Group of lawmakers calling on Douglas to end deployment of Guard troops in Iraq

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(Host) A group of lawmakers is calling on Governor Jim Douglas to end the deployment of roughly 25 Vermont National Guard troops serving in Iraq. They say President Bush’s authority to use these troops has expired.

But the governor says a review by his office shows that the President’s authority is legal.

VPRs Bob Kinzel reports:

(Kinzel) The proposed legislation concludes that the original reasons that President Bush outlined to go to war in Iraq in late 2002 no longer exist today, and as a result, the President’s authority to deploy state National Guard units has expired.

The bill states that no weapons of mass destruction were ever found in Iraq and that Iraq no longer poses a security threat to the United States.

Lincoln Rep. Mike Fisher is the lead sponsor of the legislation. He’s urging Governor Jim Douglas to support the bill and end what he calls "the federalization" of Vermont Guard troops:

(Fisher)"The president no longer has the authority to command our Vermont National Guard in Iraq without that federal authority we call on the governor to join us and take all the necessary steps to bring them home."

Senate president Peter Shumlin says he plans to introduce a similar bill in the Senate:

(Shumlin)"I think the important thing to remember is that when that was authorized the question was not should Vermont Guard members be mediating a civil war in Iraq, the question was should Vermont Guard members join the rest of our armed forces in finding the weapons of mass destruction and getting to the bottom of the involvement of 9/11…you can not make the argument today that Iraq is a threat to our national security at home."

Governor Douglas’s spokesperson, Jason Gibbs says the governor supports the establishment of a clear exit strategy for the troops in Iraq but Gibbs says a previous state review of this issue clearly shows that the President is on solid legal ground:

(Gibbs)"The governor asked attorneys to review this particular issue the authority of the president to federalize the national Guard in this circumstance…it’s quite clear from that review both then and now that there’s no legal basis for stopping the federalization of the National Guard one the Congress has authorized and continues to fund a war."

And Gibbs says only Congress can address this issue:

(Gibbs)"But ultimately the determination rests with the United States Congress it would take an act of Congress to nullify the declaration of war that already existed in order for there to be no basis for the federalization of the National Guard."

Gibbs says the governor hopes that lawmakers won’t spend too much time on this bill because Douglas feels there are more important issues for them to consider – issues that he says they do have control over.

For VPR News I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

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