Guard Home Campaign Considers Successes as Legislative Session Comes to a Close

Education on the Issue of "Who Decides on War?" Key to Year-Long Effort
As Oregon’s 2009 Legislative session comes to a close, organizers of the
"Campaign to Keep Oregon’s Guard in Oregon" are reviewing their successes
over a year, despite the fact that efforts to pass a bill and a Joint
Memorial did not come to fruition. The bill, HB 2556, would have written
into law the Governor’s power to review federal orders for mobilizing the
Oregon National Guard to ensure those orders were lawful and based on a
valid enactment by Congress. The Memorial, HJM 5-1 (with proposed
amendments), would have informed Congress that Oregon’s Legislature
believes the state has the responsibility to review such orders for their
The seed of the current campaign was a bill introduced in January, 2008 in
Vermont’s legislature, pointing out that the 2002 Authorization for Use of
Military Force in Iraq had expired because its terms were no longer valid.
The two goals set forth by Congress in that enactment were for the US to
guard against the threat posed by Iraq, and to enforce UN Security Council
resolutions against Iraq’s government–the government of Saddam Hussein,
now 6 years out of power. Since that time, 21 other states and Washington,
DC have started campaigns affiliated with the national "Bring the Guard
Home–It’s the Law!" effort. Oregon’s Campaign also considers the 2001
Authorization for the "War on Terror" invalid because it too broadly
allows the President to attack any country that he declares was involved
in 9/11.
The Oregon Campaign has been coordinated by Peace and Justice Works (PJW)
of Portland along with supporters in 55 other organizations from around
the state and four prominent individuals. Other groups working on the
current effort include Rural Organizing Project with its 65 member groups
around Oregon, Military Families Speak Out, four Veterans for Peace
chapters (Corvallis, Bandon, Grants Pass, Portland), Iraq Veterans Against
the War, and other faith, labor, peace and social justice organizations.
Starting shortly after the Vermont efforts in early 2008, the Campaign
eventually gathered 7200 signatures from every legislative district in
Oregon, delivering them to each legislator, the Speaker of the House, the
Senate President, and the Governor on January 21. A successful hearing was
well received by the House Rules Committee on March 11th, with testimony
from members of Guard families, veterans, a lawyer, and other concerned
citizens. Over the next two months, as the deployment of the Guard loomed
near, the Campaign gained promises from over half the members of the House
that they would support the bill if it were amended (HB 2556-1). When the
bill was still not scheduled, organizers held a news conference with
"Peace Mom" Cindy Sheehan on the Capitol steps in late May to demand a
work session and floor vote.
When the Speaker’s deadline passed for HB 2556 to have a work session,
Campaign organizers turned their attention to the Joint Memorial. Despite
HJM 5-1 having support from those who supported the bill, the Memorial was
also not scheduled for a work session due to other issues including the
budget shortfall.
Campaign co-coordinators Dan Handelman of PJW and Leah Bolger of Veterans
for Peace in Corvallis expressed their gratitude to the legislators who
supported the Guard Home efforts. Rep. Chip Shields (D-Portland), who
sponsored the measures in the House and Sen. Vicki Walker (D-Eugene), who
supported the bill and a concurrent resolution (SR 1) in the Senate are at
the top of the list. Rep. Dennis Richardson (R-Central Point), who was a
huge supporter of the Constitutional protections explicit in HB 2556’s
proposed amended version, helped swing bi-partisan support for the
measure. Another Republican supporter was Rep. Jim Thompson (R-Dallas),
one of the bill’s cosponsors. Other cosponsors included Reps. Carolyn
Tomei (D-Portland), Michael Dembrow (D-Portland), Chris Edwards
(D-Eugene), and Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland); and Senators Laurie Monnes
Anderson (D-Gresham), Rod Monroe (D-Portland), Bill Morrisette
(D-Springfield), and Diane Rosenbaum (D-Portland). Two other major
supporters who spoke at the March 11 hearing were Rep. Jules Kopel Bailey,
who testified before the House Rules Committee and who supported the Guard
Home effort while running for office in 2008, and Rep. Sara Gelser
(D-Corvallis) who sits on the Committee.
The goal of bringing the Guard Home also had support from Sen. Jeff
Merkley, who told Blue Oregon in January: "Our National Guard shouldn’t be
utilized in this way to begin with. This is not their designed role. So
I’m really supporting the campaign to get them home." In May, the Medford
Mail Tribune gave "Cheers" to Reps. Shields and Richardson for their
efforts on HB 2556.
The Guard was mobilized from Oregon to Georgia in May; their training
there is expected to end in mid-July when they are to be sent to Iraq to
guard convoys.
"While we are disappointed that no measures were passed in the legislature
this session, we feel that our government has been forced to take a hard
look at when it is appropriate to send our state militia into overseas
deployments," said Dan Handelman of Peace and Justice Works. "Since the
legislation we supported was simply restating existing law, we hope that
any future call ups to Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, or anywhere else are
thoroughly scrutinized before the National Guard leaves Oregon again."
With more deployments likely, it is certain that the issue of
federalization of the Oregon Guard will rise again in the near future.