- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 26, 2004

Can we talk about a war other than Vietnam for a minute? Political debate is now focused on whether Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry and his mates were under fire at Cam Ranh Bay and how close he was to the Cambodian border (not very) three decades ago. But there are American foot soldiers under siege right now on our own borders.

And neither party is doing much of anything to arm, fund or defend them.

Instead, the Associated Press reported this weekend that President Bush’s nephew, George P. Bush, traveled to Mexico in search of overseas votes and condemned the federal policy of arming U.S. Border Patrol agents with plastic pellet guns. According to the AP:

“Speaking in a mix of English and sometimes-halting Spanish, George P. Bush said his uncle was not to blame for the gun policy, which has angered Mexicans. He instead blamed it on ‘some local INS guy who’s trying to be tough, act macho.’”

Young Mr. Bush went further in defaming the character of our Border Patrol agents and their supervisors. “If there has been American approval for this policy, that is reprehensible,” he said of the guns, essentially paint ball projectiles filled with chile powder. “It’s kind of barbarous.”

News flash, George P. Bush: Your uncle abolished the INS last spring. As for the pepper ball gun policy, the Border Patrol purchased a measly 14 of the pellet guns for agents in Harlingen, Tex., earlier this month after conducting a study of nonlethal weaponry. The guns were first made available to agents to protect them against violent confrontations in California and Arizona in 2001.

Whose bright idea was it to arm our border guards with chile powder as they stand watch against terrorists, drug dealers and other thugs? Border Patrol spokesman Doug Mosier noted that the guns were purchased as part of a binational pilot project with — pay attention, George P. Bush — Mexico.

George P. Bush calls it “barbarous” that we arm Border Patrol agents with plastic pellet guns. The true disgrace is that we have rendered our border guards defenseless, handing them toy guns instead of real weapons. The criminals in Mexico who traipse across our border have no problems with “macho” displays of barbarism. Park Ranger Kris Eggle was murdered by an AK-47-wielding Mexican drug smuggler two years ago this month. Mr. Eggle was 28 when he was gunned down — the same age as George P. Bush.

You want to talk about “reprehensible”? What is reprehensible is a leading American citizen disrespecting our federal immigration enforcement officers on foreign soil while scraping for expatriate votes. Border Patrol agents and Park Rangers on the southern border put their lives on the lines every day to protect us from harm. They should be thanked, not trashed.

If George P. Bush’s views were merely his own, they might not be worth anyone’s time. But homeland security officials in Washington have been doing their fair share of undermining rank-and-file Border Patrol agents as well from the comfort of their air-conditioned offices. When a mobile unit of border agents in Southern California made a series of high-profile mass arrests of illegal aliens in June, prompting the ire of ethnic activists and Hispanic Democrats, Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson iced the agents’ efforts and publicly criticized the arrests. Instead of backing his own men and women, Mr. Hutchinson assured the open borders lobby that his department would bow to the “sensitivities” surrounding interior enforcement.

The retreat has had a devastating effect on border agents’ morale — and our safety. A new survey of border security personnel released this week by the National Border Patrol Council revealed that almost two-thirds of the workforce are demoralized, and nearly half of these employees have considered leaving their job within the past two years. The council noted: “Almost three years after the terrorist attacks of 9/11, despite the expenditure of billions of dollars and endless rhetoric from the top about how anti-terrorism is our foremost priority, only about half of these officers believe that our nation is any safer from terrorist threats.”

Al Qaeda plots murder with dirty bombs, truck bombs and airplanes, while we arm our border guards with chile powder. Let’s roll? Bull.

Michelle Malkin is a nationally syndicated columnist.

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