"Protecting those who protect us."

T.A. Barnhart

GuardhomecolorOn Wednesday afternoon, I testified before an Oregon legislative committee for the first time. I spoke in support of HB 2556 and HR 4 (see comment 1 for links); I spoke of the need to keep the Oregon National Guard from deploying to Iraq (and possibly, later, to Afghanistan) this coming July. On Thursday evening, I was able to convince the Multnomah County Democrats to endorse this legislation as well. Today and tomorrow (Monday, March 16), peace activists as well as those who believe supporting the Guard means preventing this deployment will be mobilizing in Salem on behalf of these bills and the need for Gov Kulongoski to refuse to order the deployment.

And in July, whatever happens in Salem, whatever the Legislature, Governor or citizens do, over 3,000 Oregonians will leave for Iraq to take their place in a wa, as President Obama has repeatedly described it, that never should have been authorized and never should have been fought.

As Joe Smith asked me Thursday night, What's the point?

One point is that of being morally consistent: You should always take the opportunity to do the right thing regardless of your chances for success. Others in the "Keep the Guard in Oregon" Campaign may disagree with me, but I have never held the slightest hope that we would actually succeed in preventing deployment, not by a single day. Nonetheless, I am determined to act as if the outcome is uncertain. What choice do I have? Bow before inevitably as if that were an excuse for inaction? My choice is infinitely less hazardous than that of the young man who stood before the tanks in Tiananmen Square, but it's the same moral choice: Doing what is right even when the outcome is already certain.

The point — and why should I even have to say this? — is to always do what you believe is right. Always.

But there are some practical points to be pursued as well. While we will not stop this deployment, we can be part of a movement to challenge the legal structure under which state guards are federalized, a process Bush/Cheney was able to exploit to the detriment of the regular military, the Guards and the states whose defenses are their primary task (ask the residents of the Ninth Ward; the Louisiana NG was in Iraq when Katrina struck). In raising these issues, we keep a light focused on the lies used to sell the Authorization of 2002, the basis for federalizing the National Guard.

By fighting this deployment, we fight the forces, the lies, the politics and greed that let those who perpetrated the 9/11 attacks get away while our nation invaded and occupied a sovereign nation that had as much to do with the attacks as did Ecuador, Botswana or New Zealand.

And in saying that, let me add: In fighting the Bush/Cheney lies, there is one group we do not fight: The men and women of America's armed forces, especially those of the National Guard. While many of us disagree with their willingness to serve in an occupying force, we respect their commitment to duty. As citizens, our opposition is not aimed at those wearing our nation's uniforms (as many of us did, myself included) but their faithless commanders who were willing to trade the lives and honor of American service members for the causes of greed and power. We do support the troops; for us, support means not wasting their commitment to duty in wars that are morally and legally indefensible.

However, in testifying before the House Rules Committee, I said virtually nothing about the politics of war, about the deceit that led to the AUMF and the crimes (as I perceive them) committed by our nation's leaders after 2001. For even though one always does what is right — and calling out the wrongs done by the Bush/Cheney Administration is always the right thing to do — one has to be smart about doing right. On Wednesday, it was enough for me to speak only of what I believed the Legislature needed to do, and that I could not support a deployment of the National Guard, in which my son serves, for a cause unworthy of their courage, honor and commitment. No need to refight the AUMF or eight years of lies and shame; my only goal on Wednesday was to urge the members of the Rules Committee to send HB 2556 and HR 4 to the floor for debate and vote.

Here is what HB 2556 and HR 4 do (SR 1 has the identical language to HR 4). HB 2556 requires the Governor to deploy the Guard when a legal authorization for doing so exists (as Federal law indeed requires him to do). HR 4/SR 1 state the Legislature's belief that no such legal authority exists. That's it. The Pentagon will ignore these bills, of course, even if AG John Kroger were to pursue the matter in court. But getting the issue into court would be a major victory for the Campaign, an opportunity to address what we believe is the abuse our of nation's National Guards. One goal of the Campaign is to ensure that no such abuses ever occur again, that the National Guard is federalized only under proper, defensible and completely legal conditions — all of which the Bush/Cheney Administration failed to do.

On Thursday evening, after the Multnomah County Dems passed a resolution endorsing the bills, a friend came up to me and said she would have voted Yes if the resolution had not mentioned Afghanistan. I understand that sentiment, as well as that of another opponent who wanted to give our new president the benefit of the doubt and a free hand to both end the Iraq War and finish business with Al Queda in Afghanistan. Yet both views involve a fundamental misunderstanding of the national Campaign to Bring the Guard Home and what we believe the proper use of the National Guard.

