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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

If you want to keep Wyoming’s guardsmen out of foreign wars, Lindholm’s bill can get that job done

BY JEREMY ROYER

Afghanistan. Kosovo. The United Arab Emirates. Tunisia. These are names that are as foreign to the people of Wyoming as alligators and palm trees. Yet to hundreds of Wyoming families, these names have been a regular part of their vocabulary. 
How does it usually sound?
“My daddy is in Kosovo. I wish he could be here for my birthday.”
“I can’t play baseball this year, coach. Mom said it’s too much stress for her with dad in Afghanistan.”
“When mom comes home from the UAE, she’s going to teach me how to swim.”
“Mom cries a lot. Then she yells at us. She’s just sad because dad is in Afghanistan.”
This has been the sad reality
A Wyo. guardsman says goodbye at a recent deployment.
for children and spouses in Wyoming since the beginning of the terror wars in 2001, 19 long years ago. 2019 was particularly 
rough on Wyoming families as that year we saw the second-largest deployment of Wyoming National Guardsmen in 10 years. 
The social and economic impact of deployment levels of this size, in a state like ours, is hard, if not impossible, to measure. 
First, and possibly least important, consider the hundreds of job positions left empty. Employers must hold the positions vacated by the guardsmen until they return. For a small business, this may mean either work doesn’t get done or a larger workload is carried by the few employees left. Hiring to temporarily fill the vacancy isn’t always possible for Wyoming’s struggling small business sector. 
Then consider the loss in sales and services. Each guardsman deployed abroad is one less plate served at the diner, one less pickup truck at the pump, one less volunteer at the soup kitchen, one less soccer coach.
The far greater hurt is found in the social impact on our communities and is borne primarily by the families left behind. 
How do we begin to measure the pain and harm done to Wyoming families by these extended deployments? When in adolescence, is it a good time for a young boy to be without his father? What is the long-term impact of a teenage girl being without her mother for freshman year? 
Picture for a moment a woman in your community, early 30s, three small children, daddy gone to a foreign land that is literally on the other side of the planet from us. 
You watch her struggle weekly. She tells you she’s on anti-anxiety medication. She begins appearing unkept. Then so do the children. Your heart breaks a bit as you notice the youngest kid toddling around with a pillow that has his father’s picture printed on it.  
You and your neighbors try to help. Offer to babysit, bring supper, go for coffee, listen to her troubles. No matter how well intentioned, though, deep down you know that your efforts are falling far short of filling the hole left in their hearts – the loneliness, the empty place in bed, the space at the table where nobody sits. 
Above all, you cannot ease the fear that this family feels with every waking moment. What if daddy never comes home? Then what?
For Wyomingites with particularly patriotic sensibilities, this matter is particularly complex.  You’re not some half-baked hippie! You are a proud, red-blooded, hardworking, American. You believe in pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, Ol’ Glory, mom and apple pie. You say the Pledge of Allegiance, stand for the National Anthem and hold the U.S. Constitution in the highest regard. 
One other thing, you support our troops. You think – no, you know – they are heroes. You refuse to repeat the mistakes of the past. You’ll be damned before you repeat Vietnam, where our boys were sent to die for an unclear cause, when no obvious threat to our nation and people was present and where no objective definition of victory has been established. 
Moreover, you aren’t willing to see the boys and girls coming home to a system that cannot care for their mental and physical needs. They are the best of us, after all. They deserve the best from us, right?
Is that you?
If it is, I have bad news. We’ve got trouble.
We’re letting our boys down.
On Sept, 11, 2001 our people, our nation were attacked. After that, our government leaders vowed to avenge our slain countrymen. The nation rallied behind the president and the Pentagon with  nearly unanimous resolve. 
The Authorization for Use of Military Force was passed by the 107th Congress on Sept. 14, 2001 and signed into law by George W. Bush on Sept. 18 the same year. In the Senate, 98 ayes, 0 nays, and 2 present votes were tallied. In the House, 420 ayes, 1 nay and 10 not voting. That my, American friend, is a landslide. 
This wasn’t a declaration of war. Nobody really pretended it was. In summary, this act authorized the president to use whatever force necessary to seek revenge against the nations, organizations or persons responsible for the World Trade Center attacks.
Since then al-Qaeda has become a household name. At the time the military force measure was passed, intelligence estimated al-Qaeda had between 400 and 1,000 members worldwide. Nineteen of them died in the attacks. 
This little bit may seem pedantic, but it is important for the reader to grasp. Of the 19 total hijackers, 15 of them were citizens of Saudi Arabia, two from United Arab Emirates, one Lebanese and one Egyptian. Each were Sunni Wahhabis, just like their leader, Osama Bin Laden. These are important distinctions, but it is equally important to note their motivations seemed less religious and more political.
To date in Afghanistan and Iraq, nearly 5,000 Americans have been killed, 31 more on Jan. 26, 2020, and another 20,000 allies and contractors from around the world. Hundreds of thousands across the Middle East have been killed by either the direct or indirect consequences of the of The War on Terror.
 The U.S. has spent nearly $7 trillion, by the most conservative estimates over the last nineteen years.   
Al-Qaeda has had periods of growth and decline. They have splintered off into separate groups, such as The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. They operate sometimes under different names, and on occasion they receive support from the U.S. in countries like Syria and Yemen.  
All of this has been done under the authority granted to President George W. Bush, a generation ago, to seek revenge against those who attacked us on 9/11/01.
Remember that part I said was important earlier?  In Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, we supported extremist Wahhabis groups and aided their ascension into political power during the Arab Spring between 2010 and 2012. 
This offense was amplified when the U.S., with bipartisan applause, began supporting groups like the al-Nusra Front in Syria. These darling fellows were called moderate rebels by the late U.S. Sen. John McCain. This al-Qaeda splinter group swore loyalty to Al-Queda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri and was responsible for beheadings and crucifixions of Christians throughout Syria until Assad and his allies were able to put them down. But these were our allies for a while, all under the authority of the military force authorization.
It may be a bit of an understatement to say we have lost our direction. The mission isn’t clear. Our servicemen and servicewomen deserve better. 
You can give it to them, Wyoming.
You may be thinking: Isn’t this a federal issue? What can Wyoming possibly do about foreign policy? How can we protect our fellow Wyomingites from these seemingly endless, unconstitutional wars? It’s impossible. 
In many ways, you are right.  There are just too many moving parts. It is too hard to keep the differences between the Sunni and the Shiites and Alawites and Kurds. You don’t really understand why Soleimani was our side right up until we blew him up at an airport. Why is the democratically elected parliament in Iraq voting against us anyway? Don’t they know we’re trying to bring them democracy.
Yeah, I know. All these questions can’t be answered here, but that doesn’t mean Wyomingites have to stay mute. Your state rights don’t simply end because the questions are complex. The Constitution doesn’t become irrelevant the minute world events get confusing or scary.  
Rather, it is when things are the scariest, when the days are darkest, that our true character, our foundational principles must shine through.
State Rep. Tyler Lindholm of Sundance, a Navy veteran and rancher, and the House majority whip has the answer. He wants what you want: a constitutional, patriotic solution to our foreign policies.  And it may well be that we can’t get it done on a national level.  
But, we can defend our state. We can defend the Guard! Lindholm has banded together with Bring Our Troops Home (https://bringourtroopshome.us/),  an organization of conservative military veterans who continue to uphold their sacred oath to protect and defend the U.S. Constitution. They are bringing to states around the country legislation called The Defend The Guard Act. 
If passed by state governments, the law would prevent the federal government from deploying National Guard troops to foreign theaters absent a constitutionally mandated, congressional declaration of war. 
This is to say: Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past! Let’s not have a series of Koreas and Vietnams. And if we can’t do it federally and protect all our servicemen, let’s at least defend our guardsmen.
The job of our enlisted men is to do or die.  They aren’t supposed to worry about policy or consider partisan interests. They promise to defend the Constitution and the homeland against whomever they are told.
They put their trust in the hands of the adults, the civilian government, the people to ensure that their mission is legal, just and true. Their lives, their health, and their sanity are all entrusted to us, We the People. 
This is the bare minimum of what we owe our troops in return. This is how we honor their sacrifice: We make it all legit with a declaration of war before we ask them to risk their lives on our behalf. That is law and order.
Wyoming conservatives get this on every issue. When gun rights come to question on the national stage, Wyomingites know the Second Amendment by heart. Land management? Wolf management? Wyoming knows it’s the Tenth Amendment, no questions asked. 
Heck, the Cheyenne Police Department is even saying they won’t enforce the 21-year age restriction on tobacco products recently signed into federal law. The Defend the Guard Act is a bigger no-brainer for Wyoming conservatives than the national speed limit.
But what if you aren’t a conservative? What if you’re a moderate? Fiscally conservative but socially progressive?
The Defend the Guard Act is for you! Sure, the Wyoming National Guard gets federal money to support our guardsmen while they’re deployed. But that doesn’t come near the cost of missing these great men and women in our local economies. The jobs that they do for us at home are far more valuable for our communities. 
Besides, we don’t have near the resources necessary to care for our wounded, physically or mentally, when they come home. While Wyoming’s VA hospitals might be some of the better ones in the country, they are far too few and too far apart to meet the needs of guardsmen returning home wounded. This doesn’t even begin to address the possible PTSD and suicide risks that are brought home. 
It is also fair to remember that Wyoming isn’t simply one big military base. We simply do not have the infrastructure and support systems available to spouses and children left behind during deployment. 
This is because the National Guard isn’t intended to be used in multiple deployments. It’s supposed to be a domestic line of defense. It isn’t supposed to be leaving families behind.  
If the $7 trillion already blown into the ionosphere by this century’s wars doesn’t faze you, imagine what developing a cohesive support structure for the families of deployed guardsmen would cost.

