Last week, the Pentagon issued a notice that the military troops Donald Trump rushed to the border prior to the midterm election would start coming home:
The general overseeing the deployment told POLITICO on Monday that the first troops will start heading home in the coming days as some are already unneeded, having completed the missions for which they were sent. The returning service members include engineering and logistics units whose jobs included placing concertina wire and other barriers to limit access to ports of entry at the U.S.-Mexico border.
All the troops should be home by Christmas, as originally expected, Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan said in an interview Monday.
“Our end date right now is 15 December, and I’ve got no indications from anybody that we’ll go beyond that,” said Buchanan, who leads the land forces of U.S. Northern Command.
Of course, it should seem strange that these soldiers would be coming home now, just as the migrants in the “caravan” Trump and right wing media breathlessly bleated on and on about prior to the midterm election have just now started to reach the border:
A small group of migrants has split from the caravan in Tijuana and made it within 500 feet of the United States-Mexico border, according to a report from the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The newspaper reported Thursday that the group of about 150 people walked from the migrant camp to the foot of a U.S. pedestrian bridge. The migrants were carrying white flags and attempting to meet with U.S. immigration officers to gain asylum, the Union-Tribune reports.
Note that these migrants have made their way to the area south of San Diego, which is thousands of miles away from where many of the soldiers were stationed:
It’s been unseasonable cold, and wet, at this site of a new U.S. base camp that’s now home to several hundred active-duty U.S. Army soldiers. They’re part of the more than 5,000 troops Donald Trump deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border ahead of the midterms to ward off the so-called caravan of migrants headed north from Central America. It’s a huge taxpayer expense — estimated cost: $200 million — but the troops have virtually nothing to do.
Here at Base Camp Donna, 10 miles east of McAllen, Army engineers have built facilities to accommodate a long-term deployment: It now has hot showers, laundry facilities, and a kitchen to produce two hot meals a day. The medical tent is outfitted for handling all manner of injuries, but there’s been nothing much besides mosquito bites and scrapes from the concertina wire they’re putting up.
Many of the soldiers here have served in Afghanistan and Iraq, except here, there’s no enemy to fight and no immediate action needed. The migrant caravan they’re supposed to be responding to is weeks away and headed to Tijuana, 1,500 miles to the West. The only concrete mission the troops have engaged in so far is “hardening” parts of the border with the spiked wire.
So, according to the Pentagon, the mission for these soldiers has been accomplished: putting some barbed wire in place. Of course, what the Pentagon is leaving out is the real mission: enabling fear prior to an election.
The other aspect of this sham that is not being spoken about by very many is the fact that this is not some original concept of Donald Trump’s. Of course, there is the reliable analogy to the 1997 film Wag the Dog, but there is also a history of similar fear-based manipulation of voters that was undertaken by the Bush administration prior to the 2004 Presidential election, when, as recounted by the then Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, the terror threat level was increased solely due to political reasons:
Former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge claims in a new book that he was pressured by other members of President George W. Bush’s Cabinet to raise the nation’s terror alert level just before the 2004 presidential election.
Ridge says he objected to raising the security level despite the urgings of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, according to a publicity release from Ridge’s publisher. He said the episode convinced him to follow through with his plans to leave the administration; he resigned on Nov. 30, 2004.
And where did George W. Bush get the idea to use fear to try to win an election? probably from his father, who used the famous Willie Horton ad to stoke fear and help him win a presidential election against Michael Dukakis.
The “Willie Horton” campaign ad was produced by supporters of George H.W. Bush for his 1988 presidential campaign against Michael Dukakis.
Horton, an African-American man, was a convicted murderer who raped a white woman and stabbed her partner while furloughed from prison under a Massachusetts program in place when Dukakis, the Democratic nominee, was governor.
The TV ad is now considered one of the most racially divisive in modern political history because it played into white fear and African-American stereotypes. In it, an off-screen narrator tells the story of Horton’s crimes while pictures of Bush and Dukakis and a menacing mug shot of Horton flash across the screen. The narrator notes that Bush supports the death penalty for murderers.
“Dukakis not only opposes the death penalty, he allowed first-degree murderers to have weekend passes from prison,” the narrator says.
The ad ends with this tag line: “Weekend prison passes, Dukakis on crime.”
Trump’s reckless use of the military to stoke fear in his party’s base prior to an election is not an aberration. It is simply a stock part of modern Republican political strategy. The reason why Republicans have to resort to fearmongering to support their campaigns is because their political policies are not supported by either Democrats, Independents, or even Moderate Republicans, and they know it.
Whether it be universal health care, or a path to citizenship for Dreamers, or stricter gun laws, or boosting teacher pay, or raising the minimum wage, or investing in infrastructure, or expanding renewable energy, or protecting the environment, or expanding social security, or protecting unions, a large plurality of voters, even pluralities of Republican voters, support these policies. The only people who oppose these policies are Republican politicians and a shrinking minority of Republican voters.
Republican politicians are also well aware that their policies are unpopular with both the public at large and with moderate voters from within their own party. An internal memo from the Republican National Committee that was obtained by Bloomberg revealed their awareness of how a disconnect has grown between the party platform and moderate voters from within their party:
Another is that the issues soft Republicans care about most are ones involving government spending and are typically associated with Democrats. The survey found that increasing funding for veterans’ mental health services, strengthening and preserving Medicare and Social Security, and reforming the student loan system all scored higher than Trump’s favored subjects of tax cuts, border security, and preserving the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.
Faced with the unpopularity of their own policies, the prudent thing for a political party to do would be to start changing their policies. The Republican party has instead chosen to try to distract from their policies by both lying about them, and by trying to rile up hatred against Democrats and fear of factions of society they can use as a scapegoat, such as immigrants or Muslims.
As Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously said: “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”
We must reject fear, because if we do not reject fear, we reject progress.