The debate over the Iraq War changed last week in a simple, but profound way. A bill introduced on Tuesday in the Vermont State Legislature declares that the 2002 federal authorization to call up the State National Guard has expired, and would set in motion steps to recall members of the Vermont Guard. Rep. Michael Fisher, lead sponsor of the Vermont bill says that:
It is clear that the mission that Congress authorized no longer exists. The President has no current or permanent legal authority to keep Guard members in Iraq. The Governor as Commander-in-Chief of the Vermont National Guard should take necessary steps to bring them home.
In addition to the Vermont legislation, sponsored by Rep. Michael Fisher and Senate President Pro-Tempore Peter Shumlin, legislators in Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island plan to sponsor similar National Guard legislation in the current legislative session.Legislators in six other states, notably Maryland, Maine, and Wisconsin are working on the issue and considering following suit.
In recent years, twelve state legislatures and over 300 communities have passed resolutions protesting the Iraq War and calling withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq. This new legislation is something very different. This legislation actually ends the deployment of the Guard from Iraq.
News media from public radio, to CBS News, to Pacifica and AlterNet have already picked up the story. This new campaign to inject some democracy into our system of national defense is building.
Please take a moment to read more. We've provided you with a copy of the Vermont legislation itself, an FAQ, media reports, and several articles by Liberty Tree's Ben Manski and IPS' Karen Dolan. Just go to our resources page at: http://www.LibertyTreeFDR.org/guard.php
Once you are done reading, it's time for action. Please see below for what you should do.
CAIRO - The Egyptian Military and Central Security Forces have committed crimes against humanity in the struggle for control of Tahrir Square.
I have been in Tahrir all day and well into the night on recent Fridays. I witnessed hundreds of thousands of Egyptians peacefully rallying to express their political opinions and opposition to the continuation of military dictatorship in Egypt.
Their leaders responded to their peaceful appeals with live ammunition and CR gas, which is classified as a "combat class chemical weapon" by the U.S. military. Its use is forbidden in the United States.
On March 8, 2010, the Maryland House Health and Government Operations Committee held a public hearing on HB 1037, a bill that states, "If an authorization for use of military force has by its terms expired or is no longer valid authority for federal control over units of the national guard, and there is otherwise no action underway for the prompt return of the units to state control, the governor shall request the return of the units to the control of the state." More information about HB 1037 here.
Below is testimony in support of HB1037 by some of those who attended the hearing.
Ellen E Barfield Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter of Veterans for Peace, Baltimore, MD
Testimony to the House Health and Government Operations Committee in Support of HB 1037
My name is Ellen Barfield. I am a veteran of the US Army and the co-founder and director of the Baltimore Phil Berrigan Memorial Chapter of Veterans for Peace. Baltimore VFP strongly supports HB 1037.
I am concerned about the personal costs our National Guard members face when they are called up over and over again to serve in combat in Afghanistan or Iraq and the injustices they face as veterans when they return.
PA Governor Ed Rendell: "Our troops are tired and worn out. [With respect to the] Pennsylvania National Guard, most of our guards have been to either Iraq [or] Afghanistan, over 85 percent, and many of them have gone three or four times and they're wasted."
When young men and women join the National Guard, the enlistment contract is for one weekend a month and two weeks annual training each year, and in case of national emergency they may be called to augment the regular army. In the last nine years the Guard has been used instead as the regular army; in some cases, members have been called to active duty to serve for as long as 12 to 15 months and for as many as three to five deployments.(1)
Commenting in the military newspaper Stars and Stripes on the use of the National Guard, Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey said, "On a given day, the active [Army] is probably 540,000, but we’ll have more than 700,000 in our ranks on active duty, which tells me that the National Guard and Reserve, instead of being an emergency force, has become a steady-state active-duty part of the country’s warfighting capabilities."(2)
Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania has said, "Our troops are tired and worn out. [With respect to the] Pennsylvania National Guard, most of our guards have been to either Iraq [or] Afghanistan, over 85 percent, and many of them have gone three or four times and they're wasted."(3)
Many problems arise after this dangerous and extended service. Federal law requires that Guard members' jobs be held for them, but repeated deployments and the economy make it very difficult for many businesses to hold the same positions for returning Guards, as documented by a Veterans for America study on the Pennsylvania National Guard,(4) findings that very likely apply to the Maryland Guard, also.
