In a recent event, American National Guard troops retreated when confronted by what is presumed to be a heavily armed band of drug traffickers near Sasabe, Arizona. No shots were fired in the incident. Neither were any of the intruders detained. From the Washington Times:
Maj. Gen. David P. Rataczak, adjutant general of the Arizona National Guard, told the state House Committee on Homeland Security and Property Rights that the soldiers did not abandon or flee their post but “relocated to another site” in accordance with the “mission we were given by the president.”
“We believe that based on what happened that this was a chance encounter with drug smugglers working their way back to Mexico,” Gen. Rataczak said. “We don’t know how many men there were and we don’t know how many of them were armed. But our guardsmen followed procedures to the letter of the law.”
Rep. Ray Barnes, a Republican, asked the general why National Guard troops were sent to the border if they could not engage armed drug smugglers.
“If you’re not allowed to do anything to stop criminal aliens, what’s the reason you’re there in the first place?” he asked.
Good question. According the same article the deployment of the National Guard will cost $760 million before it’s over. This is too much to pay to allow drug runners to have free run of our country. There’s also considerable risk to the men (and women, one presumes) who have been assigned to work the border.
In the Houston Chronicle, T.J. Bonner, president of the Border Patrol agents’ union, said the soldiers sent to bolster his agents are unnecessarily at risk.
“It’s not like some picnic down there,” Bonner said. “Anyone down there enforcing the laws is going to be caught up in the violence.”
Bonner said he worried that the soldiers apparently can only defend themselves “once the bullets start flying.”
As a former governor of a border state, President Bush should understand the problems posed by illegal immigration and by narcotics traffickers who pass through our borders almost as if they weren’t there.
Securing the border with Mexico is a serious business, as this episode demonstrates. The troops working there to make America safer should have their mission defined in such a way as to allow them to make it a success. This should include apprehending illegal immigrants and confronting drug gangs when circumstances allow. The President should, as Republican Arizona state Rep. Warde Nichols said, untie the Guard’s hands and let them do the job they were sent there to do.