Asbury Park Press

Debate Set For Thursday

Assembly measure opposes surge

Asbury Park Press — Wednesday, March 7, 2007

BY TOM BALDWIN
GANNETT STATE BUREAU

TRENTON — Anti-war activists are pursuing a new angle: supporting legislation in state capitals to oppose President Bush's surge of troops in Iraq.

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

"It's a civil war that we have gotten involved in," Gusciora said.

"This administration has failed us with its foreign policy," said Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, D-Bergen, a veteran of the 1991 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to drive Saddam Hussein's forces out of Kuwait.

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

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

"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 the troop 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 Gregg, R-Morris, 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-Sussex, whose husband has served in Iraq.

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

The package of veterans' issues scheduled for Thursday includes tax breaks, free fishing licenses, female veterans' issues, the criminalization of the unauthorized use of military medals and fees for copies of discharge documents.

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