Saturday, May 13, 2006

The song remains the same; Bush to use military on border to bolster sagging poll numbers

With poll numbers now below 30%, and House conservatives ready to mutiny over his immigration reform plan, The President appears to be on the verge of making a major concession to the “enforcement only” wing of the party. Monday evening it is believed he will outline a plan to station upwards of 10,000 National Guard troops along the southern border with Mexico.

Earlier in the week Senate Republicans first dismissed there was any plan to militarize the border.

…the White House is searching for ways to assure conservatives that Bush understands their concerns. White House strategist Karl Rove met with lawmakers earlier in the week, and at least one session included a discussion about making greater use of National Guard troops to shore up border security.

"Nobody is suggesting that we put troops on the border," said Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who attended the session. "We are suggesting there are plenty of resources in the government" to increase border security, at least in an interim period while provisions in the pending legislation take hold, he said.

"The National Guard can in some cases help do that," he added. Other lawmakers said they expected Bush to announce border security improvements next week, possibly in a speech in Arizona or another border state


But as pressure mounted on the Administration, it has become evident that Bush must shore-up his conservative base in order to avoid catastrophic losses in the upcoming midterms.

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Seeking a quick enforcement boost at the U.S.-Mexico border, President George Bush is set Monday to propose dispatching more National Guard troops to the region and deploying additional Defense Department equipment to thwart illegal immigration.

In a televised address to the nation Monday night, Bush will outline a new border-security effort in hopes of giving momentum to an immigration overhaul the Senate will begin debating earlier in the day.


"This is crunch time," said White House press secretary Tony Snow. "The president does want comprehensive immigration reform addressed."

Details of the border enforcement plan were still being cobbled together Friday evening, with the White House swapping various proposals with the Defense and Homeland Security departments.

"We are looking at a range of options," said a senior administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "The question is how best to deploy assets to have the most immediate impact."

Under consideration:

_Using federal funds to pay for Southwest governors to deploy National Guard troops.

_Requiring National Guard units from around the U.S. to conduct their training near the border.

_Hiring private contractors to assist the Border Patrol in support roles.

What seemed clear is that the Defense Department would be directed to use some of its assets - including aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles and sophisticated monitoring devices - to enhance surveillance along the nearly 2,000-mile border.

The Defense Department and Homeland Security Department refused to discuss the plan. "I have no detail on anything right now," said a Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke.

The senior administration official stressed that active-duty troops would not be deployed to the border and that the National Guard units probably would be used in support roles for the Border Patrol. They could provide surveillance, transportation and construction of infrastructure such as berms, fencing and other border barriers, he said.

Though some officials on and off Capitol Hill speculated that the National Guard contingent could reach 10,000, the administration official said troop strength hadn't been decided.


The immediate response from the leadership of the House was positive.

Rep. Tom Tancredo, R-Colo., one of the staunchest opponents of the president's immigration plan, said he is in favor of using the Guard.

"We train National Guard all over the country, and there is no reason why we shouldn't be conducting that training on our borders," Tancredo said. "Really, we are not trying to take them from other places where they are needed."


In addition to the use of Guard troops at the border there are also plans in the works for the greater cooperation between US military forces and those of Mexico. This “cooperation” includes US training, equipping and funding Mexican security forces. (Sounds familiar. I guess they want to “catch migrants over there” so we don’t have to “catch them over here” )

The Pentagon has begun exploring options for the potential use of troops and equipment to help secure the U.S. border with Mexico, where hundreds of thousands of migrants enter the country illegally each year, a defense official said on Friday.

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld discussed border issues at the Pentagon with his Mexican counterpart, Defense Minister Gen. Gerardo Clemente Ricardo Vega. Mexico and the United States share a 2,000-mile border.

"The U.S. and Mexican governments continue to work together to control the border and collaborate on these important efforts," said U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.

"This cooperation includes limited U.S. assistance with training, equipping and funding Mexico security forces so that they can better meet our shared challenges in protecting the border," he said.


As has been the case so many times before with this administration, it appears that once again they are more than willing to rely on short-term military solutions to try to solve long-term policy problems, especially in election years. It appears that when all else fails, and electoral defeat looks imminent, they believe that only the rattling of sabers and the pounding of drums can save them. To this end they are willing to militarize the border, use “private contractors” (perhaps even Blackwater Security) to patrol the borders and set up funding and training for Mexican security forces, all in the name of “national security”. All along hoping that such actions will provide them political cover.

The only saving grace is that Bush has been very big on making promises in election years but not too effective in delivering them. Perhaps his military incursion on the southern border will go the way of his Mars exploration program, or the banning of human-animal hybrids. We can only hope.

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