Arizona's political vultures morph into a flock of war birds
Jan. 15, 2006 12:00 AM
Last week the buzzards that normally circle the state Capitol magically changed into hawks. Mainly of the chicken variety.
The war birds came to roost when the politician formerly known as Gov. Janet Napolitano decided to rally the troops for re-election by recasting herself as General Janet Napolitano.
In her State of the State speech, the generalissimo said that she would ask Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to invoke a law that would allow the federal government to pay Arizona to station National Guard troops at the border.
It's an election year. Napolitano knows that the candidate who runs against her is going to harp on immigration and the border. Since these are federal issues, la jefa (the chief) decided to pilfer a little idea from her most vocal critics and the Bush administration. It goes like this: When in doubt, send in the Army.
The governor probably doesn't expect the Department of Defense to go along with her request, making all of this a sad political game being played with the lives of the good people of the Guard, who already are doing more than their share.
Just recently, eight Blackhawk helicopters returned to Arizona from duty in Iraq. The fliers and support personnel from the Guard's Charlie Company 1/189th spent over a year in the war zone, flying more than 5,000 combat hours.
Not too long before that, the 855th Military Police Company from Arizona's Guard received the Valorous Unit Award from the Department of the Army for their service in Iraq.
In addition to the time away from home and the dangers of the assignments, many of our Guard members and their families take tremendous financial hits during deployments. So much so that the Guard maintains a fund to help the families deal with money problems while their loved ones are laying their lives on the line.
Now, instead of simply thanking them for their service and giving them a nice long rest, our politicians want to send them to the border.
They don't say for how long, of course. Or how many of them it would take to actually prevent the flow of illegal immigrants. Or even if such a scheme would work.
However, I read in the newspaper that the head of the volunteer border patrol group calling itself the Minutemen supported the governor's suggestion.
What I didn't hear from the elected officials who believe in putting an armed presence on the border was a promise to join the Guard. Many of them have been saying for a long time that we should send in the military. Near as I can tell, none seem to have rushed out after the governor's speech and actually signed up.
They'd probably say that they're too old or not physically fit enough, though I've heard none of them petitioning the White House to loosen the standards so they could become citizen soldiers.
Already there are Guard members from Arizona who have served in Iraq, traveled to the Gulf Coast after Katrina and worked in our mountains when the state was being ravaged by wildfire.
If Gen. Napolitano gets the feds to foot the bill and orders members of the Arizona National Guard to the border, the same people who've already done so much will step away from their jobs and their families and go, as they always do.
While the strutting politicians at the state Capitol will puff up their feathers and cluck about how "we" had to do something. How "we" couldn't just sit back and wait for the federal government. How "we" had to take action. We?
Reach Montini at (602) 444-8978 or firstname.lastname@example.org.