 102nd Intelligence Wing at Otis Air National Guard base, said that the troops have high-minded intentions when they agree to serve. “They’re not doing it to protect the oil,” he said. “They do it for the freedom of the United States.”

Mr. White laid out his argument that, whatever the troops’ intentions, the wars are still about oil. “There is no Al Qaeda in Afghanistan or Iraq,” he said. “This war will go on for as long as there is oil in the Middle East because the oil companies want us there.” He pointed to efforts to build a natural gas pipeline across Afghanistan as evidence of corporate influence on the American war efforts. “This war is destroying our country militarily and economically,” he said.

William P. O’Brian, wearing a long, gray ponytail, lightened the mood momentarily by offering a Buddhist prayer. “No prayers. This is Town Meeting,” interrupted Moderator Jeremy M. Carter, his voice rising. Later, Mr. O’Brian exclaimed that he had lost the yellow index card that voters hold up to be counted. Mr. White tore his card in half and handed one part to Mr. O’Brian. A woman across the aisle protested. “Why do you have half a card?” she asked him loudly. Town Clerk Deborah F. Dami seemed to settle the issue, and both votes with the split cards appeared to be counted.

Nancy J. Burtis offered another moment of levity when she took the microphone to say that she hated oil. “I like natural gas. That’s what I have at my house,” she said. “And these 170 wind turbines,” she continued, “What do they run on, oil?” Laughter rippled through the crowd as a few people said, “Wind!”

The debate moved on as Frank J. Lord used his speaking time to quote Andrew J. Bacevich, a retired Army colonel who has written books about the military problems facing the United States. Mr. Lord read some comments from the colonel about the war in Afghanistan. “It is the longest war in American history and it is a war for which there is no end in sight. And to my mind, it is a war that is utterly devoid of strategic purpose,” he read.

Bringing the discussion to a close, Paul P. Andrews moved to vote on the article, “rather than allowing Town Meeting to further a campaign for office.” Mr. Andrews was referring to Mr. White, the congressional candidate and the article’s petitioner. After the vote was counted and the petition article was passed, Mr. White smiled broadly.

The day after Town Meeting, Mr. White sought to capitalize on the article passing, issuing a press release highlighting his sponsorship of the measure and further questioning the purpose of the two wars.

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