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Stop-loss Policy Upheld By Courts

Fri Jan 27, 2006 at 01:37:25 PM PST

In a series of cases, many decided in the last few weeks, the federal courts have upheld the controversial "stop-loss" policy, which requires soldiers to remain in the military beyond their contracted term.

On Tuesday , a federal judge threw out a claim brought by two soldiers, David Qualls and Rafael Perez. Qualls' case was dismissed as moot because he voluntarily re-enlisted after filing suit in 2004. Qualls said he re-enlisted to get the $15,000 to avoid bankruptcy and provide for his family and children. As for Perez's claim, the judge ruled there was no evidence that his recruiter misled him, nor was their a contractual breach on the part of the government. There were initially eight soldiers in the lawsuit, but six dropped out after the judge refused to grant their request to stay anonymous.

Meanwhile, in Doe v. Rumsfeld (2006 WL 62337), the Ninth Circuit also upheld the military's stop-loss policy, ruling that the policy is a "valid exercise of presidential power authorized by 10 U.S.C. 12305(a)." Doe enlisted in the military's "Try One" program, though his initial order had him deployed for two years. The court found that, despite the marketing of "Try One," the government contract clearly stated that "[i]n time of national emergency declared by the President of the United States, I[Doe] may be ordered to active duty" and that "my [Doe's] enlistment may be extended...."

Although several courts have now ruled on the legality of Bush's stop loss policy, the question remains: it may be legal, but is it ethical? This bait-and-switch tactic has caused some 50,000 soldiers to be separated from their families for an extended period of time. It directly impacts the morale of our troops. And in some cases, it causes our bravest to die an untimely--and unnecessary--death.

They don't make yellow ribbons big enough to make up for that betrayal of our troops.

Bringing Home the Guard

By Michael Blanding, AlterNet. Posted November 7, 2005. 

More than 2,000 US soldiers have now died in the Iraq war. Polls show more than half of Americans are in favor of withdrawal of at least some troops from Iraq. Yet, Congress has done little to make that a reality.

A bipartisan bill demanding an exit strategy remains stalled in committee. Last week, former presidential candidate John Kerry -- whose position on troops has shifted more than the desert sands -- issued only a tepid call for a withdrawal of 20,000 troops by Christmas. At least that's better than most of the Democrats' so-called leaders: Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Harry Reid and Howard Dean have been silent on the issue. It is little wonder, then, that the Pentagon recently "temporarily" increased the number of troops in Iraq from 138,000 to 160,000.

Fed up by the inaction of politicians on both sides of the aisle, a new group is bypassing Congress to take the issue directly to the voters. Calling itself HomeFromIraqNow.org, it is sponsoring a binding initiative in Massachusetts to stop future deployment of National Guard troops overseas. If passed, it will prevent the governor from allowing troops to be called up without a specific law passed by the state legislature -- at the same time urging the governor to use all possible means to bring home those troops already outside the country. If successful in Massachusetts, HomeFromIraqNow.org hopes to repeat the feat in some of the other 23 states that allow citizen petitions, creating nothing short of a national referendum on the war itself.

"There is no popular support for the war," says Harold Hubschman, the group's cofounder and chairman. "There needs to be a way for people to vote on the issue." The initiative focuses on the National Guard because it is one of the few areas of the military that state government can exercise control over. While in the U.S., National Guard troops are under the command of the governor; only when they are federalized do they come under control of the president.

Staying at Home

The basis for the initiative is a Supreme Court decision from 1990, when the governor of Minnesota refused to allow National Guard members to be sent to Central America for a training mission. In its ruling, the Supreme Court affirmed the right of the federal government to call up National Guard troops. But it also said that governors could refuse a federal request if a deployment would impair its ability to serve or train for emergencies at home, a loophole that governors could use to keep troops on the home front.

"Nobody can dispute that there are public safety and security issues today being hampered by National Guard deployment to Iraq," says Hubschman. "There are weather-related crises. We are under threat from terrorism. We need the National Guard to help us with those issues."

