Fed up after years of relentless National Guard deployments in undeclared wars, state lawmakers across the country are pushing legislation that would prohibit the use of Guard units in combat zones without a formal declaration of war by Congress.
The bills are being promoted by BringOurTroopsHome.US, a self-described organization of “right-of-center” veterans working to end American involvement in “endless wars” and restore congressional authority over war-making. The libertarian 10th Amendment Center is also backing the cause.
The proposed laws would require governors to determine the constitutionality of orders that place Guard units on federal active duty; where they’re deemed unconstitutional, the governor is required to take action to prevent the unit from being surrendered to federal control and sent into harm’s way.
The first “Defend the Guard” bill was conceived and introduced by Air Force veteran and West Virginia state legislator Pat McGeehan. While no state has enacted the law yet, interest is spreading widely, with legislators now pushing the measure in 31 states.
Conservative Veterans Taking Point
BringOurTroopsHome.US is led by Dan McKnight, a 13-year veteran of the Marine Corps Reserve, active duty Army and Idaho Army National Guard whose military service ended after he was injured in Afghanistan.
McKnight and many other veterans leading the drive against the War on Terror are from the right side of the political spectrum. That’s a sharp contrast to the typical antiwar veteran of the Vietnam era, but McKnight says vets from both wars share a common experience.
Today’s veterans “are coming home and saying the same thing (Vietnam vets did): ‘What was the point of that? What was our mission? We have no mission, we have no definition of success, we have no clear path to victory, we have no idea what victory means and we’re there without a constitutional authority to send us there’,” he says.
“Every one of us raised our hands and swore an oath to the Constitution…and when it says Congress shall be the only body to declare war, we take that to heart. And when Congress doesn’t do it, we understand bad things can happen: long, endless foreign misadventures,” says McKnight.
In a 2019 Pew Research poll, 64% of veterans said the war in Iraq wasn’t worth fighting; 58% said the same of Afghanistan. A January Concerned Veterans for America/YouGov poll found two-thirds or more of veterans support full withdrawals from both countries.
“The right-of-center veterans are now echoing the message of left-of-center veterans, and it’s hard to ignore when veterans from the entire political spectrum are saying the same thing: Enough already—if you want us to go and bleed and die and spend our lives and your treasure in a foreign land, then Congress should put their name on the line before we put our boots on the ground,” McKnight says.