Guard members are twice as likely to have a veterans’ disability claim denied as other veterans of the same operations, even though they are only half as likely to file claims in the first place.
As Veterans, National Guard members receive inferior health benefits. The Veterans Administration is severely underfunded and rations care by eligibility based on active time served. For National Guard members, this is solely time spent in combat, unlike Regular Army time which includes all time enlisted, even at the home base in the US. So, Guard Veterans are always at the end of the line for health benefits. Also, Guard members are twice as likely to have a veterans’ disability claim denied as other veterans of the same operations, even though they are only half as likely to file claims in the first place.(5) It is unclear why this is so.
National Guard members, who live in the community rather than on base, have little access to support services. The stresses of being repeatedly deployed with very little warning, possible job loss, and family separation all take a toll on family life. One in five Maryland Guard members separates or divorces within a year of return to civilian life.(6)
One in five Maryland Guard members separates or divorces within a year of return to civilian life.
Other benefits are difficult for National Guard members to access, also. For example, members of the Minnesota and Iowa National Guards were denied education benefits because they served too few days in Iraq, just under the 730 days active duty required to qualify for the Montgomery GI Bill.(7) They served just as long as their active duty colleagues -- 22 consecutive months, the longest of any U.S. unit in Iraq – but they were demobilized just before having served the 730 days.
In short, our National Guard has been severely overused for purposes they were not intended to address, and they continue to be abused with lesser services and benefits.
Today’s bill is one very small step towards addressing these inequities. I urge you to pass this bill.
(1) Command Sergeant Major Julio Rodriguez, US Army Reserve Retired, testimony in the Maryland Senate, March 4, 2009.
(2) John Vandiver, Stars and Stripes, Mideast Edition, General: National Guard is key in Afghanistan, June 23, 2009
(3) Tomgram: William Astore, “Grinding Down the U.S. Army,” December 15, 2009.
(4) Veterans for America, The Pennsylvania National Guard, October 27, 2008
(5) Rick Maze, Army Times, VCS in the News: “National Guard and Reservists’ Disability Claims from Iraq and Afghanistan Wars More Likely to be Denied by VA,” Sept. 29, 2008.
(6) Begging and Borrowing to Help Our Soldiers,” Baltimore Sun, January 14, 2008, Pg. 1, by David Wood.
(7) Nina Petersen-Perlman, Minneapolis Star Tribune, Same Service, same sacrifice, different treatment, November 1, 2007
Geoffrey Millard Iraq Veterans Against the War
Testimony to the House Health and Government Operations Committee in Support of HB 1037
I’d like to start out by thanking the Committee for allowing me the opportunity to testify. This is an important matter that will affect the long-term safety of not only Maryland but also states across the country. My name is Geoffrey Millard I am now the Chair of the national Board of Directors of Iraq Veterans Against the War. I spent 9 years in the NY Army National Guard to include multiple tours of duty at the world trade center after 9-11, many statewide emergencies, and 13 months in Iraq. In fact in order to get a four-year bachelors degree it took me 9 years.
Other than my deployment to Iraq I did not mind these activations because I was doing what I signed up for, helping my fellow citizens. I helped move snow, trees, and ice during storms. I helped to secure ground zero in the days after 9-11. But for 13 months I was in Iraq, where I could not help New Yorkers no matter what my family and friends were going through. Living on the same base as I did in Iraq was the Louisiana Army National Guard who watched Katrina destroy their homes on TV. They should have been there to help their fellow citizens. In fact the full 42nd ID (of which I was member) with all its experience in disaster recovery should have been there to help. Instead we could only watch from TV as we helped to destroy another country.
