Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Answers needed on National Guard

President Bush's once-reliable ability to trigger applause with tough talk about the war on terror has failed to move the nation's governors. They're bridling at the confiscation of National Guard units and equipment and no firm commitment on returning them to the states.

Even one of Bush's most loyal acolytes, Idaho Gov. Dirk Kempthorne, sounded a chilly note at the National Governors Association meeting. "There has been too much that we have learned outside the loop. It's time we were inside the loop."

Nearly one-third of all troops in Iraq are National Guard members. They took 64,000 pieces of equipment valued at $1.2 billion to Iraq, where it will remain.

That's what has governors across party lines impatient with the president.

When will Guard troops return home and be available for domestic emergencies? What about the equipment—helicopters, trucks, medical units—not returned? Who'll pay to replace it?

Governors have reason to be skeptical about the president's promises. Broken promises and sinking public confidence have become the Achilles heels of this presidency.

Guard units have done more than their duty in Iraq. Members were snatched from civilian jobs, often at great financial loss, and had to leave their families. Many were ordered to several tours in Iraq.

Republican and Democrat governors alike are justified in confronting the president with their growing unrest and displeasure.

The states and their National Guard units deserve more respect and support from the federal government for their service to the country.

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