GUAM, CNMI RESERVISTS AWAIT IRAQ CALLUP

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By Gerardo R. Partido

SAIPAN, CNMI (Mariana Variety, Jan. 11) - More Guam and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) Reservists could be deployed to Iraq as President Bush yesterday ordered 20,000 more troops to Baghdad, Iraq in a last-ditch effort to break the cycle of sectarian violence in that war-torn country.

"I have committed more than 20,000 more American troops to Iraq. The vast majority of them, five brigades, will be deployed to Baghdad," President Bush said in a televised address watched by millions of Americans.

The Guam National Guard was scheduled to receive a conference call at 4 a.m. today from General Steven Blum, the chief of the National Guard nationwide, said Senior Airman Christine R. Martinez, Guam National Guard public information officer.

The conference call was to be made to all the governors and National Guard units across the nation, including Guam, to brief everyone about the impact of the president’s announcement.

Of the approximately 1,230 Guard members on Guam, about half are currently deployed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Africa and other regions.

According to Major General Donald Goldhorn, adjutant general of the Guam National Guard, there are still no changes at this time to the Guam National Guard’s mission requirements.

After the conference call, however, Goldhorn said he and the Guam National Guard leadership will assess the new situation and determine what action needs to be taken in view of President Bush’s order.

"First and foremost, the Guam National Guard stands ready to support President Bush’s new directive," Goldhorn said.

Congresswoman Madeleine Z. Bordallo, responding to the president’s announcement in Washington, D.C., said U.S. service members and civilian personnel in Iraq will continue to face significant danger in the months ahead.

"President Bush addressed an anxious nation. The president told our nation that he will order approximately 20,000 more U.S. service members to deploy to Iraq for the purpose of helping to clear, hold and build up violent neighborhoods in Baghdad and areas of Iraq’s western province of Anbar. The president also described a renewed effort for political unity and economic development in Iraq," Bordallo said in a statement.

She added that as the sectarian violence in Iraq has reached new "terrifying" levels, the Iraqi government must improve its ability to govern and stabilize the country.

"And the Iraqi security forces have to take responsibility and provide security for the Iraqi people," the congresswoman stressed.

The president’s plan, however, is expected to be opposed by the Democrats who now run Capitol Hill.

Moments after the president finished speaking, Illinois Democratic Senator Dick Durbin lambasted him for failing to understand that Americans overwhelmingly want out of the war. Instead, he said, the president is sending "more Americans into the crossfire of a civil war.’’

Bordallo, a Democratic member of the House Armed Services Committee, said that although her party supports the men and women who serve in the nation’s armed forces, it is the duty of members of Congress to ask questions of the administration to seek justifications for the troop increase and the president’s policy.

"The current strategy is clearly not working, and we must ask tough questions and demand frank answers of the military commanders about this new strategy," Bordallo said.

"I know that many families on Guam are anxious for the safe return of their loved ones who are serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and around the world in defense of freedom. We will keep the servicemen and women who are serving in harm’s way in our prayers, and we will support their families on Guam. May God bless them, and may God bless the United States," she added.

The U.S. death toll in Iraq has already passed 3,000 with the deaths from Micronesia numbering 14 since the war in Iraq began in 2003.

The latest Guam casualty was 22-year-old Sergeant Jesse Castro of Chalan Pago, who was one of five soldiers who died on December 6 in Hawijah, Iraq of injuries from an improvised explosive device detonated near their vehicle while on patrol.

The aim of President Bush’s new plan is to strike at the heart of the insurgency. Admitting that his administration made mistakes in the handling of the Iraq war, Bush said he now plans to unleash the awesome full punch of U.S. military might.

"Past failures are partly the result of too many restrictions on the troops we did have in Iraq. This time, we will have the force levels we need to hold the areas that have been cleared. This time, Iraqi and American forces will have a green light to enter these neighborhoods, and Prime Minister Maliki has pledged that political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated," the president said in his speech.

But analysts said this will increase the danger level as more U.S. troops will be fighting Iraqi militias in the dense interior of Baghdad’s violence-racked neighborhoods.

Last March, the commanding general of the U.S. Army Pacific said an increase in missions for Guam troops is inevitable as the ongoing global war on terror continues to escalate.

"Guam is playing an increasingly important role in the global war on terrorism," Lieutenant General John Brown said during his visit to Guam.

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