Forgotten troops…National Guard


Governors are taking a look at the current demands on their National Guard troops.

“There is not Congressional authorization for the use of the Guard today,” Vermont State Rep. Mike Fisher told Truthout. “One Guard member improperly called into federal service to fight a war – that’s a real problem. Choosing to go to war is one of the most serious decisions that we make. The very least we can do is follow the Constitution.”

The state legislators involved in the campaign argue that it is their duty, along with the governor’s, to ensure Guard members’ welfare. Although a governor can’t order the Guard’s return, he or she does have the right to challenge federalization orders (mandates to call up the Guard) in the first place. Every month, another set of call-ups sends more Guard members overseas. Should a state decide to refuse a federalization order, the case would likely be brought to the courts.

“We believe that it would be a good thing for a court to be asked the question of whether a state Guard can be brought into federal service to fight in an overseas war – other than in an emergency – that does not have a proper Congressional authorization,” Fisher said.

The campaign began back in 2007, after Fisher had written and passed a resolution in the Vermont legislature to urge the withdrawal of US military forces from Iraq. He wanted to intensify this state-level action against the war by asserting the war’s illegality, and relating it back to Vermont law. So, Fisher joined with attorney Benson Scotch, formerly the executive director of Vermont’s ACLU, to spearhead an effort that would both advocate for Vermont’s Guard members and challenge the legal basis for continued US involvement in Iraq.

The effort is premised on the National Guard’s dual chain of command. Usually, the governor is the commander in chief of a state’s Guard. With Congressional authorization, the Guard can be called into federal service. However, since that Congressional authorization has expired for Iraq, control reverts back to the states – or at least it should, under the Constitution, according to Scotch and Fisher.

Regardless of legality, the federalization orders continue, with more Guard troops called up every month. The state Guards have seen some of their largest deployments since World War II. In New Jersey, for example, the planned deployment represents about 50 percent of the state’s National Guard.

This transfer of the Guard out of state not only reduces its ability to respond to local emergencies, it also fuels a frightening shift in US foreign policy, according to Ben Manski, executive director of the nonprofit Liberty Tree Foundation.