Dems' 'New Direction' for National Guard: Away From Iraq

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:32pm EDT

( - Democrats are calling for a "new direction" for the U.S. National Guard, arguing that it is "stretched to breaking" across America and in Iraq. A Republican Party official retorted that the initiative was nothing new but part of a long-standing Democratic strategy of "playing politics with the war in Iraq."

"We expect our Guard to be there for the unexpected, and they have always done so exceptionally well," Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) said in a news release. "However, we can't expect them to be in two places at once - or continually away from their families as they are called up for duty in Iraq and responding to natural disasters."

This situation is "taking a toll on families and could ultimately weaken our Guard's readiness," Pryor argued.

"With extended deployments overseas, governors' emergency plans are compromised, in terms of troops and equipment," Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who chairs the Democratic Governors Association, said in the same statement.

"President Bush's plan to escalate the war in Iraq is placing an especially heavy burden on states," the release said. "Sending the National Guard on repeated tours through Iraq compromises states' capabilities to respond to natural disasters, terrorist acts and other threats to public safety."

"Our National Guardsmen and women have put their lives on hold to serve in uniform, and they have served valiantly," said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). "They deserve better than broken promises from the administration. On behalf of Ohio's National Guard and families, I urge the president to reconsider" sending more troops to Iraq.

"Placing an unsustainable burden on National Guard units across the country is putting the safety of the American people at risk, and Democrats are committed to holding the president accountable for change," the release concluded.

According to the National Guard's official website, units can be mobilized at any time by presidential order to supplement regular armed forces, as well as upon declaration of a state of emergency by the governor of the state or territory in which they serve.

Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee (RNC), told Cybercast News Service that the Democrats' "new direction" is just an old strategy for their party.

"We've seen Democrats playing politics with the war in Iraq, and the divisions within their own party are leading them to fumble the issue time and time again," Schmitt said. "This newfound attempt to placate the liberal wing of their base is just another effort for Democrats to get their 'slow-bleed' strategy past the American people."

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) announced two weeks ago that he would introduce legislation to halt the Bush administration's troop "surge" in Iraq by restricting military deployments.

A critic of the Iraq war since November 2005, Murtha said he would attach a provision to an upcoming $93 billion supplemental spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan that would "limit the options of the president and should stop the surge."

At the time, RNC Chairman Mike Duncan said: "The Democrat strategy on Iraq is finally clear. They call it their 'slow bleed' plan.

"Instead of supporting the troops in Iraq or simply bringing them home, the Democrats intend to gradually make it harder and harder for them to do their jobs," Duncan said. "'Slow bleed' is exactly the right name for this incredibly irresponsible and dangerous strategy," he said.

On Tuesday, Schmitt saw the Democrats' call as a continuation of the strategy Murtha began in mid-February.

"They shouldn't hide their plan to defund our troops in the sheep's clothing of a 'new direction' for the National Guard - our National Guardsmen and women, and the American people, deserve better," Schmitt added.

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