Friday, May 19, 2006

Guest post: Weekend warriors on the front lines

There are so, so many things wrong with Bush's plan to send 6000 National Guard troops to fortify the border. Ya know, xenophobia, racism...not to mention the utter lack of gratitude toward immigrants that do the bulk of the grunt work in the agriculture and service industries that allow the rest of us to pay prices far below what the market would charge if we actually paid a living wage for those products and services.

But all that's been said better than I can say it. The one thing that people don't seem to acknowledge about this plan is the effect on the National Guard members who will be called up to serve - and to serve in the dead of summer in the desert, if this plan gets off the ground anytime soon. Bush treats the National Guard as disposable help, as his personal hand-servants to be dispatched and recalled for further orders as he personally sees fit. The news outlets don't seem too inclined to mention the disrupted lives of Guard members unless it's to repeat tear-jerking stories of vets disabled in Iraq. And while those are compelling stories, sometimes it's the more mundane stories that make up the bulk of the impact: reduced income that was supporting a family, time out of school that sets students back a semester or two, missed promotions from being called away from work.

Every woman and man in the Guard signed up for this and knows that they will be called when they are needed for the protection of the country. And they have been called and have served - in Iraq, in New Orleans, in emergencies across the nation. But - to steal a line from Michael Moore - it is in honor of this sacrifice that the nation owes it to them to use their services judiciously, to call on them only with the utmost care, to be sure that when we do need them (especially as hurricane season and wildfire season are upon us again) these women and men can bring the energy and dedication needed to perform under the direst circumstances, such as on the Gulf Coast last summer. With so much of the Guard deployed to Iraq and an ever-increasing number of vets who have now come home from a year or more in the Middle East, sending 6000 of them into the desert for a few months is an unnecessary strain on an already stressed system - and a call to sacrifice that abuses the promises that the National Guard members have made to our nation.

For that reason on top of the myriad reasons why fortifying the border is poor excuse for diplomatic and domestic policy, the Guard should not be called up for Bush's pet project. If we use these resources too many times, they will not be there when they are really needed.