hedy Futile sacrifice
There doesn’t appear to be an MRE with pumpkin pie, or even stuffing. The best we could find was a “chunked and formed turkey breast in gravy with potatoes.”
Still, Uncle Sam often makes sure troops dispatched to war zones on our national day of thanks can enjoy a proper meal, something more appetizing than an MRE — a Meal Ready To Eat, the military’s typical go-to for sustenance in the field. Across the globe, soldiers far from their loved ones have enjoyed a little bite of home nonetheless. You might remember President George W. Bush serving up a turkey with all the trimmings for soldiers in Iraq in 2003, or his father joining troops in Saudi Arabia for Thanksgiving dinner during Operation Desert Shield.
It’s a recognition of their sacrifice for our nation — one troops are generally happy to make when they know the mission is vital to our nation’s security. It’s what they signed up for.
They didn’t sign up for this: this year, thousands of troops will miss the turkey carving, the football and the quality time with families — not because they’re fighting terrorists in Afghanistan or preserving post-war order in Germany or Japan, but because they’re in Texas, bracing for a foreign threat that never was.
So far, more than 5,000 soldiers have been dispatched to the U.S.-Mexico border, preparing for an “invasion” that thrived in cable news headlines and presidential tweets, an existential crisis stemming from a menacing hoard of Central American migrants known ominously as “The Caravan.”
Sorry, folks. That gravy boat don’t float.
“Invasion” talk conveniently dropped off the radar after the midterm elections. And the president has moved on to other priorities, such as yanking press passes of impertinent reporters. Of course, the migrants haven’t disappeared altogether. The ragtag collection of men, women and children — nobody’s idea of formidable Viking plunderers — are still slowly making their way to the border in hopes of receiving asylum in the United States. Some of the migrants arrived late last week in Tijuana, across the border from California. But, with the election behind us, they’ve lost the spotlight as obligatory political boogeymen.
Even U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, who had bizarrely accused U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke of somehow funding the migrants in the final days of the campaign, has fallen silent.
“I’m happy to talk about policy, but there’s no point in revisiting the campaign itself,” Cruz was quoted saying last week.
Sure, the election is over. But deployment orders for many troops last until Dec. 15. While politicians have moved on, our soldiers are stuck battling heat exhaustion while they stretch bands of concertina wire along the banks of the Rio Grande.
And for what? Trump’s cynical ploy to scare GOP voters into turning out? The mission, originally called Operation Faithful Patriot, was so shamelessly political that Trump’s Defense Secretary Jim Mattis — a man who knows well what patriotism means — directed officials on Election Day to scrap the name.
If the president had any shame, he’d scrap the whole wasteful charade.
The rest of us need to ask how long we’ll allow the president’s ploys to demonize those outside our borders and to divide those of us within. Surely, all Americans have a vested interest in securing our borders and deterring actual threats. Whipping up a frenzy at the specter of an imagined enemy does not qualify.
We are a powerful nation of 325 million sending well-armed military personnel to defend us against a few thousand desperate migrants aiming to avail themselves of our asylum laws.
Mattis has told troops not to pay attention to media coverage — hardly a sign of faith in the mission. He was at Camp Donna, about an hour inland from South Padre Island, on Wednesday to inspect the temporary base that now includes impromptu shelters, massive power generators, medical services and a mobile laundry unit. Quite an investment.
At one point during his tour, a soldier asked the former Marine Corps general what, exactly, their goal was. His answer: in the short term, to erect obstacles along the border.
“Long term,” he said. “It is somewhat to be determined.”
Given the caravan’s current route, they might not have a mission at all. Most of the troops were deployed to Texas, but the migrants switched course and headed further west. Those arriving in Tijuana are almost as far from Camp Donna as they are from Canadian checkpoints.
If Trump won’t let the soldiers go home, perhaps, at the very least, he could follow in the footsteps of his predecessors. He could join the troops he sent to the border for Thanksgiving dinner, serving up turkey and all the trimmings. We can’t hope for humble pie. But we’ll tug on the wishbone for some sign that the president will carve out time to witness the consequences: husbands, brothers, sisters, wives — thousands of miles from home on a mission that is far more about dividing our country than protecting it.