Anti-war referendums on ballots
More than 100 communities in several states will vote on the issue.
BOSTON (AP) -- For a week and a half, 81-year-old Hamer Lacey hauled his broken back and clipboard to a Gloucester grocery store parking lot, looking for signatures of residents who shared his fervent opposition to the war in Iraq.
His work over the summer put Gloucester among 139 Massachusetts communities where residents will vote next month on a nonbinding question that calls for an immediate U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
Voters in several cities in Wisconsin and Illinois will consider a similar question.
Organizers said they do not expect the results to turn U.S. policy around. But they said the outcome could at least make the growing anti-war sentiment clear to the policymakers.
"There's a gap between what the public wants and what public officials want," said Steve Burns of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice.
Wade Zerkle, executive director of Vets for Freedom, said the referendums are a publicity stunt, and the outcome will not represent the majority: "I don't think a ballot referendum in some of the most liberal cities in America is going to hold much water."
He said most Americans, even those with growing doubts about the war, know that leaving Iraq prematurely will create a terrorist haven that the U.S. will have to deal with.
Since the March 2003 invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein, nearly 2,800 members of the U.S. military have been killed in Iraq, according to an Associated Press count.
"We're just hoping people will look into their hearts and say, 'What is going on here?"' said Paul Shannon of the American Friends Service Committee, the Quaker peace group that helped organize the Massachusetts signature drive.
In Wisconsin, 10 communities will vote in November on withdrawal. In April, 24 of 32 Wisconsin communities voted in favor of removing U.S. forces.
In Illinois, the question will be considered in Chicago, as well as smaller cities, including Springfield and Urbana, and about a half-dozen towns.
The list of Massachusetts communities where the question will appear includes liberal cities such as Boston, Newton and Cambridge, and communities such as Chicopee, a town in western Massachusetts where Westover Air Reserve Base is situated.
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