Campaign to Keep Oregon's Guard in Oregon
c/o Peace and Justice Works
PO Box 42456
Portland, OR 97242
(503) 236-3065

For Immediate Release June 23, 2009

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 legality.

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pointing out that the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force in Iraq had expired because its terms were no longer valid.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.

page posted July 19, 2009
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