The best argument for recalling the National Guard, of course, is the recent botched response to Katrina, in which more than a third of Louisiana Guard's troops and equipment were overseas while victims waited days for troops to be mobilized from other states. Last week, a Congressional report slammed the Army's use of the Guard to fight foreign wars, saying that such "heavy reliance on National Guard forces" is simply "not sustainable over time."

More than 70,000 Guard members are now deployed overseas -- the largest use of those forces since World War II. Yet the report found that because of years of under-funding and abandonment of equipment in Iraq, Guard units now have an average of only 34% of the equipment they need to respond to an emergency or terrorist attack at home. Some items -- such as radios, night-vision goggles, and trucks -- have been completely depleted by the war.

The lack of equipment and training puts troops called to active duty in particular jeopardy. "It's just insanity when the government determines you should be called to active duty, but you have been laboring for years under outdated equipment," says Staff Sergeant Andrew Sapp, a member of the Massachusetts National Guard who just returned from an 18-month deployment north of Tikrit. In addition to ailing equipment, he says troops in his chemical hazmat unit received inadequate training for their duties protecting a base from sniper fire and mortar attacks.

The 48-year-old high school teacher was not naive about the possibility he might be called up to active duty some day. But seeing the buildup to Iraq was like "watching a train wreck happen and not being able to stop it." "I always thought if I were called up for active duty, the circumstances would be dire enough that we would really be talking about the national defense," he said. "We are not imperiled by Iraq. At some point, the citizens have to ask themselves if they are willing to sacrifice the people in their community."

Since returning to Massachusetts this month, Sapp has broken ranks by joining Military Families Speak Out, an organization of soldiers and family members that has been helping HomeFromIraqNow.org gather signatures to put the National Guard petition on the ballot for next November. The coalition faces a daunting task, needing to submit some 66,000 signatures to city clerks by November 23 in order to certify the initiative.

"It's going to be a challenge," admits Hubschman, who has run past ballot on such issues as universal healthcare, representational voting, and cable company deregulation. Unlike other petitions he's worked on, however, this one is being staffed completely by volunteers.

Real Goals

On a recent rainy Saturday, one of those volunteers, Dan Nolan, shivered in a flannel coat outside a subway station in the Boston suburb of Somerville. A longtime antiwar activist, he was drawn to the campaign for its concrete set of goals. "Rather than continuing to do the same protest methods that have lost their effectiveness, this is a pointed initiative that focuses on the National Guard," says Nolan. "It allows us to have a continuity of dissent between the massive 100,000 person demonstrations."

In an afternoon of gathering signatures, Nolan and a partner get about 100 names -- not bad considering the weather, but a far cry from the thousands they'll need if they hope to get this on the ballot within the next few weeks. The coalition has made use of the recent vigils and a large antiwar rally featuring Cindy Sheehan on Boston Common this past weekend to troll for more signatures.

Their best hope, however, may be the Internet. As its name suggests, HomeFromIraqNow.org has posted its petition form online and is urging supporters to print out copies, circulate them among friends, and send them in by the deadline. "Nobody has ever done this kind of campaign before," says Hubschman, "It's sort of the Howard Dean strategy without a candidate."

Because of their reliance on the Web, the campaign doesn't have a count on the number of signatures they have collected so far -- and won't until supporters start mailing in forms (for which the campaign has set a deadline of November 15). If they do get the number of signatures required to put it on the ballot, then widespread discontent with the war among Massachusetts' liberal electorate may make passing the initiative into law a comparatively easier task. "There is not going to be any nuance to this," says Hubschman. "There are some issues that just can't be spun."

Rule of Romney

If the law gets passed next November, it would no doubt set up a legal challenge -- either between the federal government and a governor who refuses to let troops be federalized, or between citizens of the state and a governor who authorizes troops to be sent. With the current Massachusetts governor, the latter possibility is more likely. Republican Mitt Romney has been a staunch supporter of Bush's adventures in Iraq, and has recently given a spate of "get-tough-on-terrorism" speeches around the country. In fact, when a group of six families from Military Families Speak Out recently met with him to urge him to use his ties to the Bush administration to call for a pullout of National Guard troops, they found an unsympathetic ear.

