the SONG campaign got a lift when Mayor Mike Rotkin sent a letter to every mayor in the state of CA asking them to call for the CA National Guard to come home from Iraq now!! A companion resolution, coordinated by CODEPINK, is currently pending in the State Assembly.
On Monday September 19th, Mayor Mike Rotkin, representing the city of Santa Cruz, CA, sent an appeal to every mayor (478 of them) in the state of CA asking them to sponsor a resolution calling for the California National Guard to be brought home from Iraq immediately.
The letter, dated Sept. 13th, refers to the depleted ability of the CA Guard units to respond to a large scale disaster if needed, and was accompanied by a copy of a model resolution passed by the Santa Cruz City Council on July 26th, 2005.
The cities of Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and Berkeley have all passed resolutions, and a similar one will be considered in the city of Oakland soon.
The campaign to bring the Guard home is being coordinated in Santa Cruz by the *SONG (Support Our National Guard - bring them home now!) campaign, a coalition of thirteen peace and social justice groups which brought the matter to the attention of the City Council.
A statewide campaign is being coordinated by CODEPINK. They have successfully lobbied to bring a resolution into the Assembly of the State Legislature. The resolution, AJR36, which is currently pending, has 25 cosponsors in the Assembly, including Santa Cruz representative John Laird.
A large earthquake hitting the Bay Area has been defined by scientific and disaster relief experts as one of the three most likely catastrophic disaster scenarios that could happen in the United States. Louisiana, Mississippi, and the Gulf Coast have just seen the reality of having their Guard units gone during just such a crisis. The Guard is needed here before disaster strikes, not after!
Almost half (11,000) of the CA National Guard is currently deployed in Iraq or the surrounding region, and 40% of the forces currently in Iraq and Afghanistan are Guard or Reserve units, a far greater percentage than ever used before by the US in a foreign theater.
The death rate for Guardspeople in Iraq is 35% higher than regular troops - they are being assigned to infantry units, which are at the greatest risk, and have testified before Congress about the lack of adequate training and equipment.
Of those who are returning, many are so injured physically or mentally that their ability to function at all is severely at risk - at the annual conference of Governors in July, this was a primary area of concern and discussion.
Guard members are often older than other recruits and leave behind dependent children and spouses. The families of those deployed are suffering not only emotionally but financially as well, as many have left well paying jobs for the low pay of the military.
The Guard is being used, in effect, as a back door draft. They are being ordered to go, not volunteering! Most Guard members signed up with the intention of serving their country at home in the event of national catastrophe or need, not for long term deployment in a war zone.
Many are also the victims of "stop loss" orders, being reassigned for extended tours of duty because the regular troops are stretched so thin, and because military recruitment is significantly down.
Increasingly, military and intelligence experts are saying that the primary reason for the continued devastation and violence in Iraq is the presence of the US military.
Having the CA National Guard deployed in a preemptive and aggressive war, that was misrepresented to the people of the United States, and of the world, by a series of lies and intentional manipulations, and that has no end or exit strategy in sight, is no longer acceptable. They deserve to come home now. Their families and communities deserve to have them home now! And we deserve to have them home now, because they could be needed here at any time, as we have just seen in the Southland of this country.
*Current endorsers of the SONG campaign include:
CodePink SC, the Santa Cruz Peace Coalition, Women in Black SC, Pax Christi, the Peace and Freedom Party of SC, the Green Party of SC, the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom of SC, the Coalition for Impeachment Now! (COIN!), the Resource Center for Nonviolence (RCNV), Veterans for Peace SC, Art & Revolution SC, Monterey Bay Central Labor Council, Brown Berets of Watsonville