by Ben Manski and Jim Draeger

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, on Tuesday, March 9, at 1 p.m. at the State Capitol in Madison, the Veterans and Military Affairs Committee of the state Assembly plans to hold a public hearing 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 guardsman or woman is removed from their job, education, community or family absent a clear act of Congress authorizing their mission. This is the reason 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 WMDs. By 2004, Hussein was long gone and no weapons of mass destruction were found. The mission in Iraq was, in Bush’s words, “accomplished.” But Wisconsin Guard continued to be deployed overseas. Thousands of them sacrificed financially, psychologically and in their careers; nearly 100 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.

And 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 the Guard 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.

CLICK HERE – for the Tenth Amendment Center’s Defend the Guard legislative tracking page

Jim Draeger is the co-chair of the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice.

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