To the first point, and the central legal principle behind the Campaign: the 2002 AUMF can no longer be used as the means for federalizing the National Guard. The AUMF has expired because its mission has been fulfilled. Saddam Hussein ceased to be a threat years ago, and Iraq never had weapons of mass destruction. With the Authorization fulfilled, the basis for federalizing National Guards no longer exists. This is not an opinion; Title 10 requires that the President receive legal authorization to federalize the National Guard. The AUMF of 2002 was held to be such authority; the Campaign to Keep the Guard in Oregon asserts that authority has long since lapsed.

If President Obama and the Congress want to federalize the Oregon National Guard, they need only pass the appropriate legislation. If they believe they are just in sending the Guard to Iraq and Afghanistan, an authorization to that end should be a simple matter. If they cannot, or will not, pass a new and valid authorization, then they have no business attempting to federalize the National Guard in violation of the law.

Of course, we would fight an attempt to pass a new authorization. The National Guard may be well-trained, brave and capable, but their job is not to serve as a replacement for the nation's standing military. One of the great travesties of the Bush/Cheney years is that, while fighting two aimless, ill-conceived and disastrous wars, they managed to gut our armed forces. Why do we not have enough Army personnel for Iraq and Afghanistan? Why are we resorting &Mdash; and resorting it is: the Pentagon has used the National Guard in desperation for the troops it lacks for these wars — to troops whose purpose is not to participate in overseas military debacles but to protect the states in which they reside and under whose governors' command they serve? The Guard may be willing to serve in Iraq; that does not mean it should.

So I gave my testimony on Wednesday, imploring the members of the Rules Committee to take a stand for what is right. Rep Jules Bailey, among the many wonderful young new members of this Legislature, summed up the spirit of the Campaign perfectly; those are his words that appear as the title of this post:

We support our troops. We honor our troops. Our troops are doing ... what we ask them to do. This bill is not ... a referendum on particular conflicts. This bill is about protecting those who are protecting us in the National Guard. And sometimes when they do what we ask of them, sometimes they are doing what the Federal government asks of them, and sometimes they are doing what the State of Oregon asks of them. What these bills do is allow for a determination to be made about which is which.

These are troops that have served with distinction and have made their country proud. We honor their sacrifice, whether that sacrifice is abroad or whether that sacrifice is here at home, filling sandbags, fighting fires, or being good fathers and mothers. We also honor the sacrifice of their families. These are men and women who have a role to play at home. These are not weekend warriors; these are people who have been sent abroad again and again and again. And whether that was the mission for which they signed up or whether it was not, we want to make sure the State of Oregon is able to act under the United States Constitution, honor the United States Constitution and uphold the United States Constitution and make a determination of the use of our National Guard soldiers.

Will we keep the Guard from deploying in July? I'm sad to say, No. The Army will take them whatever the Legislature or Governor do (and I have no doubts, either, that the Governor will hide behind his version of "constitutionality" and refuse to act on the authority granted by these bills). Does this dishearten me? Not really. I do believe the President will have troops out of Iraq as promised, and that his emphasis in Afghanistan will be increasingly less militaristic and more diplomatic. I'd rather he not use my son as a placeholder, however. Like most of what Bush/Cheney left behind, the Army is a half-broken mess. President Obama should have sufficient troops in the Regular Army for this mission; he does not. I believe, under the law, he should seek a new authorization for the continued use of National Guard troops, but I know that won't happen, either. Instead, my son and 3,000 comrades will ship to Iraq and possibly Afghanistan.

In the words of journalist and Campaign supporter Jim Lommasson, who has interviewed dozens of Iraq War vets from Oregon: Every one one of them will return a casualty of war.

If our children, our spouses, our parents, our loved ones are going to be thrown to the dogs of war, should it not be done legally? And should it not be for a cause higher than extricating our nation from a war it was wrong to wage in the first place? I urge you, if you support Oregon's Guard and believe in the rule of law, contact your state Representative and Senator and ask that they vote for HB 2556, HR 4 and SR 1. The point is quite simple: It's the right thing to do.

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    HB 2556 as originally submitted Sponsors Representative Shields; Representatives Bailey, Dembrow, C Edwards, Greenlick, Kahl, Thompson, Tomei Senators Monnes Anderson, Monroe, Morrisette, Rosenbaum, Walker

    Rep Shields & Rep Richardson have agreed to replace the original language of HB 2556 with the following; this should happen at the first work session (not scheduled):

    "SECTION 1.

    (1) As used in this section, 'organized militia' means the Oregon Army National Guard and the Oregon Air National Guard.

