Because our congressional leaders are clearly not up to the task of standing up to the Bush Administration and its continued illegal war in Iraq, it may well be up to the states to take action.
On Jan. 30, state House members, soon followed by state senators, introduced legislation that called on Vermont’s Republican Gov. Jim Douglas to take “all necessary steps” to bring home, as quickly as possible, all members of the Vermont National Guard serving in Iraq.
Rather than arguing whether launching the war was legal or even just, supporters of the bill tacitly concede that Congress’ 2002 Authorization to Use Military Force gave Bush the authority to invade Iraq based on two—and only two—criteria: “(1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq.”
But today, Saddam Hussein and the specter of weapons of mass destruction are both dead; there is no national security threat; and the U.N. resolutions are no longer relevant, the bill’s supporters say.
“That very specific mission does not exist today,” says state Rep. Michael Fisher (D-Lincoln), who introduced the House bill. And when the mission expired, so too did any legal or constitutional basis for the war or the involvement of the Vermont National Guard, the bill states.
“The president no longer has the authorization to command our Vermont National Guard units,” says Fisher.
Already, legislators in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Wisconsin are exploring ways to stoke the flame.
While both sides talk mainly about lives and national security, money circles the Vermont debate. State Rep. Patricia O’Donnell (R-Vernon) points out that if Vermont withdrew the Guards, Washington might withdraw the $3 million it contributes to maintaining Vermont’s units.
Democrats counter that states are already bearing much of the burden of budgets cuts necessitated by the pricey occupation. At a January press conference, House Speaker Gaye Symington (D-Jericho) said the war in Iraq has had a heavy impact on Vermont and has led to financial cuts in Medicaid and other areas.
The cost also comes in blood. Vermont has one of the highest per capita death rates in Iraq.