Trump Is Determined to Turn the Border Into a Powder Keg

Photo: John Moore (Getty)

The U.S.-Mexico border is Donald Trump’s favorite punching bag, and today the president woke up and decided to just go to town, ramping up his rhetoric around recent events at the border with threats to send more “ARMED SOLDIERS and put further pressure on the Mexican government.

The president first tweeted about a “very big Caravan” (sic) traveling toward the border, claiming that it contained over 20,000 people. This appears to have almost no basis in fact; on Monday, Mexican police raided and broke up a caravan that most outlets estimated was around 3,000 people. Mexican authorities made close to 400 arrests.

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Per the Washington Post, here’s what that caravan looked like after the authorities took action:

The once large caravan of about 3,000 people was essentially broken up by the raid, as migrants fled into the hills, took refuge at shelters and churches or hopped passing freight trains. A brave few groups straggled along the highways, but with dozens of police and immigration checkpoints, they were bound to be caught.

Journalists from The Associated Press saw police target isolated groups at the tail end of the caravan near Pijijiapan Monday, wrestling migrants into police vehicles for transport and presumably deportation as children wailed.

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Not content with that little piece of rhetorical bullshit, Trump then decided to recklessly escalate a tense incident on the border last week, floating conspiracy theories that the run-in was meant as “a diversionary tactics for drug smugglers,” and threatening to send more armed troops.

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Although Trump was likely referring to a real incident, he of course had the details all wrong. Here’s CNN’s reporting on the story:

Two US soldiers were questioned by Mexican troops earlier this month while conducting a surveillance operation on the US side of the southern border, two US defense officials tell CNN.

“On April 13, 2019, at approximately 2 p.m. CDT, five to six Mexican military personnel questioned two U.S. Army soldiers who were conducting border support operations in an unmarked (Customs and Border Protection) vehicle near the southwest border in the vicinity of Clint, Texas,” US Northern Command told CNN in a statement.

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CNN also reported the soldiers (who were regular Army personnel, not National Guard) were in a confusing space of the border zone south of a section of fence but still north of the Rio Grande river bed, which is technically in U.S. territory but in a liminal space that makes for easy confusion. They were discovered by a Mexican patrol; both sides thought they were on each others’ territory. The Mexicans outnumbered the U.S. soldiers, and the network reported they removed a pistol from one of the soldiers and put it back in the soldiers’ vehicle while questioning them. Fortunately, everyone kept their heads, and the soldiers on both sides did their jobs! Nothing bad happened! Per CNN:

However, the officials said the river in that area consists of brush-filled and dried-out riverbed, making it “very easy” for people to be confused as to what side of the border they are on.

One of the American soldiers spoke some Spanish and was able to explain the situation to the Mexican forces. The two sides talked the incident over and promised to de-conflict in the future, the officials said.

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This is... exactly the sort of thing that’s going to happen when you put thousands of soldiers on a geographically-confusing border. Solutions to this situation might include putting fewer soldiers on said border or establishing better communication with military and law enforcement counterparts on the other side. They certainly do not include ramping up rhetoric and vowing to send better-armed troops next time. But the president is a warmongering imbecile, so we’re doing the latter.

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