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Bush Calls Up National Guard To Help In Campaign

Bush Calls Up National Guard To Help In Campaign

Undernews extract compiled by Editor Sam Smith

SAM SMITH, The abuse of the National Guard for political purposes is not unique to George Bush. Ronald Reagan, for example, used the scam of training to mobilize National guard troops for his war against Nicaragua. GOP governor Perpich of Minnesota and Democratic governor Dukakis of Massachusetts went to the Supreme Court to try to stop this on the grounds that the Constitution gives authority for Guard training to the governors. A number of governors backed the pair in this unsuccessful effort. One of the exceptions was Bill Clinton of Arkansas. Clinton, who already had close ties to Reagan administration thanks to enabling CIA operations out of his state, happily dispatched his Guard to Honduras, even sending his own security chief, Buddy Young, along to keep an eye on things. Winding up its tour, the Arkansas Guard declared large quantities of its weapons "excess" and left them behind for the Contras, a clever if sleazy way of getting around the hassle of congressional budgeting.

It is in this cynical tradition that Bush has been treating the Guard as his personal political toy, killing its troops to make Iraq turn out better and now calling them up for border patrol to help out in this fall's political campaign.

The increasing federalization of the National Guard has not bothered federally-oriented liberals but has definitely played a role in the downfall of the first American republic. Once, every president understood that there were a large number of states with their own militias that wouldn't stand quietly by during an attempted coup. The weakening of state control of the Guard has paralleled the weakening of democracy in the U.S. Bush is taken heavy advantage of this weakness.


VERMONT NETWORK ON IRAQ WAR RESOLUTIONS - Q. What happened in 1986 to tilt the balance between the powers of the states and the federal government over the National Guard so sharply in favor of the federal government?

A. President Reagan federalized some National Guard soldiers for training in Central America, some think as a show of force calculated to match the President's negative feelings about countries in Central America involved in guerilla or civil wars. Some governors withheld their states' National Guard members from this federal training initiative, and Congress responded with a law known as the Montgomery Amendment, which states: "The consent of a Governor . . . may not be withheld (in whole or in part) with regard to active duty outside the United States, its territories, and its possessions, because of any objection to the location, purpose, type, or schedule of such active duty."


DEFENSE TECH - To paraphrase Bruce Schneier, this idea is "border security theater" - a political proposal designed to grease the legislative skids in Congress, but one that will have little impact on border security, and even worse, is operationally flawed and quite likely to be a costly diversion from other border security priorities. Consider the following questions:

1. How are these Guardsmen going to be trained? Guarding and patrolling the border requires many types of specialized training: language skills, driving skills, legal knowledge, cultural training, etc. The Border Patrol currently spends about $160 million per year on training to develop and maintain its skilled workforce. Members of the National Guard have not been trained in many of these areas, nor will they immediately possess the skills needed to conduct the activities outlined in the speech - intelligence, surveillance - in a domestic context. Does it really make sense to train them, and then throw away all of this knowledge after a year?

2. Where are they going to live? Unlike with Border Patrol agents, the federal government will be responsibility for providing temporary housing for members of the National Guard deployed at the border. How much is this going to cost? (Although on the other hand, perhaps we've just found a use for the 11,000 FEMA trailers that are sitting in Hope, Arkansas).

3. Can they communicate with each other? Do the National Guard units and the Border Patrol have the same types of radios and other communications devices? If not, does that mean that this decision requires a massive new investment in equipment that will have short-term value?

4. How do the Border Patrol and National Guard work together? Can two very different organizations be integrated? What is going to be done to prevent organizational clashes between the National Guard and the Border Patrol? How will questions of decision-making and resource allocation be handled?

Overall, this proposal has all the marks of being costly and ineffective. And this analysis doesn't even cover the issue of the National Guard already being overstretched as a result of the war in Iraq and the Guard's disaster management responsibilities, which is also a concern. If border states want to spend their own money sending their National Guard forces to the border, fine. But the federal government shouldn't pay for it. . .


MICHAEL CHERTOFF, O'REILLY SHOW, DEC 2005 - The National Guard is really, first of all, not trained for that mission. I mean, the fact of the matter is the border is a special place. There are special challenges that are faced there. . . I think it would be a horribly over-expensive and very difficult way to manage this problem.


PROGRESS REPORT - Several prominent conservatives criticized the plan, arguing that National Guard and Reserve troops are already under too much strain. "We have stretched our military as thin as we have ever seen it in modern times," Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) said. "What in the world are we talking about here, sending a National Guard that we may not have any capacity to send down to protect our borders."

