Spain pulled its troops out of Iraq in April 2004. Hungary departed in December. One man hopes Montana will soon follow suit. On Feb. 5, Missoulian and admitted “peacenik” Richard Gold began circulating a petition calling on Gov. Brian Schweitzer “to exercise your legal authority as Commander-In-Chief over our Montana National Guard by bringing them home.”
Gold’s son, a Navy medic, spent four months in Iraq in 2004.
“He has some pretty horrid stories about it,” Gold says. “I figured as a dad I needed to take some action.”
Last summer, Gold, while researching an unrelated “personal property dispute,” learned that “According to the Montana Constitution, ‘By virtue of office, the governor is the peacetime commander-in-chief of the militia…’ This means that absent a formal declaration of war, the president cannot call up the National Guard, or the reserves, without his compliance.”
Of the 2,500 Montana Army National Guard soldiers, 1,100 are stationed in Iraq, says Guard Public Affairs Officer Major Scott Smith.
Today, 62 percent of Montana’s Guard soldiers are on federal active duty.
“We’re at the high right now,” Smith says.
The first two units went to Iraq expecting to stay there six months.
“That was extended to one year in-country,” Smith says. Now, he says, the Department of Defense expects all soldiers deployed to Iraq to spend “one year, boots on the ground.”
The extended service is one reason Gold is urging Schweitzer to bring the troops home. He’s also concerned that soldiers “have not been provided with the best safety equipment” and that “they are serving in an internationally illegal invasion of Iraq which has nothing to do with 9/11.”
The governor’s office has yet to receive any of Gold’s petitions, says spokeswoman Sarah Elliott.
Gold’s plea has failed to excite Montana’s federal triumverate, too.
“I’ve heard from their staff[s] and they’re noncommittal,” Gold says.