"I was disappointed by his lack of compassion," says Rose Gonzalez, a member of the delegation whose mother who was stationed in Iraq as part of Sapp's unit. "'It was this air of 'It's not my responsibility.' I'm sick of hearing 'It's not my responsibility.'" At the meeting, Romney acknowledged that the war was launched on the basis of faulty intelligence, but he said he had no authority to bring the state's 1,100 troops overseas back home.

That's true, says Hubschman; a governor doesn't have the authority to bring home troops once they are federalized. But the ballot initiative also includes a nonbinding clause urging the governor to use "all legal means" to advocate for withdrawal of troops already overseas. "The governor has a fairly powerful bully pulpit," he says. "The purpose of a ballot initiative is not just to force an unwilling governor to do something; it's also to endorse an affirmative position."

Hubschman also notes that if the vote does get on the ballot for next year's election, it is unlikely that Romney will be the one charged with enforcing it. The year 2006 is an election year for governor in Massachusetts, and Romney has been relentlessly touring the country in preparation for what many see as his inevitable run for president in 2008. At the same time, even if he does run for governor, he faces two strong challengers on the Democratic side in State Attorney General Tom Reilly and dark horse candidate Deval Patrick, Bill Clinton's former assistant attorney general, who might be more willing to use the bully pulpit to advocate for troop withdrawal. In one past interview, Patrick called the Iraq war a "terrible, terrible mistake" and advocated withdrawal "as early as possible."

No matter what the eventual governor ends up doing, supporters of the initiative argue that its passage would itself send a powerful antiwar message. The campaign is already gearing up to help put similar initiatives on the ballot in states including Maine, California, and Michigan.

"No one in American history has ever had the opportunity to vote on a war," says Hubschman. "The other side can ignore a protest, and they can ignore a debate in Congress, but the one thing politicians can't ignore is a vote. If our elected leaders won't vote against the war, the people will."

Michael Blanding is a freelance writer living in Boston. Read more of his writing at MichaelBlanding.com.

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Request for a new meeting with Governor Gregoire

At the request of Bear Dyson, who has health problems and handed me her baton in support of the National Guard Resolution to Governor Gregoire, I contacted her aide (with whom we've met before), and sent the following including a request for a new meeting.

Good morning Mr. Ginatta,

As I believe you are aware, our own Bear Dyson, who has been focused on arranging a meeting with Governor Gregoire and yourself to discuss the status of our Washington National Guard members serving in Iraq, has experienced severe health problems and asked me to take her baton.

In the interests of time (yours and mine) on a workday where I suspect you are busy, I've chosen to use the email to convey the current purpose and desire of Military Families Speak Out - Pac NW chapter.

The question of the deployment of Washington National Guard troops as well as NG troops nation-wide is back on the front burner. It's a more significant issue in light of Hurricane Katrina as well as the growing positive response to the questions raised by Cindy Sheehan outside the Bush ranch in Crawford, Texas.

Support for the war in Iraq has now fallen below 50%. Growing support for and positive actions taken in agreement with  Mrs. Sheehan and the current Bring Them Home Now bus tour headed toward Washington D.C. reveal the shifting mood of our national and state voters.

Three days ago, the city of Chicago passed a resolution demanding that the Bush administration bring the troops home now. The vote was 29-9. Yesterday the the city of Philadelphia did the same thing (the vote was 16-1). In Pittsburgh earlier this week  the United Steel Workers announced their support and a demand that the  troops be brought home now. Yesterday the AFL-CIO in Philadelphia took the same step.

Hurricane Katrina has morally empowered every state governor to initiate action aimed at returning the NG home where they belong. The proportion of NG troops required by the Bush administration in Iraq as a percentage of the overall troop strength there is an embarrassing testament to the folly of the incursion. On-going revelations of lies and deception used to obtain support for the Iraq venture in the first place are not going to die down - rather will continue as this president's support remains in freefall. The notion that somehow a need to complete the now-discredited Bush "mission" is no longer politcally supportable. The time has come for the citizens and leaders in each state to intitiate the actions needed to bring about change.

MFSO, as I hope you know, does not have as its agenda a non-support of the military. Rather, we consider holding leadership accountable for decisions that place our  loved ones in harm's way as a patriotic duty that equals a soldier's obligation to defend the country and follow the chain of command. Troops cannot do that in full confidence if they do not bear with them the confidence that citizens at home are "watching their backs;" supporting them fully but making sure the leadership is kept honest. That's the basis of democracy and patriotism.

