BOSTON More than 30 Vermont towns passed resolutions on Tuesday seeking to impeach President Bush, while at least 16 towns in the tiny New England state called on Washington to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq.
Known for picturesque autumn foliage, colonial inns, maple sugar and old-fashion dairy farms, Vermont is in the vanguard of a grass-roots protest movement to impeach Bush over his handling of the unpopular Iraq war.
"We're putting impeachment on the table," said James Leas, a Vermont lawyer who helped to draft the resolutions and is tracking the votes. "The people in all these towns are voting to get this process started and bring the troops home now."
The resolutions passed on Vermont's annual town meeting day -- a colonial era tradition where citizens debate issues of the day big and small -- are symbolic and cannot force Congress to impeach Bush, but they "may help instigate further discussions in the legislature," said state Rep. David Zuckerman.
"The president must be held accountable," said Zuckerman, a politician from Burlington, Vermont's largest city.
After casting votes on budgets and other routine items, citizens of 32 towns in Vermont backed a measure calling on the U.S. Congress to file articles of impeachment against Bush for misleading the nation on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction and for engaging in illegal wiretapping, among other charges.
Five Vermont towns passed similar resolutions last year.
The idea of impeaching Bush resides firmly outside the political mainstream.
The new Democratic-controlled Congress has steered clear of the subject, and Wisconsin Sen. Russell Feingold's call last year to censure Bush -- a step short of an impeachment -- found scant support on Capitol Hill, even among fellow Democrats.
Vermont's congressional delegation has shown no serious interest in the idea.
'SOLDIERS HOME NOW'
Sixteen Vermont towns passed a separate "soldiers home now" resolution calling on the White House, the U.S. Congress and Vermont's elected officials to withdraw troops from Iraq.
"The best way to support them is to bring each and every one of them home now and take good care of them when they get home," the resolution said.
It was unclear how many towns had put the resolutions to a vote, and the results of all the town meetings in the state of about 609,000 people may not be known for days.
Residents of Burlington were voting on a separate question calling for a new investigation into the September 11 attacks.
Voters were asked to circle "yes" or "no" to the question: "Shall Vermont's Congressional Delegation be advised to demand a new, thorough, and truly independent forensic investigation that fully addresses the many questions surrounding the tragic events of September 11, 2001?"
Doug Dunbebin, who gathered signatures to get the issue on the ballot, said questions linger about September 11, when hijacked plane attacks killed nearly 3,000 people at New York's World Trade Center, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania.
A group known as Scholars for 9/11 Truth believes the events of that day were part of a conspiracy engineered by the U.S. government and that it took more than two planes to bring down the Twin Towers in New York.
Vermont's new U.S. representative, Peter Welch, a Democrat, said there was no need for a further investigation.
(Additional reporting by Julie Masis)