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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Militia held abroad to detriment of citizens

    Janne Peronacolumnist
    Janne Perona
    columnist

    Whether or not we know it, every state has a militia. They evolved from the times of the Revolutionary War – in which they often consisted of farmers with pitchforks – to modern times, as much more technologically advanced National Guard units. These militias protect their states during national crises (as the New York National Guard did during the Sept. 11 tragedy), and come to the aid of those afflicted by natural disasters such as severe forest fires, hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes.

    However, these militias are being unacceptably depleted both of manpower and of supplies by our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Given that the National Guard’s ability to protect at home is being hindered by a situation that can no longer appropriately be called an “”emergency,”” it’s time we brought it home.

    According to the National Guard’s Web site, “”During peacetime each state National Guard answers to the leadership in the 50 states, three territories and the District of Columbia. During national emergencies, however, the president reserves the right to mobilize the National Guard, putting them in federal duty status.””

    In accordance with its state mandate, the National Guard in Arizona responded to a request by Gov. Janet Napolitano earlier this month to assist federal border patrol officers at the Mexico-Arizona border.

    In a statement to The Associated Press, Napolitano made it clear that “”We are not at war with Mexico.”” The Guard was there to provide extra assistance, not a military presence. And that’s the traditional use of the National Guard: The protection of a state at the behest of its governor.

    However, President Bush has invoked the Guard’s federal mandate in deploying National Guard units to Iraq and Afghanistan. At first, that move was entirely appropriate. However, the issue at stake now is whether the U.S. is still in a “”state of emergency.””

    With National Guardsmen gone, panic ensues when domestic problems occur. Hurricane Katrina should have served as a wakeup call. Necessary support wasn’t there when thousands of lives were at stake; in a real national emergency, personnel levels were at a bleak 50 percent.

    Decreasing supply levels also hinder the Guard’s ability to do its duty. Supplies such as Black Hawk helicopters, Humvees, trucks and weapons are either sent to Iraq or redistributed to other units. According to the National Guard Bureau, equipment levels are at about half of the normal level.

    The diminished state presence of the Guard was a sacrifice the president was willing to make in order to avoid a Vietnam-style draft. The U.S. military has also extended tours for active-duty soldiers and is reorganizing itself to make more units available for deployment. But it still relies heavily on National Guard and reserve forces.

    The National Guard was instituted to
    protect and serve our country domestically.

    Many National Guard units serve several tours in Iraq or Afghanistan – and that’s between their normal duties in their home states. Some part-time Guard members are now serving full time, meaning they can no longer work their regular jobs.

    Additionally, the National Guard is sustaining heavy losses. More than half of the U.S. troops in Iraq are from the National Guard (close to 65,000 soldiers) and half of the casualties have been from the National Guard or military reserve.

    The National Guard was instituted to protect and serve our country domestically. In peacetime, that means its units serve the states they represent. In times of emergency, they serve the president.

    But emergencies only last so long. Emergencies are immediate and require swift and urgent assistance. In most people’s understanding of the word, that means short-term help. The National Guard is first and foremost a militia, meant to defend the individual states and territories and assist as necessary in national crises.

    The fact of the matter is, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are not “”national emergencies;”” they are foreign relations issues. Our National Guard belongs at home, and it’s time it was brought back – and kept here.


    Janne Perona is a sophomore majoring in criminal justice administration. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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