We are proud of our governor and support her in her role.

MFSO members on the Bring Them Home Now bus tour include Northwest members  Stacy Bannerman and Lietta Ruger who have been speaking publically from city to city as the buses near D.C. Currently a western tour is being planned and a visit with the Governor is what we hope to arrange with you.

My wife, Lietta Ruger, is on the Central bus in the BTHN tour and has met with reps of Senators Bayh and Lugar in Indiana, Dewine and Voinovich in Ohio and Specter and Santorum in Pennsylvania so far. Her impressions have been that consistently, the Republican Senator's reps have been evasive, attempted to short-circuit or deflect questions and divert the discussions in an effort to waste time. At the end of the interview with Senator Lugar's rep, Lietta asked him to have the Senator call her.

"Why would I do that?" he replied, "You are not his constituent."

"Because I have something to say to him." she replied.

I am also the President of Local 970 of the Washington Federation of State Employees and am aware of the direction national union support for our troops has taken.  I've met Governor Gregoire, have heard her speak to our union convention, and am therefore aware that she is not ideologically opposed to what we citizens who speak out in support of our NG troops have been saying.

We think the time to take further action regarding bringing our National Guard troops home is now. We believe the our Governor would be willing to hear us out and that we represent a powerful, willing and public advocacy in support of her.

Military Families Speak Out Pacific Northwest

Dying to Preserve the Lies

Chicago City Council urges immediate withdrawal of U-S troops from Iraq

Bloomington Resolutions Oppose Iraq War, Patriot Act, Seek Higher Minimum Wage

Philadephia resolution:Click for copy in PDF

Pacific Northwest Portal's WASHBLOG:Lietta Ruger: Bring Them Home Now Tour Notes 9/5 - 9/8

Thank you for taking time to read this.

Please get back to me via email or telephone (360-942-7311)

Arthur Ruger
Bay Center WA

The Daily Evergreen (WSU)
Monday, April 4, 2005 -
Group looks to bring National Guard home.

Fire season means more troops needed, families argue

by Ben Everstine, Staff Writer

The Washington State Governor's office is anticipating a record fire season, and additional help is needed. More than 3,000 Washington National Guard troops will be returning home from the War in Iraq this summer

On top of all this, however, is a group of military families that are pushing to bring every single National Guard soldier home.

The organization, called Washington Military Families Speak Out (WMFSO) is the local branch of the larger MFSO that is working to bring National Guard troops home in other parts of the Northwest in coordination with the efforts to help with the fire season.

According to their Web site, the members of the group have family members involved in Iraq, including ones that were part of the Ft. Lewis group that was attacked in December. Lietta Ruger, a senior member of the Pacific Northwest MFSO, says all of the National Guard is needed at home.

"We have National Guard activated to a point that is beyond normal, and we have needs at the state level," Ruger said. "The concerns go above and beyond politics."

The group has brought a resolution, which is available online, to the Governor's office with hopes to form a continuing conversation and a formation of a task force to help. The most important part of this process is citizen involvement Ruger said, and this is what the group is working toward at this time.

"We are optimistic and hopeful that the citizens will respond to the states needs," Ruger said. "It's not just a military family concern, it is a state voter constituency concern."

Steve Pierce, a member of the Governor's Communications Office, said Governor Gregoire is planning to bring 3,000 of the 3,600 currently deployed National Guard troops home to help with the fire season. The Governor understands the position of the families, but a full withdrawal is not possible, he said.

"The Governor is proud of the service of the brave men and women in the National Guard," Pierce said. "But we must recognize the need of the country."

There is a strong number of National Guard members here at WSU, said Charii Higgins, the Veteran's Affairs Administrator, and many have been active in current operations.

"There are quite a few students at WSU that have gone to Iraq, are in Iraq or will go to Iraq," Higgins said. "Those who have come back have all their fingers and toes, thankfully."

Higgins said it is up to the individual units of the National Guard and the governor to decide what the soldiers will do during the fire season. When asked about the families' resolution to bring all the troops home, the Veteran's Affairs Office declined to comment.

