WASHINGTON -- A 26-year-old Army National Guard sergeant facing deployment to Saudi Arabia took President Bush to court yesterday, claiming Mr. Bush must gain the consent of Congress first.
In doing so, Sgt. Michael R. Ange of Boone, N.C., joined burgeoning numbers of U.S. soldiers resisting Persian Gulf duty. A counselor for the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia, which advises military resisters nationwide, said he had received 650 to 700 inquiries since the first U.S. troop deployment Aug. 6.
"They're nearly all military service members or reservists, including people in the Persian Gulf and Germany, and they all want out," said Harold Jordan, coordinator of the AFSC's national youth and militarism program.
Mr. Jordan described the surge as "unprecedented in its level -- 20- to 30-fold what it was during and after the Panama invasion."
As troop deployments and the threat of war in the Persian Gulf increase, the prospect of combat appears to be shocking some volunteers who signed up for vocational training or to earn money for college.
Most inquirers "say they had some misgivings about military service prior to August but that this crisis broke the camel's back," Mr. Jordan said. "A few say, 'I signed up to go to college; I didn't sign up to go to Saudi Arabia.' "
A spokesman for the Pentagon refused comment.
Lawyers for Sergeant Ange, a former Beaufort County, N.C., police officer stationed at Fort Lee, Va., outside Richmond, sought a temporary restraining order in federal court here to stop the Army from shipping him out this week.
Late yesterday, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth denied the request and scheduled another hearing for Dec. 10.
Sergeant Ange's civil suit, the first to challenge the Persian Gulf deployment, claims that his orders are illegal because they violate the war powers clause of the Constitution and the 1973 War Powers Resolution.
The Constitution gives Congress the right to declare war. The 1973 resolution requires that presidential troop commitments lapse after 60 days unless Congress ratifies the decision.
"It's just incredible to me that at this moment in history, when [Secretary of State James] Baker is going around the world getting the consent of world leaders, he is unwilling to turn to the American Congress for its consent," said Michael Ratner, a staff attorney for the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, which is handling Sergeant Ange's case.
GOP Sens. Bob Dole of Kansas and Richard G. Lugar of Indiana said much the same thing yesterday, calling on Mr. Bush to convene a special session of Congress.
Congressional clamor -- and the clamor of resisters, according to Mr. Jordan -- has risen sharply following Mr. Bush's call last week for deployment of an additional 200,000 troops, including 36,000 reservists.
"The mobilization of reserves means they're taking a lot of older people with families who looked at their duty as a second job and never expected to be called up," said Mr. Jordan.
Sergeant Ange's case is the third involving the Persian Gulf deployment to approach the formal hearing stage. Marine Corps Reserve Cpl. Jeffrey Paterson of Honolulu, who refused to ship out with his unit, is due a court-martial hearing Sunday. An Illinois Army reservist, Spec. Stephanie Atkinson of Murphysboro, Ill., was discharged under "other than honorable conditions" this month after she went AWOL instead of reporting for gulf duty Oct. 30.
Mr. Jordan said the odds were long against soldiers who resist Persian Gulf assignments. To win conscientious objector status and discharge, they must offer essays and testimonials showing their beliefs to be sincere and deep.
In addition, because enlistees pledge that they are not conscientious objectors, applicants must show they discovered their anti-war beliefs after joining the military. They must appear before a military psychiatrist, a chaplain and an investigating officer, who makes a recommendation to the Conscientious Objection Review Board in Washington.
Normally, the board approves about 80 percent of the applicants reviewed, or about 250 a year, Mr. Jordan said. The process takes six to 15 months, he said, and is so often accompanied by harassment that many petitioners drop out.