    (2) The organized militia is limited to service on behalf of the State of Oregon unless the organized militia is called into federal service pursuant to a valid Congressional enactment consistent with the United States Constitution."

    HR 4 & SR 1 (identical language) Sponsors Representative Shields; Representatives Bailey, Dembrow, Tomei Sponsors Senator Walker; Senators Bates, Monnes Anderson, Monroe, Morrisette, Rosenbaum, Schrader

  • BOHICA (unverified)

    Today (Sunday)in Salem I had the opportunity to shake the hand of a Chosin Reservoir veteran (The Chosin Few) with a "Keep the Guard Home button on his jacket. That's like shaking the hand of a MOH recipient. If he wants the legislature to pass these bills, that's good enough for me, he's earned it.

    Its about the Constitution.

  • alcatross (unverified)

    Well fine... but the bill is meaningless. It doesn't grant the Legislature or Governor any authority because Oregon doesn't have any authority to grant here anymore.

    The state militias were organized into the 'National Guard' and for all intents and purposes 'federalized' over 100 years ago in Title 10 of the US Code (Militia Act of 1903) - that's when they started calling it the 'National Guard'... Oregon's 'organized militia' has already been called into federal service pursuant to a vaild Congressional enactment consistent with the United States Constitution. National Guard units are stationed in Oregon - but they're still part of the US armed forces.

    Now if this bill applied to the Oregon State Defense Force, it would likely have some validity.

    (I could go off on a tangent here about the downsides of ceding ever more authority/responsibility in our lives to the omnipresent federal government back in Washingon, DC, but I won't go there...)

  • BOHICA (unverified)


    The question is, is the AUMF against Iraq still in effect? Since we now have a SOFA does that negate the AUMF? Is the SOFA a "treaty" needing Senate approval or is it just an "Executive Agreement" which does not?

    Inquiring mind want to know.

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    For anyone who has been stridently and steadfastly opposed to the Iraq War (like me), please consider reading Tom Ricks's new book: The Gamble. It is the follow-up to "Fiasco", in my view the seminal work on the lead up to the Iraq invasion and the erosion of the war.

    I'm only about 1/3 of the way through the book at the moment--but it has opened new doors of thought for me on this issue.

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    This is the sort of thing that frustrates the hell out of me. Rather than spend time being effective, people spend time doing this.

    You know how we all laugh at Republicans trying to prove Barack Obama wasn't born in the US? Or protesting to their city commissioners that they haven't overturned Roe v Wade? Or basically proving to anyone who has even the slightest understanding of government that they're complete fools that have no clue?

    Yeah. Well, pretending our Governor has authority he clearly doesn't have is kind of like that, except we're the ones who look like the fools.

    Americans elected a President who promised: 1] To get out of Iraq, and 2] "To be as careful in getting out of Iraq as we were careless in getting in". That will, by a date certain, end these deployments. Until then, all these sternly worded resolutions are like yet another Portland street renaming - wasting time, energy, money, and credibility, in pursuing symbolism over substance.

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    Steve, your outrage could do with some information. the simple fact is that if there is no declaration of war or authorization to use military force, the National Guard cannot be federalized. these are not stupid people who put this campaign together, nor are those in the Oregon Leg who signed on stupid, ignorant of law or unclear about the controversy.

    there are plenty of arguments to be made why the Gov must or must not deploy the NG. to say the Campaign is on the same level as the birth certificate idiocy is wrong and insulting. and as the parent of a Guardsman i'd rather see in Oregon than Iraq, it's hugely insensitive and cruel.

  • Harry Kershner (unverified)

    The troops you should be supporting are here. The Geneva Conventions and the Nuremberg Principles are very clear about what acts are war crimes and who is culpable. All personnel who take part in aggressive war are guilty of the "supreme international crime".

    There are only two ways that I can see that the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan can be ended. They are the same ways that could have ended the occupations under Bush: defund and impeach. All else is posturing.

    "The obligation is not to be personally pure. The obligation is to affect a measurable change." (Ward Churchill)

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    t.a. barnhart: The simple fact is that if there is no declaration of war or authorization to use military force, the National Guard cannot be federalized.

    Well then, you might be unhappy to learn that Senator Byrd's Amendment to the AUMF requiring a termination date for the authorization of force, together with procedures for the extension of such date at Congress's discretion, failed in the Senate on a vote of 31-66. link here. So like it or not, the President has been authorized by Congress to use military force in Iraq with no set end date.

    And all the manufactured outrage in the world isn't going to change that basic fact.

    Let me add to my examples of the absurdity this resembles, all the right wink kooks who think the Income Tax is unconstitutional just because they, with no legal training, pretend to themselves that they're the supreme court, as opposed to the real Supreme Court.