Brendon Kepner, the president of the College Republicans, sympathizes with the families, but says it is much more important that they stay in Iraq to help the spread of democracy.

"To withdraw like this wouldn't go well," Kepner said. "Those who are pushing aren't realizing the importance."

Ruger said that the resolution has been brought to the attention of Antonio Ginatta of the governor's policy advisory office. Since then, however, there as not been a formal comment.

Pierce said there will be no formal comment from the governor, except that she sympathizes with the families and understands their position.

Similar actions have been made in other states around the nation. The first movement to bring home National Guard troops occurred in a Vermont town hall meeting, Ruger said. Also, according to the WMFSO Web site, similar actions have been made in Oregon and Montana where the state will also bring home some of it's National Guard to help fight fires.

Ruger said the most important thing is to have an ongoing dialogue with the governor's office and to not turn this into a game of politics.

"We want to be supportive of Governor Gregoire," Ruger said.

Another MFSO Pac NW member volunteers to get involved. And she's gifted.

Hi Arthur:

Bear and I met this morning. Bear said she wants to focus her part of the presentation to Mr Ginatta on the ways the Iraq affects Guardsmen and their family members. I said I would research the legal authority the Governor could exercise over the Guard. Bear kindly gave me email address of other MFSO members who might be able to help on the legal front.

I'll forward info to both of you as it comes in. She also asked me to go with the 2 of you to Olympia. I welcome any suggestion you may have to help me research these issue. thank you again for everything that you do. Anne Marie Leigh

Anyone else to volunteer or add suggestions send to me at aruger@gmail.com.

Monday, March 7, 2005
Resolution presented to Washington State Governor, Christine Gregoire
Washington State Citizens’ Call Upon Governor Christine Gregoire to Affirmatively Act to Seek Withdrawal of National Guard Troops from Iraq:
Comments from Executive Policy Advisor, Antonio Ginatta, as reported in the Daily Olympian
Fort Lewis soldier's family urges Gregoire to oppose deployment

by Brad Shannon

Three military-family activists hoping to pull U.S. troops back from Iraq have met with an aide to Gov. Christine Gregoire, urging her to question President Bush's authority to keep Washington National Guard troops deployed in the occupied country.

"This group was very serious ... very direct. The governor will hear about it, and we'll see where she goes with it," said Antonio Ginatta, Gregoire's policy adviser on general government issues, including the military.

Ginatta met with Susan Livingston, sister of Fort Lewis-based Stryker Brigade member Joe Blickenstaff, who died in Iraq, as well as widow Angela Blickenstaff and Lietta Ruger. Ruger said she has a nephew and son-in-law who served in Iraq.

"He said there will be continued dialogue," Livingston said of Ginatta after the meeting. Blickenstaff was among the first Fort Lewis-based Stryker soldiers to die in Iraq, and Livingston said "the governor has a duty to do everything in her power to bring our National Guard troops home as soon as possible, and to make certain they stay here, where we need them."

In a move the activists said was repeated in Oregon with Gov. Ted Kulongoski, they pointed out to Ginatta that the state's drought conditions make it more likely Washington will need Guard troops to deal with wildfire.

The three women are affiliated with military family groups such as the Washington Chapter of Gold Star Families for Peace and Military Families Against the War.

They noted that Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer on Friday asked the Pentagon to return some of that state's Guardsmen in order to fight wildfires. CNN quoted Schweitzer as saying: "Somebody's going to have a blowup. Is it Northern Idaho, is it Eastern Washington, or is it Montana?"

