Today, we all extend our sympathies and prayers to those devastated by the wildfires in California. Millions of Americans are impacted by this natural disaster.
Neighbors should help neighbors in their time of need. As Governor of New Mexico, I ordered two fire crews (strike teams, with 5 engines and 21 crew members each) to California. As a candidate for President, I donated to the American Red Cross and I encourage you to do so as well, click here to do so.
But as someone who believes the war in Iraq is a complete disaster and that we need to get our troops out now (www.getourtroopsout.com), I look at the natural disaster in California and feel compelled to also ask President Bush and every candidate who thinks it is okay for our troops to remain in Iraq until 2013 or longer - where is our National Guard?
It is a sad irony that yesterday, the very day I sent fire crews to California, 300 more New Mexico National Guard members were sent to Iraq. Just when we need them most at home, more of our brave men and women, true public servants, are sent away to a war we cannot win.
Never before in our history has our National Guard, a group of dedicated men and women who serve our country and provide critical aid in the time of natural disasters been used, and re-used, for so long to fight a war tens of thousands of miles away.
In California, the Guard force is authorized to have over 21,000 members. Today, that number is just under 15,000. Why the decline? I believe it has nothing to do with a diminished commitment to service, but rather is a frustration with having that commitment abused, and families turned upside down, just so President Bush can continue to pretend his war can succeed.
George Bush, his Republican friends and the Democrats who continue to allow this war to continue have not only broken our military, they've broken our National Guard.
The news this morning had images of Americans fleeing to a huge sports arena for shelter during a natural disaster that struck a familiar chord. When Katrina struck and the floods hit two years ago, a good portion of the Louisiana National Guard was in Iraq. How many people died in the days it took to get proper personnel on the ground in New Orleans? Today, as the fires rage, California has National Guard men, women, and critical equipment thousands of miles away in Iraq.
They need to come home. We need them here.
This has gone on long enough. When a national disaster hits, our states depend on the National Guard. Right now, President Bush is robbing Peter to pay Paul to continue his disastrous adventure in Iraq, and when tragedy hits us here at home, Americans are stuck with the bill. This cannot continue.
Bush won't end this war. Congress must. And they must end it now. We shouldn't have to wait until January, and we certainly can't wait until 2013 - we need our troops out of harm's way and our National Guard members back home where they belong.
Join my call at www.getourtroopsout.com to push Congress to begin ending this war now. Not in January, not next spring, not next year - now.
The war in Iraq is a tragedy, and compounding it by leaving our citizens here at home defenseless is an even greater crime.