    I'm rather proud of the fact that, as Steven Colbert points out, that "Reality has a Liberal Bias". So let's not adopt the conservative way of dealing with inconvenient truth - thinking we can pretend it all away if we just believe hard enough.

  • The Libertarian Guy (unverified)

    T.A. you may wish to read this Supreme Court case and see what impact it has.

     [Cite as Perpich v. Dept. of Defense, 496 U.S. 334 (1990)]

    334 OCTOBER TERM, 1989

                         Syllabus                496  U.  S.
                     FOR THE EIGHTH CIRCUIT
     No. 89-542.  Argued March 27, 1990-Decided June 11, 1990

    Since 1933, federal law has provided that persons enlisting in a State National Guard unit simultaneously enlist in the National Guard of the United States, a part of the Army.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    But, if he simply refused, and Kroger sued, and it went to a lengthy court process, wouldn't they stay here in the meantime? The operative word being "lengthy", doesn't that solve the prob. (assuming BO keeps to his timetable)?

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Sorry, hadn't read Lib Guy. If that's the case, Kulongonski doen't call them up, really. If the army wants to run the show, they can fund it!

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    Lib Guy - this is news? i actually researched & read federal law regarding NG. i'm not the only person in this campaign who has done so, including a number of lawyers. just because you are "simultaneously" in the RA & NG does not mean your unit is federalized. that takes, as the campaign insists, either a declaration of war or an authorization.

    Steve, the campaign is not saying the AUFM of 2002 was illegitimate; for present purposes, we are accepting it as valid law that let the NG be federalized. to cite the failure of Byrd's amendment is as meaningful as citing Wyden's Nay vote on the AUMF. there is no legal justification for the on-going use of the NG; Congress is free to pass another authorization if they want (i triple-dog dare them). but for now, the continued use of the NG in Iraq is not constitutional.

    Zar, if Kroger sued, it would be while the Oregon Guard was in Iraq. even a victory wouldn't bring them home, but it would prove our point about the need for a real & legal authorization before the NG could be federalized.

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    t.a. barnhart: there is no legal justification for the on-going use of the NG

    Like you, I would really like that to be true, T.A. But it isn't.

    The AUMF provides all the legal justification necessary to federalize the National Guard. The AUMF has no end date. Therefore, the National Guard remains federalized. Period.

    There is no squishiness about the law in this case. It's cut and dried. You're asking Governor Kulongoski to exercise a power he simply doesn't have.

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)

    The fact that the legislation will have no "teeth", as it were, doesn't really matter to those who are passionate enough about this issue to put their time and energy into it. Saying that they should put their time and energy toward things that actually may change policies or laws or make a tangible difference is insulting---how do you know these same people aren't also working toward some of those goals in other groups or on their own?

    Part of the job we hold as citizens is to complain---loudly and clearly---when we feel our government is doing wrong. By doing so, even if we enact no actual change, we accomplish several things: first, we may make people think more about the issue which may eventually lead to actual change; second, we let those who feel the same way but are not able/willing to stand publicly and state so know that they are not alone--this builds community; and third, the people involved in the effort are rewarded with feeling that they are trying to do something, that even if the only power they hold is to protest, that power is enough to sustain them as they look for answers to the issue. And should their worst fears come to happen (or continue to happen) they at least can look back and know that they can categorically state they did everything they felt they could on the matter. Their actions bring them comfort and a feeling of unity and community.

    I am not part of their formal group, although I did stand with Mult Dems to endorse their cause and legislation. However, having been raised a Democrat in Republican, Bible-Belt Oklahoma, I know the value of pursuing your causes politically even if you know you will not win and am glad TA and his group are able to do so.

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    Ms Mel Harmon: Saying that they should put their time and energy toward things that actually may change policies or laws or make a tangible difference is insulting---how do you know these same people aren't also working toward some of those goals in other groups or on their own?

    There are literally hundreds of issues in which movement could be accomplished if there just were the people there to get critical mass to them. When you choose, instead, to spend time tilting against an utterly insurmountable legal obstacle, I think a comment about effectiveness to the progressive cause is not only well within bounds, but sorely needed.

    But if you chose instead to entertain yourself by manufacturing outrage, well that's your right, but it still doesn't get what needs getting done done.

  • Zarathustra (unverified)

    Steve M., even if you feel it's misplaced or deluded, I think it's insulting to repeatedly call the rage "manufactured". I know I'm one to talk, but that one makes even me squirm.

