There was a ridiculous meeting of the Homeland Security committee on Monday, which the Star editorialized on yesterday. I heard from a few legislators about the happenings there.
The hearing dealt with the incident that occurred near Sasabe on January 3rd, where four members of the Tennessee National Guard encountered some armed men, and they pulled back to their observation post. They Guard is under orders not to engage, only to observe.
The committee questioned Arizona Army National Guard Adjutant General Maj. Gen. David Rataczak in a packed hearing room. Instead of trying to find out what happened, Republican members used it as a way to blame the governor for everything and accuse the Democrats of hating soldiers.
Rataczak was professional, but his frustration with the grandstanding committeemembers, whose inquiries became reduntant as each one wanted their time on one of the copious television cameras in the room, comes through even in this dry bit quoted by the Star:
(Rep. Jerry) Weiers: At what point can your soldiers defend themselves? Does somebody have to wait for a bullet to go off before somebody can defend themselves?
Rataczak: Had that undocumented pointed that weapon at our soldier, he (the entrant) would not have survived. We train them and we trust them to do the right thing, and he did the right thing. Our soldier kept from escalating that event.
At one point, Weiers implied that these soldiers violated the First General Order. Rataczak assured him that he did not believe they had. The three General Orders are drilled into a young soldier’s head when they are in training, and can often be recited by ex-Army folks for years after their separation the way even a lapsed Catholic can recite the Nicene Creed. The First General Order says:
I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.
By implying that these soldiers violated this order, Weiers is accusing them of cowardice. And these guys have the nerve to say the Democrats dishonor the troops? This unit, by the way, has previously served in Iraq.
The main issue before these committee was about the rules of engagement for the guardsmen. They are under the mistaken impression that Janet Napolitano wrote them in her office one morning while enjoying her latte (she’s a Democrat, so she only drinks latte, right?). These rules were composed in a pretty complicated consultive process, and had to be signed on to by the administration, the defense department and JAGs from the Guard units that were activated and also reviewed by JAGs from all the remaining National Guards in the United States. Given this, it looks Napolitano’s involvement in writing these was rather minimal. But hey, why worry about the facts when you score cheap political points?
Well, the Republicans are taking the bull by the horns and today Warde Nichols will unveil his own rules of engagement. He believes that the State Legislature can override the Governor on this matter. This claim is, at best, dubious. Nichols, by the way, claims no military experience either on his legislative biography or on the biography posted at Project Vote Smart (where they specifically ask about such things). His previous experience is running a pool cleaning buisiness in Gilbert. But, he feels like he knows enough after grandstanding at a single hearing. Can this guy even find Sasabe on a map?
What amazes me here is that Republicans who don’t feel that Congress, which has actual constitutional authority for oversight in such matters, should say anything about the Iraq War are saying that State Legislators, whose authority over the National Guard is limited at best, should be able to micro-manage military activities in the state and override the orders of their chain of command.