Saturday, March 16, 2002
For years people have advocated putting the military on the border with Mexico to stop the flood of illegal aliens and drugs. Fox News' Bill O'Reilly has probably been one of the most vocal proponents of the idea, regularly featuring the porous U.S./Mexico border. In the wake of Sept. 11, concern for border security has increased for fear that terrorists would try to cross illegally out in the California desert or along the largely unmonitored Canadian border.
Well, this past week some of that came to pass with the Pentagon calling up about 1,600 National Guard troops and putting them at border crossings. However, there's some bureaucratic stupidity and a a lack of common sense at work too. Unlike at the nation's airports, the troops on the border are unarmed.
And that's the rub for California National Guard Maj. Gen. Paul Monroe and his counterparts in other states.
"I'm worried about these troops," Monroe said.
While he supports National Guard use, Monroe, the state adjutant general, said border duty puts guardsmen in harm's way – both physically and legally.
He is concerned that guardsmen will be working beside armed federal agents who are conducting inspections and doing other potentially hazardous duties, yet the guardsmen have no weapons for their own defense.
Of course, supporters of the position of having unarmed guardsmen have their postion too.
District INS director Adele Fasano downplayed the top brass's concerns, saying she is "very comfortable with this arrangement."
She said the guardsmen won't be enforcing laws, but instead will help search vehicles and provide traffic and crowd control. Troops will not be placed in areas where they could be in danger, she said.
Further, Fasano believes it would be unwise to arm guardsmen in this case because they haven't received the months of specialized training given border inspectors.
"We couldn't properly train soldiers in a short period of time," she said.
Well, there's a difference between training them in all of the intricacies of where drugs may be hidden and how to spot fake passports and other IDs, and not allowing them to carry firearms. I'm sure that the guardsmen are already trained in how to use the firearms for self defense.
And the assertion that troops would not be put in areas where they might be in danger is very naive in the wake of Sept. 11 -- anyone wearing a U.S. military uniform is a terroist target. Any American is a terrorist target for that matter. But we shouldn't have troops on the border who are forbiddent from defending themselves.