May 24, 2006
Border Towns Under SiegeBy Douglas Hanson
In its plan to station National Guard troops on the border to help stem the tide of illegal immigration, the Bush administration is ignoring a decades—old problem in the southwestern US. Part and parcel of the chaos in the desert is the transnational narco—terrorist threat. These groups are not only heavily armed, but also have a robust operational support structure on both sides of the international boundary.
Responding with anything less than a military force with superior armament and training will only result in a targeting of innocent Americans in our border communities.
The soft approach the Guard will adopt is a glaring weakness according to local sheriff's departments whose towns are on the frontlines of illegal immigration and drug smuggling. Ostensibly to calm the fears of usual suspects on the open—border left and the strict constitutionalists on the right, the Guard will be in a homeland security support role where units will perform missions that are not directly related to law enforcement. Instead they will use their reconnaissance capabilities to acquire and track illegal activity, and then hand the situation off to law enforcement authorities for appropriate action.
Zapata County, Texas, Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez Jr. doesn't see much use for unarmed National Guard troops who only monitor surveillance devices and and build fences:
History shows he is right.
Prior to the First Gulf War, the Bush 41 administration continued Reagan's plan to have DoD assets support the war on drugs. Air Force and Navy aviation and maritime support were key components, but this still left large chunks of ground in the desert southwest uncovered. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in coordination with DoD started searching for ways to fill the gaps.
The threat estimates of the time were sobering. The end of the Cold War had caused some terrorist groups who had worked for foreign governments to align themselves with international crime organizations. Now cut lose from the operational control of these hostile nation—states, a ready—made manpower pool of seasoned mercenaries hit the streets under the pay of drug cartels. They were experts at infiltrating across international borders, and most importantly, they were experienced in corrupting and destabilizing local governments and law enforcement agencies. This component of their operation was to have decisive consequences for years to come in our ability to stop illegal immigrants and drug smuggling.
Tactically, the narco—terrorist force had capabilities matching those of modern infantry units: assault rifles, crew—served machine guns, anti—tank weapons systems, and man portable anti—aircraft missiles of both Western and Warsaw Pact manufacture. The enemy had also dug tunnels, established hidden staging areas, weapons and food caches, and most importantly, had infiltrated operatives on our territory to gather intelligence and undertake direct action missions in border towns. Expecting the Border Patrol and the DEA to deal with these guys with side—arms and arrest warrants was and still is laughable.
Initial plans therefore envisioned an operation similar to the 14th Cavalry's mission last year in southern Luna and Hidalgo Counties of New Mexico . In a nutshell, Army units would maintain ground and air surveillance of assigned sectors and hand off the perpetrators to federal or local law enforcement authorities. It was judged that the joint effort would be able to shut down large sections of the border forcing the terrorists and smugglers to move their infrastructure elsewhere. Of course, US air and ground mobility would permit our Soldiers to follow the bad guys and interdict the new smuggling routes. And in contrast to the current deployment plan, units had the combat powers to handle the terrorist threat if they decided to use the weaponry at their disposal.
Eventually, the financial and operational burden would cause the drug smugglers and human traffickers to retreat and regroup. However, these operations were never conducted; not because of lack of funding or support, but because of the ability of this modern—day Fifth Column in our midst to threaten our law enforcement agents and their families right in our own border communities. The potential civilian bloodbath put the program on indefinite hold by the very civilian agencies who had requested DoD's help. From the standpoint of the local and federal cops and civic leaders, it just wasn't worth the risk.
These narco—terror operations have now extended beyond the immediate border area in the time since combat units were nixed for duty on the southwest frontier. Consider this example in San Antonio, Texas from over three years ago.
A tragic shooting of a 14 year old girl by a DEA agent should have led to a confidential investigation by supposedly 'neutral' local law enforcement agencies, but then the intelligence network of the terrorists went to work. Within 24 hours, the agent's name was leaked to the press, his family's address, his kids' schools and their daily schedules were then determined by unknown groups. Threats were called in against the child while in school requiring additional security measures at the facility. Ultimately, the family had to leave the area for good.
This is just a small taste of what will happen to our border towns unless the National Guard deploys in greater numbers and with the ability to use the arsenal at their disposal. Now, radical Islamists have taken advantage of our neglect and this could potentially result in a national security crises that Sheriff Gonzalez and other local cops cannot possibly handle without the help of trained combat forces.
Without the teeth in the Guard units moving to the border, this becomes just another exercise in politcal half—measures to portray the denizens of DC as 'doing something' about this appalling situation Meanwhile, the Guard will fly Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) and will continue to pass the buck to beleaguered local and state cops, who more than likely are themselves under the watchful eye of the Fifth Column in their own hometown.
Our nation is endangered from external enemies who in some cases have co—opted the very agencies that are supposed to protect us. If this situation isn't what the military is for, then the President and Congress are not performing their constitutional duties. And it's our own fault if we allow this farce to continue.
Douglas Hanson is the National Security Correspondent of The American Thinker.