I was a teenager when America sat at the brink of nuclear war, with President Kennedy positioned nose-to-nose with the Russians over the missiles stored at the Bay of Pigs. In my home my father tried to prepare a ‘safe room’ of sorts, stockpiling water and canned food. In the event of a nuclear attack, he planned for us to go to that room, where we would, hopefully, survive.
At school we constantly discussed the possibility of destroyed futures — no graduations; no relationships; no lives. For me there was but one point of comfort, and that was the nightly public reminder, “Sleep Well Tonight; Your National Guard Is Awake.”
It may have been my youthfulness that allowed me to put such faith in that phrase, but I really did sleep better. I pictured the National Guard members at their posts; spending those nights watching the sky; protecting me from harm. Now, however, when I hear that National Guard units have been deployed overseas, I do not sleep well — in part because that very action angers me so deeply.
These deployments infuriate me because I believe it is unlawful to send any members of state militias, i.e. ‘National Guard,’ beyond the borders of this country, and that doing so exceeds the privileges of the President, and violates the trust, and the earliest traditions, of the American people — in citizen militias, minutemen, non-interventionist philosophies, Constitutional limitations on the powers of the executive branch of the government.
Citizen militias began in 1636 when settlers organized armed men to protect the colonies. General George Washington later proposed the establishment of a formal militia “to maintain peace and protect us from foreign invaders.” The Guard considers its charter to be the Constitution of the United States, specifically Article I, Section 8, Clause 15. “Clause 15 provides that the Congress has three constitutional grounds for calling up the militia — ‘to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrection and repel invasions.’ All three standards appear to be applicable only to the Territory of the United States” (from Constitutional charter of the Guard).
Article I, Section 8, recognizes the States’ rights in retaining militias and reserves the appointment of militia officers and training to the States. Article IV, Section 4 provides that the federal government “shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government,” protects each State against invasion and, at State request, the federal government is to protect the States in the event of domestic violence (from charter of the Guard, Article IV, Section 4).
The Militia Act of 1792 placed certain requirements on the militia: all able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 45 had to serve; to equip themselves; to attend annual practices, or musters. The act also arranged for the militias to be organized, as directed by the State legislatures, into divisions, including regiments, battalions, companies. Note that the States still held supervision and control over the militias, and that the act of 1792 continued in force for 111 years.
In 1867, Lincoln’s Congress took the unconstitutional step of suspending the right of the Southern States to organize their militias, and used the U.S. Army to enforce martial law over the South during Reconstruction. Public anger and reaction to the expansion of the military’s role in civilian life brought about the Posse Comitatus in 1878, which was designed to limit federal powers over the militia being put in use against the population, by stating, “…it shall not be lawful to employ any part of the Army of the United States…for the purpose of executing the laws, except on such cases and under such circumstances as such employment of said force may be expressly authorized by the Constitution or by any act of Congress…” (Guard history — Posse Comitatus).
Congress must have interpreted “…except…expressly authorized by…Congress…” as an open invitation to eventually modify the entire character of the State militias. Woodrow Wilson’s National Defense Act of 1916 mandated the use of the term “National Guard” in place of the historical names that identified each militia with its own individual State — Michigan Militia, Ohio Militia…; expanded the Guard’s role as the primary reserve force; dictated the number of drills; and gave the President greater powers. The Constitutional intent for the militias was further compromised and violated with each successive piece of legislation: The National Defense Act Amendments of 1920, The National Guard Mobilization Act of 1933, and finally with The Total Forces Policy of 1973, which also saw the end of the draft.
Now we find ourselves ‘home alone,’ while our Constitutional State militias are withdrawn from our States and sent abroad to provide foreign aid, build hospitals and schools in foreign lands, and be a first line of defense in foreign wars, rather than a last line of defense to protect the States and the national borders from foreign invaders. I am appalled.
I consider any Congressional legislation that changed the intent, organization and control of State militias, to be unlawful acts that have unconstitutionally allowed for unintended expansion of Federal powers. I find it disgraceful that Congress would violate the original intent of Article I, Section 8, Clause 15, and enact legislation that has forced State citizen militias to ‘metamorphosize’ into a national organization that is now deployed outside of the United States.
Our Founding Fathers did not even want a standing army, and they surely would not approve of our armed forces being sent far and wide, becoming involved in international situations, various and sundry. I believe that these wiser men would be especially angry and offended that state militias are being sent abroad, as well.
The National Guard now has a tradition of deployment in several wars but it is wrong, and I, for one, do not like it. Neither do I approve the loss of their protective presence, as they travel around the globe serving international ‘humanitarian’ purposes, such as distributing food and building schools and clinics. I certainly do not want them deployed as an early and primary strategy of war in foreign lands.
The National Guard units belong in their respective States; protecting the people of their respective States; available to their States in the event of emergencies. Exceptions to those limitations would be emergencies that are extensive, cross state lines, or threaten our borders.
I believe that governors have a responsibility to dispute and refuse to obey unconstitutional laws, and thus the responsibility to prevent our Guard members from deployment overseas. Such prudence is especially vital now, with terrorist alerts, and with ‘homeland security’ the buzzword of the administration. I believe that every governor should demand that every National Guard member be immediately returned to the States.
I believe that we should insist that the President and Congress use the national armed forces for their interventionist plots and ploys. Our federal taxes pay for military bases and active military personnel. There is no Constitutional right, and certainly no common sense, in forcing NG members — college students having to quit classes mid-semester; fathers and mothers having to leave young children — to be deployed overseas! Send the active duty military, if you must, but leave our National Guard at HOME.
I want to sleep well tonight, and every night. For any number of reasons, we citizens of individual states could find ourselves in need of assistance and protection. We must be able to depend on our citizen militias. We should insist that Congress reverse any and all legislation that illegally allowed a federal takeover of the State militias.
Governors, please take your Constitutional powers, as well as your Constitutional rights, seriously. The ‘united States’ of America is the goal for which our forefathers fought and died. They did not sacrifice lives and homes so that we would have an all-powerful Federal STATE. They sacrificed so that each individual State could retain its powers, including the power to maintain and control their militias. Based in each state. Awake and on-guard.
Near us as we sleep.
Linda Schrock Taylor [send her mail] is an educational consultant, homeschooling mom, and public school special ed teacher. She is available for presentations, inservices, and workshops.