Since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003, nearly 80 Oregon soldiers have been killed and many more wounded—but in the wake of President George W. Bush's plan to send even more soldiers into battle, the state legislature is gearing up to say, "No more, thanks."
Along with other lawmakers, State Representative Chip Shields has drafted House Joint Memorial 9, which not only calls on Congress to de-fund Bush's 21,500-soldier "surge," but also demands a total withdrawal of troops by the end of the year.
In a major coup, Republican Representative (and veteran) Brian Boquist has pledged his support for the anti-escalation proposal. Plus, he's offered a "friendly amendment" to the memorial's language that actually paints the Iraq debacle as far more stark than even Democrats believe.
This Monday, March 5, the House Elections, Ethics, and Rules Committee is expected to vote on the proposal, followed by a full-floor vote in the coming weeks. Shields believes that Boquist's endorsement will convince other Republicans to sign on. Boquist is widely seen as one of the legislature's biggest experts on the military.
"This is a critically important state issue," Shields says. "There's a huge monetary impact on us when we have to take care of returning soldiers, who obviously aren't getting help from the federal government. Plus, we're closer to the people than Congress, so it's important that states weigh in."
According to the Progressive States Network, Oregon will join 21 other states currently considering anti-escalation proposals. Oregon's goes even further, calling for a full troop withdrawal by October 1, 2007.
Shields introduced a similar withdrawal proposal during the 2005 legislative session, which died in a House committee without a hearing. But times, as they say, have changed, with Democrats taking control of the Oregon legislature, and Republicans speaking out against the war.
"I never thought I'd be introducing this again," Shields says. "Now, there are enough Republicans signed on that we can send a bipartisan message that Congress needs to do its job—so we don't have to introduce this again in 2009."
Meanwhile, Oregon's neighbor to the north is considering an even more drastic proposal—calling on the US House of Representatives to begin impeachment hearings against Bush. The Washington State legislature will hold a hearing on the impeachment resolution this Thursday, March 1, joining New Mexico and Vermont in similar resolutions.
Shields says he isn't interested in following Washington's lead on impeachment, which would likely cause a stronger party-line split in the House.
"I'm more interested in delivering a strong, bipartisan message to Congress about the war," he says.