Leahy speaks out against war, in support of troops

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(Host) Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy continues to speak out against a possible war with Iraq, while at the same time he calls for more support for the nation’s citizen-soldiers. On Friday, Leahy announced legislation that would help the families of men and women in the National Guard and the military reserves.

VPR’s John Dillon reports:

(Dillon) Senator Leahy says President Bush is wrong to attack Iraq without the support of the United Nations.

(Leahy) “I wish that we would not because I think we run into the problem of possibly making the UN irrelevant. And that’s going to create a problem for us in the future, because many, many times there’s areas and things going in other parts of the world, where we have a real interest but we don’t want to commit our forces and we call on the UN to do it for us. And we call on people to obey the UN and follow them. It’s going to be very, very difficult in those circumstances if the reaction we get back is: look, you guys went out alone before you go take care of your interest now, the United Nations Nation won’t.”

(Dillon) Although Leahy is opposed to the war, he says he and other Vermonters fully support the men and women who are called into military service.

He’s backing legislation that would provide health insurance to National Guard and reserve soldiers who may lose their coverage if they’re called up. He also backs a bill that would help businesses cover an employee’s salary if the worker was sent into active military service. Leahy says Vermonters can help out in other ways as well.

(Leahy) “No matter how you feel about the war, help out the families with the father or the mother or both have been deployed. It’s the simple things: help with babysitting, call if the sidewalk needs shoveling, or someday a month from now, the lawn needs mowing. Call up and help.”

(Dillon) About 300 Vermont members of the Guard and reserves are now on active duty with some sent overseas. Adjutant General Martha Rainville says she expects more to be called up soon.

(Rainville) “We are seeing a lot of short notice deployments. We have guardsmen processing right now without the official word. They’re getting ready to go and we’ve been told they’ll be followed with official orders. I can’t predict what we’re going to be doing two weeks from now, but these men and women are trained and they’re trained as food service, they’re trained as mechanics. They’re trained as pilots, they’re trained as tankers and they would be called within those skills.”

(Dillon) Rainville says she the guard will also help with homeland security assignments in the event of war.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m John Dillon in South Burlington.

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