"Living on the same base as I did in Iraq was the Louisiana Army National Guard who watched Katrina destroy their homes on TV. They should have been there to help their fellow citizens. Instead we could only watch from TV as we helped to destroy another country."
Just this past week in Pennsylvania a man died in the snowstorm because despite a dozen calls to 911, emergency workers could not get to him. They did not have the equipment to get to him but the PA NG does. The Guard has HUM-V ambulances that would have had little trouble keeping that man alive. Most sates do not have the budget to buy this equipment for an occasional use so the Guard is a critical cog in the machine of our society. But where was the PA NG? I’ll give you a clue; it was way too hot there for any snow at all.
What will happen when Maryland’s Guard is needed and they are deployed to Iraq? Who in this room will have their lives put at risk? How many of Maryland’s Guard will die in a mistake?
I urge the committee and the Maryland Senate to pass HB 1037! There were no weapons of mass destruction and there is no reason for Maryland to allow its Guard to again be deployed into a war based on lies.
Dr. Jean Athey Testimony to the House Health and Government Operations Committee in Support of HB 1037
My name is Dr. Jean Athey. I am retired now and live in Brookeville, MD. I formerly worked at the National Institute of Mental Health in a program focused on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD.
National Guard members have the highest rates of mental health problems in the military and the worst access to care.
A Department of Defense report states that veterans and family members give up trying to find appropriate services after “the tenth or eleventh” unsuccessful phone call for an appointment.
A DOD study(1) states that 49% of National Guard members report serious mental health symptoms three months after demobilization, the highest of all the services, and up to one in four may experience PTSD. National Guard troops also face much greater risk of alcohol-related problems.(2)
Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), which can range from mild to debilitating, is quite common among Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, and it is often seen in combination with PTSD.
There are very, very few mental health professionals in the private sector trained to provide treatment for PTSD, and even fewer for PTSD complicated by TBI. Essentially none of those who can provide such treatment are available outside of a military treatment facility, such as Bethesda Naval Hospital.
Our Maryland Guard troops go home to their communities when demobilized—to Salisbury, Easton, Cumberland. There, they won’t find the highly-trained community providers they need, and frequent travel to Bethesda is not feasible for most. The DOD report states that veterans and family members give up trying to find appropriate services after “the tenth or eleventh” unsuccessful phone call for an appointment.(3)
We are sending our young Guard members into situations that not only may kill or dismember them. They also face a 50% chance of soul-destroying emotional damage, and there is no viable system of care to help them.
I don’t believe the National Guard was established to be a first-line military service, as it has been used in Iraq and Afghanistan. But if we do decide to send our Maryland Guard to war, the least we can do is be absolutely certain that the deployment orders are legal and constitutional. If they are not, the Governor should demand that the State’s Guard come home. That’s all this legislation asks.
(1) An Achievable Vision, Report of the DOD Task Force on Mental Health, June 2007, http://www.health.mil/dhb/mhtf/MHTF-Report-Final.pdf.
(2) Isabel Jacobsen, et al., “Alcohol Use and Alcohol-Related Problems Before and After Military Combat Deployment,” Journal of the American Medical Association, 300 (6) 663-675, 2008.
(3) An Achievable Vision, ibid.
James Klimasky Testimony to the House Health and Government Operations Committee in Support of HB 1037
House Bill 1037, concerning continued overseas deployment of the Maryland National Guard, is narrowly drafted legislation which calls upon the governor to question the authority of the Federal Government to continue mobilizing Maryland National Guard units and send them overseas aftger their mission is comp;lete. Such action by the governor is neither unconstitutional nor preempted by any Federal law.
The President may not maintain National Guard forces in Iraq for purposes other than those set forth in the Congressional authorization.