"We're making history again," Alabama Guard Lt. Col. Robert Horton said when Katrina struck last year. "Never before have we supported so many state and federal missions." The National Guard has its "roots in the state militia that filled the ranks of the Continental Army in the American Revolution," and over time, its "primary mission became responding to local emergencies under the command of state governors," while its "secondary role was as a reserve force in the event of war." All that changed with Iraq. Since 2003, the "54 state and territorial militia have been heavily deployed overseas in recent years, and play central, front-line roles in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan." Currently, about 20 percent of the approximately 130,000 U.S. troops deployed in Iraq are Guard and Reserve troops. That figure is down from last summer when they represented 40 percent of our troops. 352 National Guard soldiers and 209 Reservists have died in Iraq. Last December, Lt. Gen. James Helmly said the Army Reserve that he heads "is rapidly degenerating into a 'broken' force" and is in "grave danger of being unable to meet other operational requirements," such as domestic emergencies.

Along with repeated deployments in "Iraq, Afghanistan, and other hot spots around the world," the Army National Guard must also deal with the problem of equipment shortages. "Commanders have complained that the Pentagon is slow to replace trucks, weapons, and aircraft that are damaged or destroyed in combat." A Government Accountability Office report found that the equipment needs of Guard troops deploying abroad "has degraded the equipment inventory of the Guard's non-deployed units and threatens the Guard's ability to prepare forces for future missions at home and overseas." The National Guard Bureau estimated that "non-deployed units had only about 34 percent of their essential warfighting equipment as of July 2005," and the Army National Guard "reported that it had less than 5 percent of the required amount or a quantity of fewer than 5 each of more than 220 critical items. Among these 220 high-demand items were generators, trucks, and radios, which could also be useful for domestic missions." In response to these equipment shortages, governors from all 50 states called for the White House to better equip the National Guard so they can "carry out their homeland security and domestic disaster duties."

In April, both the Army Reserve and Army National Guard missed their recruiting goals "amid persistent concern among potential recruits over the Iraq war." The Army Reserve "missed its April goal by 17 percent - getting 2,164 recruits compared to a target of 2,611" and is "5 percent behind its year-to-date goal." The Army National Guard "missed its April recruiting goal by 10 percent," but is still on target to reach its yearly goal. Despite last month's low recruitment figures, the Army National Guard "is running out of money to pay recruiting bonuses." "Our biggest concern is, honestly, we're getting budget-cut enormously," said Lt. Col. Mike Jones, who helps run the Guard's recruitment efforts. "We run out of bonus money on the 31st of May."

With hurricane season quickly approaching, the National Guard will have "more troops at home than last year but with less equipment to handle emergencies." "State officials say shortages at home of Guard equipment, such as Humvees, mean they must rely on backup assistance from neighboring states once hurricane season begins June 1." The Louisiana Guard does not have around 100 of its "high-water vehicles" and North Carolina is "missing nearly half its Humvee fleet." These types of vehicles are "particularly crucial to hurricane response because they are often the only way to ferry ice and water through devastated areas." Last year, the National Guard Bureau found that the "assignment of thousands of Guard troops from Mississippi and Louisiana to Iraq delayed those states' initial hurricane response by about a day." "Had that brigade been at home and not in Iraq," said the Bureau's Lt. Gen. Steven Blum, "their expertise and capabilities could have been brought to bear."


REUTERS - The U.S. Army Reserve, tapped heavily to provide soldiers for wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is "degenerating into a 'broken' force" due to dysfunctional military policies, the Army Reserve's chief said in a memo made public Wednesday. . .

The Army Reserve is a force of 200,000 part-time soldiers who opted not to sign up for the active-duty Army but can be mobilized from their civilian lives in times of national need. About 52,000 Army Reserve soldiers are on active duty, with 17,000 in Iraq and 2,000 in Afghanistan, the Army said. The Army Reserve has provided many military police, civil affairs soldiers, medics and truck drivers for the wars. . .

The Pentagon, maintaining higher-than-expected troop levels after failing to anticipate that a bloody guerrilla war would follow Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's ouster in 2003, has relied heavily on Army Reserve and Army National Guard soldiers. These part-time troops comprise about 40 percent of the U.S. force in Iraq. Some reservists and families have complained about frequent and lengthy tours in war zones, inferior equipment and scant notice before being pressed into service.


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