(Steve Benen) The Texas governor’s National Guard plan seems unlikely to have much of an effect. Then again, the move may not have anything to do with public policy.
Guardsmen can’t arrest anyone, they definitely can’t fire on civilians, all they can do is wave to anyone crossing the border. So it’s not extremely clear what Perry expects them to do. Of course, this means that someone’s going to ask him what he expects, so someone did.
"I]f these children who’ve undergone these harrowing journeys, to escape the most desperate conditions in their home countries, have gotten this far, are they really going to be deterred by the presence of troops along the border who won’t shoot them and can’t arrest them?" Fox’s Chris Wallace asked Perry.
Rick didn’t have an answer. But all the ‘baggers and bigots — apparently completely ignorant of the fact that the Guard can’t actually do anything but soak up taxpayer money to pose for Perry’s grandstanding photo-op — are cheering it wildy. And that’s the point. This isn’t about Texas or America, it’s about Rick Perry ‘16.
“Once again, Texas taxpayers are being forced to pay for Governor Perry’s grandiose political ambitions,” Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas) said in a statement. ”It is a costly misuse of our highly skilled National Guard to demand its service as a mere referral agent for children seeking refuge from abuse. Doing its job effectively, our Border Patrol does not need interference from either Governor Perry or vigilantes. We deserve Texas tough, but today we get only Texas Governor weak – weak on any bipartisan solutions, weak on any meaningful action.”
Hi, former National Guardsman here. Lemme clear some things up.
The Guard can’t arrest people, because they aren’t police. But they can detain them until the proper authorities can come collect them. And since the Central American children are all apparently just turning themselves in to the first Americans in uniform they can find, the Guard can certainly help with that.
They can patrol the border—on foot, in Humvees, or in helicopters—looking for people crossing or people in distress. That adds 10,000 people to Texas’ grossly underfunded border enforcement. And the Texas National Guard has its share of medics, who are all trained to assist people who suffer from dehydration, malnutrition, or any of the other maladies common in people who have been trekking across the desert.
And let’s not confuse people, the National Guard absolutely can fire on civilians, if they are given the order from the proper authority. Remember that the Kent State massacre was carried out by the National Guard. Those soldiers’ state of readiness—ammunition loaded, and bayonets fixed—is still one authorized for use by the Guard to this day. Rather than do away with live rounds and bayonets, the new procedure simply says that this is not an appropriate use of force to bring against a bunch of protesting college kids. It retains the right to use it in more dangerous situations, though.
ETA: Let me clarify. This is isn’t like the Civil War, where an officer points a sword and shouts “FIRE!” and soldiers start shooting. (Even if there was such a situation, the soldiers in question are still subject to the appropriate laws—Lieutenant Calley found out the hard way at My Lai that “I was just following orders” is not a valid defense. They are trained to know what an appropriate target is, and what isn’t.)
The proper authority describes to the soldiers the maximum amount of force authorized. Depending on the commander’s orders, those soldiers might not be issued bullets, let alone have permission to fire them. And even if they have bullets, and even if they’re carrying loaded weapons (that’s actually a higher level of readiness than just having them on hand), those soldiers are going to fire when they think it’s warranted—ie, not at a bunch of exhausted kids.
II’m unclear on who the “proper authority” is in this case, but for riot-control purposes—one of the primary non-combat missions of the National Guard—that authority rested with either our battery commander or battalion commander, I forget which.
That Rick Perry can’t seem to articulate what he wants to do with the Texas National Guard is a real issue, but he wouldn’t be the first inarticulate jackass in recent memory to throw soldiers at a problem.
He thinks he can pay for them by cutting “non-essential” services like infrastructure and healthcare, which is both laughable and tragic. Both because he thinks those services are non-essential, and because he thinks putting soldiers in front of little kids is more essential.
Let’s get real, this is all grandstanding. Grandstanding without a solid way of paying for it. Racist Texans don’t like brown people, and he’s prepared to use soldiers to…I dunno, stand around as a show of force, and make those racist Texans satsified that their government is just as xenophobic as they are before those soldiers (hopefully) get them some medical help.