The basis for the Guard mobilization to Iraq, the 2002 Congressional Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF), was narrow and specific. Its purposes were (1) to protect the United States from the perceived threat posed by Iraq, and (2) to enforce United Nations resolutions relating to this Iraq threat. Since Iraq no longer, if it ever did, poses a threat to the national security of the United States, nor are there any relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions left to be enforced, authorization for continued call up of Maryland National Guard units to Iraqis clearly in question.
Change in the basis for the 2002 Congressional authorization is not within the President’s discretion as commander-in-chief. The President may not maintain National Guard forces in Iraq for purposes other than those set forth in the Congressional authorization. This legislation, House Bill 1034, requires the Governor to request return of the National Guard to his authority when those purposes have been fulfilled.
This legislation is not in conflict with federal law. In fact, it is formulated on the bedrock upon which this country was created – a federal republic. The United States Constitution recognizes that the Federal Government’s powers stem for the people and the states which make up this Republic.
The Governor of Maryland has a right and a duty to the citizens in this state to question the federalization of the Maryland National Guard for continued service where the mandate for such action is no longer authorized by Congressional Resolution and where the United States has not delegated any authority to the United Nations to authorize deployment of US. Forces based upon UN resolutions not specified in the 2002 Congressional action.
James Klimaski is a resident of Silver Spring, Maryland. He is a member of the DC Bar and the National Lawyers Guild and was a First Lieutenant in the US Army.
Karen O’Keefe Testimony to the House Health and Government Operations Committee in Support of HB 1037
Good afternoon, honorable Chairman Hammen, members of the committee. I’m Karen O’Keefe, a resident of district 20. I’m here to urge you to favorably report House Bill 1037.
We do not know what disasters may strike in the future in Maryland or elsewhere in the United States. But whatever they are, having a significant proportion of our National Guard serving in foreign wars instead of being home to adequately plan for and respond to disasters will hurt our ability to respond.
At the time Katrina struck, more than 7,000 Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard members were in Iraq.
I graduated from Loyola School of Law in New Orleans in 2003 and moved to the D.C. area. A friend and a hero of mine, Bill Quigley, who directs Loyola’s poverty law center, let me and others know that he would be staying at Memorial Hospital with his wife, Debbie, who is an oncology nurse, during the hurricane. The day after the hurricane, on August 30, 2005, he let us know the levees had broken and asked us to pass word on to state and federal authorities that there were 1,300 people trapped in the hospital including 250 very ill ones.
For the next two days, I did just that. I enlisted my colleague, and we tried to get help both by phone and emails, including to FEMA, the Red Cross, elected officials, and the media. We got through to the Louisiana Department of Public Safety, and they said they’d notify search and rescue. Although perhaps 100 people were evacuated on the 30th, that was not nearly enough given that 250 people were very ill.
Judith Graham of the Chicago Tribune spoke to Bill on August 31. Bill described critically ill patients lying on stretchers in 110-degree heat as relatives fanned them with cardboard. He reported that there were about a half dozen dead bodies downstairs. Nurses carried critically ill patients up dark, slippery stairways to the eighth floor, where they were told helicopters would ferry them to medical institutions. But the helicopters never came and they had to be brought back down. Judith also reached spokesperson of the hospital’s parent company, Tenet, on the 31st who said they were trying to secure private helicopters and boats, “but that resources are in short supply.”
Eventually, at 9:30 p.m. the next day, three days after the hurricane, and a day after the back-up generators had failed, the last living patient was evacuated from Memorial — not by our government, but by helicopters arranged by Tenet. Private volunteers also came to help, and that’s how Bill got out. Forty-five people ended up dying in Memorial Hospital. 1,723 total people died in the storm and due to the broken levees and failed response. I wonder how many of them would have been saved if there had been thousands of more National Guard rescuers, with their equipment. At the time Katrina struck, more than 7,000 Louisiana and Mississippi National Guard members were in Iraq. That’s 35% and 40% of the total forces.