But what if you support President Donald Trump? Well, here’s your chance. Trump has been on the record saying we should pull our troops out of the war in Afghanistan. As a candidate in South Carolina, he said that invading Iraq was “one of the worst mistakes in the history of this country.”  (https://cutt.ly/JrT7HmO) The Defend the Guard Act gives you the opportunity to MAGA your butt off.
But what if you are an environmentalist? The Defend the Guard Act is for you! I don’t really have to explain how blowing things up is bad for the environment, do I?
But what if you’re a Democrat? Lindholm has bipartisan support for The Defend the Guard Act.
You want to learn more, right? Of course, you do! Read more about The Defend the Guard Act and the patriotic veterans bringing this legislation to you at (https://www.wybringourtroopshome.com/).
Read about legislative success in other states. See what Oklahoma, Idaho, West Virginia and Michigan are doing to Defend the Guard at  https://bringourtroopshome.us/news/. 
These are our nation’s heroes, telling us what they need. What they want. What they feel like they deserve. 
What’s more, they are telling you how you can help.
In Wyoming, the time to help is now. Lindholm will need 40 votes to get this legislation passed the floor. Contact your local representative and encourage them to support The Defend the Guard Act.
Contact Gov. Mark Gordon and encourage him to do the same.  
It is our patriotic duty, and it is truly the least we can do for our Wyoming guardsmen and their families. For more information or to contact Lindholm, go to http://www.tylerlindholm.org/.

Jeremy Royer is a local writer.

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