"I know our governor has expressed a particular concern for our veterans returning home from Iraq," Ginatta said. "So I know she will be interested in hearing about the meeting. ... This will get raised to her in the next couple of days."


end article

click here to download Washington Resolution

You can download copy of the Resolution presented to Washington Governor Gregoires office.  We encourage distribution freely.  We encourage citizens to sign the Resolution and mail to Governor Gregoire's office at:
 Governor Christine Gregoire
 Office of the Governor
 PO Box 4002
 Olympia, WA 98504-0002
Invitation and Action:  Delegation from Military Families Speak Out and Gold Star Families for Peace traveled to Olympia State Capitol Monday, March 7, to meet with Governor's Office and present the Resolution compelling Governor Gregoire to call home the National Guard troops.
Meeting was with Executive Policy Advisor, Antonio Ginatta, of the Governor's Executive Policy Office.  Antonio Ginatta was receptive, attentive and encouraging in listening to the delegations concerns, as well as receiving the Resolution. There will be continued meetings.
All are invited to participate in downloading a copy of the Resolution, signing it with your name, address and sending to the Governor's office.  (download and address above)
Governor Christine Gregoire
Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA  98504-0002
As well, you can sign a copy of the Resolution and submit to your own Legislative Representatives. Find your Representative at link below; 
Washington State Citizens’ Call Upon Governor Christine Gregoire to Affirmatively Act to Seek Withdrawal of National Guard Troops from Iraq:
Whereas, the conditions underlying the Authorization for use of Military Force against Iraq Resolution (PL 107-243), have been proven false or declared invalid;
Whereas, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission), was unable to find any connection between the tragedy of 9-11 and the people or government of Iraq;
Whereas, the President has declared the weapons of mass destruction, one of the pretexts for preemptory action, do not exist;
Whereas, there never was a threat to the security of the United States posed by Saddam Hussein or the people of Iraq;
Whereas, the January elections in Iraq, the election of a National Assembly, and the effort to create a new constitution, all applauded by the President as indications of the birth of democracy in the region, also serve to indicate that Iraq no longer represents a threat, real or imagined, to the security of the United States;
Whereas, the United Nations sanctions, also tied to the weapons of mass destruction and to the regime of Saddam Hussein, and which serve as a secondary basis for the authorization of military action, are no longer valid, and whereas even the United States is calling for the end of the U.N. Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC); Whereas, the Governor and State Legislature have a particular responsibility to the members of the Washington National Guard, their families and to the community that they serve;
Whereas, the Washington National Guard was created, in part, for the protection of the citizens of Washington from natural disasters or threats of violence within the state boundaries, as well as to protect the sovereignty of US borders;
Whereas, Washington’s National Guard troops have been called up in
unprecedented numbers, at nearly the highest per capita level of any state, to serve on active duty in Iraq;
Whereas, National Guard troops have been poorly equipped and have received only rudimentary training for service in this war, and are therefore suffering casualties at rates considerably higher than those of regular Army troops;
Whereas, Washington’s National Guard troops are being subjected to unfair and involuntary extensions of duty well beyond the terms of their enlistment contracts,and their families, employers and communities have had to bear the hardship of accommodating the prolonged absence of the Guard members;
Whereas, the National Guard at home in Washington has been decimated by the mobilization of our troops for these foreign wars, and whereas, a disproportionate number of National Guard members, in civilian life, serve as police officers, firefighters, EMT personnel, prison guards, etc., their absence has left our own communities vulnerable and ill-prepared for any natural disaster or terrorist attack
within our own state borders;
Whereas, fewer and fewer Washingtonians are willing to enlist in the National Guard because of the inappropriate use and unfair treatment of Guard troops by the US Defense Department and Army, leaving the likelihood that Washington could be left unprotected for years to come;
Whereas, the prospect of further cuts to federal spending in human services and other local assistance programs, and the threat of additional cuts tothe already criminally impoverished Veterans Administration, will place additional demands on currently overstressed state and local social services;
Therefore Be It Resolved: The citizens of the State of Washington demand the Governor exercise her power as Commander-in-Chief of the Washington National Guard to publicly compel the President of the United States to justify the continued deployment of Washington National Guard personnel in, or in support of, the military incursion in Iraq, pursuant to PL 107-243, and further to pursue and exhaust every avenue in her power to immediately bring, or cause to be
brought home, all Washington National Guard troops presently serving in Iraq, or in training for that war, and to prevent their re-deployment in support thereof.

Presented by:  Military Families Speak Out. Gold Star Families for Peace, Veterans for Peace, and National Lawyers Guild

"It's time to punch the clock ... the Battle for America has begun"

Click on link above for an excellent 4 minutes of getting your patriotic fire relit.