Bring the Guard Home Campaign Ramps Up

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A campaign to challenge the deployment of National Guard troops to Iraq and Afghanistan is about to ramp up in Wisconsin, with a three-day visit by the lead national legal counsel next week, and five events in Madison and Milwaukee.

Part of a national campaign that is now in some 20 states, it challenges the legal basis for deploying Guard members to those two fronts.

In Wisconsin, a bill has been drafted and will be introduced by two Madison Democrats, State Rep. Spencer Black and State Sen. Jon Erpenbach. It is being circulated now so others can sign on as co-sponsors.

The bill would “direct the governor to review every federal call-up of the National Guard for its legality, and where there is no lawful basis for Guard federalization, to take action to keep the Wisconsin Guard at home.”

Ben Manski, a Madison lawyer who is the national campaign director, believes there are solid arguments that the Iraq deployments are illegal. Attorneys also are working on a legal case against the Afghanistan deployment.

Meanwhile, 3,500 Wisconsin Guard members of the Red Arrow Division have been called up and are training in Texas for deployment to Iraq, in the biggest deployment of the state’s Guard troops since World War II. In February, a Wisconsin engineer sapper unit from the Rhinelander area left for Afghanistan.

The state Dept. of Veterans Affairs said at the time that:

With this mobilization the Wisconsin National Guard will have approximately 300 soldiers and airmen on duty. Later this month more than 3,000 Wisconsin Army National Guard soldiers from across the state will deploy with the 32nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team for a mission in Iraq. Another 75, headquarters soldiers of the Tomah-based 732nd Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, will be mobilized in May 2009, also for deployment to Iraq.

(For some mysterious reason, none of the DVA news releases about deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan are on their website any more, but I am trying not to think it’s a conspiracy.)

The basic argument that sending the Guard to Iraq is illegal is that the reasons cited in the authorization passed by Congress have expired.

Joy First, the Wisconsin organizer, explains:

The authority under which the Wisconsin Guard were deployed to Iraq was the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by Congress in 2002. That AUMF limited authorized military action to two purposes: 1) to force Iraq to comply with then extant U.N. Security Council resolutions; and 2) to defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat allegedly posed by Iraq.

Now that Saddam Hussein has been removed from power and we know that Iraq does not have – and never had- any weapons of mass destruction, the original mission has been completed and the 2002 AUMF is not in force. Therefore, there is no legal basis for sending the Wisconsin National Guard to Iraq.

The argument on Afghanistan is not as simple, but it challenges whether Congress, in a stampede to enlist in the “war on terror,” abdicated more of its war powers to the president than the Constitution allows.

While its passage may not bring any troops home this year, it would put a law in place to make it harder for the federal government to take our Guard troops for their illegal wars in the future.

That is nothing to sneeze at.

Back to Joy First’s memo:

This campaign is really about following the law as set forth by the U.S Congress. With this legislation, the states can begin to reassert their historic national defense responsibilities and to honor the Constitution’s genius for distributing power over issues of war and peace.

Having a newly elected administration in Washington does not change the need for this legislation. In fact, this is exactly when we should emphasize the rule of law as a moral and practical requirement to the use of military force. This is an opportunity to close the door on eight years of presidential lawlessness, and to set our national defense policy on a better track.

Much more information, petitions, and resources are on the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice website. To get involved, contact Joy First: jsfirst@tds.net

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