There is much to criticize about the response to Katrina. But having so many personnel and so much equipment 7,000 miles away instead of being on hand to assist after disasters was a key failure. I urge the committee to report HB 1037 favorably. Thank you for your time.
Karen O’Keefe is a resident of Silver Spring, MD
Gail Owens Testimony to the House Health and Government Operations Committee in Support of HB 1037
My name is Gail Owens. I've lived in the State of Maryland since 1972.
About three years ago retired Marine Corps Maj. General Arnold Punaro, chairman of the Commission on the National Guard and Reserves, told Congress that “we are putting our citizens at greater risk and our economy at greater risk” by relegating homeland defense to a backseat role.
General Accounting Office: "High use of the National Guard for federal overseas missions has reduced equipment available for its state-led domestic missions, at the same time it faces an expanded array of threats at home."
About a year ago, the Maryland Army National Guard estimated it had only half the equipment and just two-thirds of the materials required for front-line homeland security.
Kansas officials have testified that the absence of Guard personnel and equipment seriously impacted that state's ability to deal with the devastation of the 2006 tornado.
Louisiana Guard commanders & state and local officials in Louisiana and Mississippi cited the shortage of troops and absence of adequate communication and transportation equipment as a major impediment to responding well to Hurricane Katrina.
Less than a year and a half ago Defense Secretary Robert Gates addressed the Senate Armed Services Committee. He noted that the National Guard's “man-days” devoted to homeland emergencies increased by almost 60 percent in the past year.
A report by the U.S. General Accounting Office found that “the high use of the National Guard for federal overseas missions has reduced equipment available for its state-led domestic missions, at the same time it faces an expanded array of threats at home.”
Haiti and Chile are harbingers of unusual weather patterns due to climate change and require greater preparedness for unpredictable natural and other calamities. Maryland's government would be irresponsible to ignore the potential dangers.
Maryland's Guard staying at home translates into emergency preparedness in addition to stable Guard families. Multiple recalls abroad fracture families by absence, loss of income, and the terrible, often life-long, repercussions of physical and mental trauma and devastation suffered in battle. Maryland's Guard didn't sign up for foreign wars. They signed up to help fellow citizens face disasters at home. That's where they need to stay.
Elected officials of the State of Maryland need to stand up to the back door draft and provide strong checks and balances on improper use of a cherished and vital state asset-- Maryland's National Guard.
Gail Owens is a resident of Montgomery Village, MD.
"Bring the Guard Home - It's the Law!" is a national campaign, now active in more than 20 states, that is raising a legal challenge to the Federal Government's use of our National Guard troops for deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. In Wisconsin, the campaign is promoting AB 203, a bill in the Wisconsin state assembly which would give the Governor the authority to examine the legality of any federal order for deployment of the Wisconsin National Guard and to challenge in court any orders determined to be unlawful.
Steve Burns, Outreach Director
Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice
You don't have to wait any longer: The initial video is in from Who Decides About War?, the National Conference on War Powers, Law, and Democracy. This exciting conference took place on October 2nd and 3rd at the Georgetown School of Law, and featured over one hundred participants from 18 states.
Participants included veterans, military family members, journalists, lawyers, law students, professors, and other advocates of a more democratic, peaceful system of national defense.
Who actually does: the media, weapons companies, the permanent government, presidents (including simply by decreeing a "war on terror", through misspending, lying, simply acting, signing treaties), political parties, culture (the one Biden lives in, in which Israel's sovereign right to attack Iran is uncontroversial), soldiers who obey illegal orders and the culture that leads kids to that place.
Who should decide: we the people of the world, through democratically created and enforced international and national and state laws.
