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Gary Hart

Gary Hart

Posted: February 17, 2007 02:00 PM

Iraq and Homeland Security

Both the U.S. Commission on National Security for the 21st Century and the follow-on Council on Foreign Relations report a year after 9-11 concluded that the backbone of homeland security is the 50-state National Guard. Properly trained and equipped, the Guard must play the central role in deterring jihadist attacks on America and responding to them if they occur.

Today, more than 40% of our combat and combat support units in Iraq are National Guard and Reserve forces. We cannot continue to maintain and expand our military operations in Iraq without these Guard and Reserve forces. Many of their units have been redeployed multiple times in violation of the agreements Guard members sign when they enlist. We are exhausting not only our regular standing combat troops, we are also exhausting the deployed Guard and Reserve units.

Most important, the National Guard units in Iraq are not in the United States standing post over our nation's security at home. They are not being trained and equipped for this vital mission. If we are in fact at war with terrorism, we are leaving our homeland flanks totally exposed. The Administration and its supporters have excused this dereliction in security with the hollow slogan: We're fighting them over there so we don't have to fight them here.

This specious argument fails on several counts. The "them" we are fighting in Iraq are overwhelmingly Iraqi insurgents who have no interest in following us home. And the relatively small but growing numbers of al Qaeda in Iraq can do more than one thing at once, as the people of London and Madrid can testify. It is the United States that cannot fight them there using National Guard forces needed to fight them here.

Members of Congress truly concerned with national security will pass legislation requiring National Guard forces in Iraq to be steadily withdrawn and restored to the homeland security mission originally placed upon them by the Constitution of the United States.