Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Guard Service: Then and Now

The president and his spokesman do not seem to understand why Mr. Bush's record in the Texas Air National Guard repeatedly being called into question. Mr. Bush insists that this issue was fully addressed in the 2000 campaign. But many things have changed since Mr. Bush has taken office.

Mr. Bush initiated what now appears to have been an ill-advised and unnecessary military invasion of Iraq. This massive military campaign necessitated the activation of innumerable National Guard units and their soldiers. These previously part-time soldiers have been ordered to active duty -- the same active duty Mr. Bush joined the Guard to avoid -- and sent to a battle-field overseas -- much like the battle field that Mr. Bush joined the Guard to avoid. One year ago, 79,000 Guard and Reserve members were on active duty. Now, nine months after Mr. Bush declared an end to major combat in Iraq, 190,000 are on active duty.

In addition, many of these Guard soldiers have been subjected to the Bush Pentagon's "stop-loss" and "stop-move" orders designed to maintain troop strength in Iraq and Afghanistan. The "stop-loss" order prevents troops from retiring or leaving the service at the end of their enlistments -- unlike Mr. Bush who admits that he left the Guard before his commitment was completed to go to Harvard Business School. The "stop-move" order holds troops overseas beyond the original end of their tours. While these troops are required to stay with their units in the war-zones of Iraq and Afghanistan, Mr. Bush was unable bring himself to remain in Texas with his Guard unit.

Currently 40,000 servicemen and women, many of them members of the National Guard and Reserve, have been affected by the "stop-loss" and "stop-move" orders.

When so many Guardsmen and women are risking their lives by serving their country overseas, it is certainly legitimate to ask if their Commander-in-Chief met his state-side service obligation.

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