As state legislators grow increasingly opposed to an Iraq war that is stretching and weakening the National Guard and draining desperately needed funds at home, activists and legislators are launching a 50-state legislative response to stop President Bush’s Iraq escalation plan.

On Wednesday, the Progressive States Network, MoveOn, Women Legislators’ Lobby, Americans Against Escalation in Iraq, and Sen. Edward Kennedy will kick-off the effort by hosting a conference call with activists and state legislators across the nation. The call is at 11:30 a.m. and is open to the public.

“States have the power and authority to speak out on issues that will impact them and their citizens,” said Steve Doherty and David Sirota, Co-Chairs of Progressive States Network. “This escalation will have major costs – in terms of human lives, in terms of state budgets, and in terms of National Guard readiness.”

Matt Singer, Communications Director of Progressive States Network, added, “The Pentagon has already announced that to cope with the escalation they are removing current restrictions on deployment of the Guard and Reserves. This move has a major impact on states. Guard and Reserve members are firefighters, sheriffs, teachers, and first responders. They are also humans – often with families and children who need them at home. When deployments get extended, we will see fewer men and women reenlist. That spells trouble for the long-term – in terms of responding to domestic emergencies andinternational crises.”

The Progressive States Network will work with legislators to pass resolutions calling on Congress to prevent President Bush from spending taxpayer dollars on any escalation without explicit Congressional approval. MoveOn will focus on mobilizing Americans to contact their state legislators and urge action against escalation.

A sample resolution cites, “… the costs to the states of the call-up of National Guard members for deployment in Iraq have been significant, as reckoned in lost lives, combat injuries and psychic trauma, disruption of family life, financial hardship for individuals, families and businesses, interruption of careers and damage to the fabric of civic life in our communities.” The resolution also notes that the $357 billion appropriated to Iraq “could fund desperately needed education, health care, housing, nutrition and other social services in our communities… or humanitarian assistance abroad.” And that the current federal debt and interest payments “will likely lead to even larger cuts in funding for critical needs in the States.”

On the importance of state action, Singer said: “State and local governments changed the debate on apartheid, Darfur, and trade. They have the power to change the debate on Iraq.”

And since most everyone other than the Bush administration and the still-delusional neocons recognize the costs in treasure and lives of this human catastrophe, the debate must be changed immediately. Join the call and find out how you can help in your state.