Alaska National Guard should not be sent to Iraq

Gov. Murkowski needs to speak out against call-up

Posted: Sunday, April 23, 2006

We are disappointed by the Murkowski administration's complete silence in response to this summer's announced "call-up" of elements of the Alaska National Guard for service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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As reported in the Empire and elsewhere, this call-up reaches into the very heart of rural Alaska, to small and remote communities that can ill afford even the temporary absence of community and family leaders and subsistence providers. And it won't be just their home communities that feel the absence. As Alaskans - residents of a disaster-prone state subject to natural upheavals such as earthquakes, floods, and wildfires - we can collectively ill afford the loss.

We are aware of the federal supremacy in these matters and understand that the governor lacks legal authority to simply refuse to deploy the Guard. Nevertheless, the governor is not without authority. At the very least, we would ask that he be an advocate for our state and challenge the deployment. Grounds for opposing the call-up would include (but aren't necessarily limited to):

• Concern that the purpose of the call-up is to support the continuing U.S. mission in Iraq, even though that morally dubious war of aggression has been demonstrated to be premised on manufactured intelligence and lacks the support of the American people.

• Concern that the absence of these Alaska Guard members could leave the state vulnerable as we approach the flooding and wild fire seasons.

• Concern that the loss of even a very few of these fine young adults in some of the far-flung Alaska villages could have a devastating affect on the social and economic structures of those communities.

Even if the Governor opts to take no steps to challenge the deployment, we ask that, as their "commander in chief," he undertake the following steps before authorizing the transfer to active duty status:

• Require the Guard to develop a plan to indemnify the communities from which the Guard members will be drawn, to minimize the disruption to the economic and social fabric of those communities.

• Require the Guard to ensure that a full physical examination of each Guard member is undertaken both before and following, their deployment in order to protect and detect any illness resulting from the deployment (including, for example, prolonged exposure to depleted uranium munitions).

• Require the Guard to fully inform its members of their rights to resist deployment to address personal imperatives (family needs, etc.) and how to exercise their rights to avoid combat duty if their consciences so demand.

• Require assurances from the Defense Department that, in the event of a natural or manmade disaster, Alaska's manpower needs will be met through either repatriating the deployed Alaska Guard members or providing alternative support.

In January, Alaska's Guard suffered the tragic loss of "ICY-33" in Iraq with four Guard crew members and eight passengers. Although we truly honor the service of those who were lost, we question the legitimacy of their mission. Under these circumstances, it is even more important for our leaders to stand up and to stake out a firm position to protect Alaska from the tragic consequences of the Bush administration's capricious use of our state's important military assets.

• Philip J. Smith is a Juneau resident and a veteran of the U.S. Army (1964-1967). He is the president of the Veterans for Peace, Chapter 100.

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