In the new SFR, I have a story
about some of the New Mexico National Guard soldiers who returned last month from a year at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. On a related note, let's consider House Joint Memorial 18
, now before the New Mexico State Legislature:
Requesting the President and Secretary of Defense to withdraw all New Mexico National Guard troops from Iraq in absence of a valid Congressional authorization for such service;
Requesting the Department of Defense to cancel any pending deployment of the New Mexico National Guard to Iraq;
Requesting the Governor to withhold consent from any further deployment of the New Mexico National Guard to Iraq.
This anti-war doozy—proposing measures that would've been unthinkable four or five years ago—was introduced into the by Rep. Ray Begaye (D-Shiprock). He first heard about the multi-state withdraw-the-Guard campaign
in an email. State Sen. Carlos Cisneros (D-Questa) introduced a companion memorial
in the Legislature's upper chamber.
Begaye tells SFR his anti-war proposal is grounded in the US Constitution
, which grants the power to declare war to Congress
“If you look at the situation in Iraq, we don't have a war there anymore,” Begaye says. “There's no declaration of war in Iraq. We need our troops here.”
Begaye says the Guard may be called on to provide drought relief this year and in the future. Also, Gov. Bill Richardson declared an emergency in Taos Pueblo last month, on account of the snow. The increasingly violent drug war in Mexico—a result of illicit demand in America—has given ammo to politicians who want to use the Guard as border police.
How have Begaye's constitutuents reacted to his proposal? There are “pros and cons,” Begaye said.
“I don't think they understand the detail...they don't really know the US Constitution and what it entails,” Begaye says. But “now that President Bush is out, I think people are more open-minded.”
The former head of the New Mexico National Guard, retired Maj. Gen. Melvyn Montano
(pictured left), tells SFR the withdrawal resolution is “a little unprecedented.” At the same time, he doesn't find it all that surprising.
“The war is not really supported by the populace throughout the country. That was obvious during the election,” Montano says. “Some legislators are saying, ‘Everybody wanted this, let's make a protest.' The counties are trying to make a statement through their legislators to the governor.”
If Begaye's proposal passes the Legislature and Gov. Richardson goes on to deny New Mexico Guard support to the feds—a long shot, no matter how unpopular the war is—there might be repercussions.
“To make a statement like that would affect how this state is looked at by upper headquarters for future equipment, future units,” Montano says.
Begaye has asked for a response from Richardson, but has yet to get one. Richardson spokesman Gilbert Gallegos did not return SFR's message asking for a position on Begaye's proposal.