Assembly Will Debate Anti-War Resolution

CourierPostOnline — Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Gannett State Bureau

TRENTON — Anti-war activists are pushing a new angle in their movement, supporting legislation in state capitals to oppose President Bush's surge in soldiers to try to bring calm to the Iraqi capital, Baghdad.

"Actually it's to support the troops," said state Assemblyman Reed Gusciora, D-Princeton, who is a sponsor of the resolution scheduled for debate in the Assembly Thursday, when a package of veterans' issues is scheduled to be voted on.

"This administration has failed us with its foreign policy," said Assemblyman Gordon M. Johnson, D-Englewood, a veteran of Desert Storm, the U.S.-forged international coalition's invasion of Iraq to drive Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait in 1991.

"We have the Department of Defense trying to act like the State Department," Gordon said, saying Bush needs to engage diplomatically with Iraq's neighbors.

Why New Jersey state lawmakers – facing voter anger over issues such as property taxes and education spending – ratchet up their mission to the waging of war is, as activists said, intended to energize a grass-roots, anti-war movement.

The group New Jersey Citizen Action said their news conference Tuesday, like the debate Thursday, is "one of thousands being held across the country as part of Americans Against Escalation in Iraq," a heretofore unknown group.

"Negotiation is the key, not military buildup," said the Rev. Bruce Davidson, director of the Lutheran Office of Government Ministries.

The Assembly bill being debated is simple, saying the Assembly expresses "strong opposition" to Bush's 3-week-old surge.

"It is an inappropriate venue for us to discuss national policy. We have qualified elected officials that we send down to Washington," said Assemblyman Guy R. Gregg, R-Washington Township, Morris County, a former Marine.

"As my husband always says, in a time of war, there is a chain of command, and you don't publicly buck the commander-in-chief," said Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose, R-Andover Township, whose husband has served in Iraq.

"I am going to vote against it," said Assemblyman Richard Merkt, R-Mendham Township. "This is grandstanding. Everybody knows that you can't run a war by committee."

Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll, R-Morris Township, Morris County, said, "If anything in that resolution speaks of the military merits of this particular proposal, I must have missed it."

The package of veterans' issues scheduled for Thursday covers an assortment of issues, including tax breaks and free fishing licenses, women veterans' issues, the criminalizing of unauthorized use of military medals and fees charged for copies of discharge documents, among others.

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