Antiwar.com's Scott Horton interviews Ben Manski, Executive Director of Liberty Tree. They discuss the Bring the Guard Home! campaign that, "seeks to end the illegal use of national guard units deployed abroad, the historical U.S. change from a republican system of state militias to an imperial army, and the reassertion of state control over the guard."
KBOO's public affairs host William Seaman interviews Dan Handelman about the campaign to keep Oregon's National Guard troops from deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan ... how close is the vote in the Oregon House and Senate on legislation aimed at challenging the federalization of the Oregon Guard? Also in the conversation by telephone is national campaign coordinator, Ben Manski, with an update on other state campaigns challenging guard deployments.
A former congresswoman, a radio host, a military spouse, and a historian make up the participants of this Forum’s discussion on “Democratizing Defense.”
Stacy Bannerman is a prominent contemporary anti-war activist whose husband is an active duty member of the National Guard. We connected with Bannerman on the Troops Home Now! Tour of 2006, which Liberty Tree co-sponsored.
Paul Buhle is a historian, a veteran of the 1960s era SDS, and a mentor to the new SDS. Buhle is also known as a widely published cartoonist and author.
At the heart of American constitutional democracy is the concept of checks and balances: limits on the reach of each branch of government so that none can act unilaterally or exercise power without accountability. The power to initiate warfare, because of its grave and potentially long-term consequences for the entire republic, is rightly assigned to the entire Congress under the American system, rather than to the President, a single individual. Wisely, the Constitution provides that the decision to go to war should be debated thoroughly and openly in Congress, rather than carried out by a secretive order, on the judgment of one person.
666 Broadway, 7th floor, New York, NY 10012
Phone (212) 614-6489 Fax (212) 614-6422 ccrjustice.org
All you have to do is remember that anti-imperialism is only another name for old-fashioned Americanism, and all will be clear to you. An American who has a settled body of convictions . . . who with his inherited ideas has an inherited courage, an inherited love of equality and justice . . . why, he is a natural born anti-imperialist, and it is simply his Americanism that makes him think and act as he does . . . .
~ New York Evening Post, May 3, 1902
Ben Manski is a Wisconsin attorney and the editor of the Liberty Tree Journal.
Location: Barcelona, Spain Presented at the International Seminar on Participatory Democracy "Participatory Democracy. Political Actors and Social Movements" AbstractDiagnosing Democratic Collapse The U.S. political system suffers from a potentially fatal condition, a malady that can be diagnosed as "Democratic Collapse." The causes of this collapse are known: First, the consolidation of corporate control of the establishment political parties. Second, the sacrilegious enshrinement of corporations as persons under law, entitled to constitutional protections against citizens and governments.
Ben Manski is a Fellow with the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution in its Local Democracy and Democratizing Education program areas. He served as Co-Chair of the Green Party of the United States from 2001 through 2004, and was active in the U.S. student, labor, peace, and environmental movements throughout the 1990s. Ben has a degree in law from the University of Wisconsin, and has written on the corporatization of higher education in the United States.
Guess what, Mr. President? Your authority to keep state National Guard troops in Iraq has expired. So says a new bill introduced this week to the Vermont Legislature by Rep. Michael Fisher and Sen. Peter Shumlin. It is supported by 30 of their colleagues.
"It is clear that the mission that Congress authorized no longer exists," said Fisher. "Unless Congress grants a new authorization, the Vermont Guard should revert back to state control." The Vermont bill states:
Karen Dolan is a fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C., and a contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus. Ben Manski is a Wisconsin attorney and the executive director of the Liberty Tree Foundation for the Democratic Revolution.
The new debate over war powers, defense policy,
and the National Guard
This study memo–maybe more dependent on computer literacy than on a knowledge of Latin legal maxims–consists of three features: The author’s narrative, documents or parts of documents integrated into the syllabus for easy reference, and links to the full texts of these documents as well as to other documents.
Many, many thanks to Ben Manski of the Liberty Tree Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Law School for creating this opportunity for dialogue.