Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Safeguard Wisconsin's Guard

By Jim Draeger And Ben Manski
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
March 8, 2010

For the first time in recent history, citizens of Wisconsin have the opportunity to help answer the question, "Who decides about war?" As part of a national movement of nearly two dozen states, the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee of the state Assembly plans to hold a public hearing Tuesday on Assembly Bill 203, the Safeguard the Guard Act.

AB 203 establishes the governor's duty to review federal orders calling the Wisconsin National Guard into national service for their legality and validity. The bill makes sure that no Wisconsin Guard members are removed from their jobs, education, communities or families absent a clear act of Congress authorizing their mission. This is why AB 203 is called the Safeguard the Guard Act.

Why are legal safeguards on federal deployments of our Guard needed? Let's look at the use of the Guard by the last president.

In 2002, Congress authorized the use of military force in Iraq with two criteria: remove Saddam Hussein and find Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction. By 2004, Hussein was long gone and no WMDs were found.

The mission in Iraq was, in George W. Bush's words, "accomplished." But Wisconsin Guard members continued to be deployed overseas. Thousands of them sacrificed financially, psychologically and in their careers, and 11 Wisconsin Guard members were killed.

We can't go back and repair the damage done, but we can take action for today and tomorrow. In March 2010, another 400 men and women in the Wisconsin National Guard will be sent to Iraq in yet another unauthorized deployment.

It is sadly likely that future conflicts will arise between America and other foreign countries - just look at our current relationships with North Korea, Iran, Yemen and Venezuela. A sensible safety net in AB 203 could prevent the unauthorized use of the Guard in future conflicts and ensure that the primary mission of the Guard - to defend the homeland from invasion and natural disaster - is honored. That is the mission these women and men signed up for, after all.

Support for the Safeguard the Guard Act is widespread across the political spectrum. Some support it because they believe that America's military capacity has been undermined in reckless adventurism abroad. Others support it because they see a defensive force being transformed into a tool for occupation and empire. Still others - especially veterans of other services - see the way Guard members have been used for purposes they were not trained for - used as IED fodder, for example.

Yet whether one is a Libertarian, a Republican, a Green or a Democrat (members of all four parties support this act), the common point of agreement is this: Just as Wisconsin's Guard has a duty to us, so, too, do we have a duty to them.

Please do your duty and let your legislator know that you support AB 203.

Jim Draeger is co-chair of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice. Ben Manski is a Wisconsin attorney and executive director of the Liberty Tree Foundation. To learn more about AB 203, attend the committee hearing at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the State Capitol in Madison or go to www.wnpj.org