    I am glad to hear Dems all across the board talking about action. Even the most mis-guided actions teach infinitely more than arm-chairing it, like the Bog Blog Bunch, not that I'm calling this misguided at all.

  • The Holy Prepuce (unverified)

    Damn! From the title, I thought this was about the plan to have Ghanan police carry condoms in their wallet!

  • Ms Mel Harmon (unverified)

    Steve: "When you choose, instead, to spend time tilting against an utterly insurmountable legal obstacle, I think a comment about effectiveness to the progressive cause is not only well within bounds, but sorely needed."

    Me: Well, here's a thought---maybe they aren't doing it to advance the "progressive cause" but for more personal reasons. And there's nothing wrong with that.

    And I ask again...how do you know that people in this movement aren't also working on "progressive causes" as you define them? Why do YOU get to choose what is or isn't worthy for people to spend their time on?

    I'm not in TA's group, I've never worked actively on this cause/campaign (although I support it in spirit), but I'm not going to sit in judgment and tell fellow citizens that are taking their voice (regardless of the pre-determined outcome) to their elected representatives and to the public that they shouldn't be doing so. It's THEIR time and THEIR cause.

    Has it occurred to you that maybe the people in this group feel so much emotional outrage that they aren't emotionally capable of working on other causes until they've made their case (however futile) on this one? Has it occurred to you that when you belittle what people feel they must do for their own sanity and emotional health that you may well be alienating someone who would be a future supporter of a cause you believe in?

    So, they aren't spending their time wisely you feel on the "progressive cause"---so what? Once they do what they need to do on their chosen cause, they'll have more time and energy to work on others---and they'll already have an organized group to tap to do so. If you were smart, you'd be choosing your favorite "progressive" cause and talking to TA about how to tap his group and their resources to work on it once they are done with their current campaign. Not belittling them for what they are doing now.

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    I guess this really comes down to the question of why people are activists. Is it just a form of therapy, self-validation, sprinkled with a little dollop of smug liberal sanctimony, or do you really want to change things for the better?

    Me, I make no bones about being in the "really wanting to change things for the better" camp. And while I have no issue with people who engage in symbolic protests while acknowledging ahead of time that that they're going to be ineffective, I find those people to be incredibly rare.

    The more usual thing that happens is that people convince themselves that their symbolic protest really will somehow change the world. And when it doesn't, they become alienated and counterproductive.

    And you can even see it here. TJ is really pinning his hopes on the idea that the courts will want to step into the political question of when a military mission has been fulfilled, when it's clear from the history of jurisprudence that they never will. And when I ask a hard question about efficacy, the first response isn't thinking things through, but rather one of deliberately drawn offense, as if I am cheering for these deployments, or the Iraq war itself.

    So yes, I call that "manufactured outrage", because that's what it is. You see that kind of behavior on both the left and the right; it's half of what you see on Fox "News". And honestly, I don't think it helps the credibility of those who use it.

  • Leah Bolger (unverified)

    I am a member of the national steering committee for the Bring the Guard Home--It's the Law! campaign, as well as a co-coordinator for the Oregon version of this campaign. I also testified on Wednesday before the House Rules Committee.
    I want to address Steve's comments...This campaign began just a little over a year ago in Vermont by a state representative named Michael Fisher who submitted a bill to his State House. It didn't pass, but it has sparked a nation-wide campaign involving thousands of activists and dozens of legislators. There are now 23 states plus the District of Columbia which have campaigns, and 7 states have actually introduced legislation. More states are organizing all the time. This is far more than a "symbolic" effort and has been very effective in a very short period of time. How can you measure "change for the better" anyway? The way you have framed this is very insulting.

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    You asked a good hard question, Leah. I think it's reasonable for me to answer it.

    Here's my measure: if you reduce the time the N.G. or even the regular army by a single minute, from what it would have been otherwise, I'll call that a success. But just managing to introduce purely symbolic legislation in a few liberal states is not a sign of effectiveness. It's a sign that progressives still don't know how to marshal our resources in a way that actually pushes our agenda.

    Contrast that with our opponents, the neo-cons, who despite being an extreme minority of the U.S. population, use their political resources extremely effectively by pushing at exactly the right point and time to get their agenda enacted. They don't go tilting at legal windmills, but rather wait for a shock to enact wholescale changes.

    We could be doing that right now, if we were smart, because America is presently shocked at the greed and incompetence of Wall Street. But we're doing this instead: pushing for the introduction of bills in state legislatures that will have no legal effect on anything.

    And again, you may be insulted about my questions about effectiveness, but that is because you have chosen to do so rather than come up with a coherent response about how your current strategy will actually change anything.

    Don't agree? Then tell me how I'm wrong.

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