They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back. I told them to consider it a rifle. When they throw rocks like what they did to the Mexican military and police, I say consider it a rifle.
- Trump, detailing plans re the migrant “caravan”, from speech given Nov. 1
OK, everybody haul yourselves up short and consider this: the President of the United States just declared that the soldiers of the regular Army now being deployed to the border with Mexico, there to thwart the non-invasion by what will probably be a remainder of about 1,400 bedraggled men, women and children hoping against hope for asylum, will number as many as 15,000, not the 5,000+ previously announced. Moreover, he assures us, these soldiers will have orders to shoot to kill if anybody throws rocks at them.
In Trump’s fevered imagination, a full Division of the regular Army will be standing ready to kill women and children at the merest provocation.
It’s hard to tell any more whether anything Trump says is real, whether an actual Division of the Army will really be deployed, and whether he actually thinks he can issue orders to open fire if so much as a rock is flung, but let’s not mince words; what Trump is talking about are crimes against humanity.
I say again: Trump is, at best, pretending that the United States Army will be prepared to commit crimes against humanity, and he’s doing it as a part of his effort to secure votes in the midterm elections. This is beyond the farthest fringes of the most deranged imagination, and if anybody in the Pentagon was actually to receive and accept such orders, and if the troops actually acted upon them, all of them would be fit for trial at The Hague.
Now, let’s be clear – not for one second do I believe he’s really going to give those orders, or that any orders of that sort, even if given by the President, would be followed, or even passed on. They would be absolutely unlawful, and Trump’s Generals have a duty to refuse to convey any such thing to the armed forces. They have a duty to resign their positions if the President insists. Were such orders actually relayed down the chain of command to the front line infantry – impossible, not happening – local unit commanders would refuse to follow them. Ugly things have happened out there when the US armed forces interact with civilians in the throes of counter-insurgency operations, from Vietnam to Iraq, but not because anyone was apt to blindly follow orders, and not in circumstances like this, in which no US lives are in danger, there is no hidden enemy among the people, and no soldiers are traumatized and enraged by the stresses of guerilla war. I’m quite sure that individual American soldiers, standing there at the border facing nothing but weary, desperate civilians, would refuse to do it no matter who was barking at them.
In any case, the Pentagon will be working to ensure that the troops do not perform any front line law enforcement duties. They’ll provide logistics support, communications, transport, that sort of thing, and aid the operations of the Customs and Border Patrol in lots of ways, but they won’t be standing there, weapons at the ready, to confront any migrants.
Any more active military role with respect to immigration enforcement would be of dubious legality. When all this started, I rushed on to the computer to check the terms of the Posse Comitatus Act – if that doesn’t mean anything to you, see below, if you’re keen – and as near as I can tell, The Donald does, sadly, have the emergency authority to deploy the armed forces within the United States to directly enforce domestic law under some circumstances, which I don’t think are present in this situation, though it’s complicated.* I was sorry to see that, as I had always assumed the opposite, that there were no exceptions to the general prohibition. In any case, nothing prevents him from merely deploying the troops as part of his ongoing efforts to gin up support among his base. Still. Rest assured. Trump may have the authority to use the military as his play thing, a political prop, but if all those troops really are being deployed – and it’s a fool who thinks that Trump’s bluster never leads to real world action – they will not be the ones dealing directly with migrants day to day, and they will not be operating under rules of engagement that provide for shooting unarmed civilians.
That any President could even suggest such a thing! Your mind crawls around inside your skull, that an American President could look into the camera and say the goddam Army will shoot unarmed asylum seekers if anybody throws a rock. Really, in itself this ought to constitute a national emergency. The problem is that Trump spews so much shit, all day every day, that nobody gets worked up about any of it any more. It’s as if everybody simply shrugs, thinking “That’s our Donnie!“, and after spending a few seconds, perhaps, watching him froth once again at the mouth, flips the channel. Big Bang Theory must be playing somewhere, right?
They would do well to remember: the whole World’s watching. In years to come they may well regret the complete loss of credibility and moral authority wrought by this appalling clown.
*410 U.S. Code Sections 331 through 334 provide guidance. Section 332 states: “Whenever the President considers the unlawful obstructions, combinations, or assemblages,
or rebellion against the United States, makes it impracticable to enforce the laws of the
United States in any state or territory by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings,
he may call into federal service such of the militia of any state, and use such of the
armed forces to suppress the rebellion”
If you’re interested: Overview of the Posse Comitatus Act