Ex-Pentagon spokesman slams Trump for using troops "as political pawns" with border deployment

David Lapan, a John Kelly ally, offered his rebuttal to Trump's claims of a migrant "invasion"

Published November 5, 2018 5:25PM (EST)

Central American migrants walking to the U.S. start their day departing Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018.  (Getty/AP/Salon)
Central American migrants walking to the U.S. start their day departing Ciudad Hidalgo, Mexico, Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018. (Getty/AP/Salon)

This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

With the 2018 midterms now in the home stretch, President Donald Trump is trying to fire up his voters by terrorizing them and describing the caravan of Honduran refugees that has been gradually making its way north as an “invasion.” Trump, determined to show his base that only Republicans can protect them, has sent U.S. troops to the U.S./Mexico border. But not everyone with a military background thinks this is a good idea—and former Defense Department spokesman/advisor David Lapan, a retired Marine coronel, has described the deployment as “unnecessary and inappropriate” in a new commentary for the Task & Purpose website.

Lapan, in his article, offers a variety of reasons why he is opposed to sending troops to the U.S./Mexico border—and at the top of the list is the fact that border security should be left to law enforcement.

“The border security mission is a law enforcement one, and active duty military forces are prohibited by law from conducting domestic law enforcement activities,” Lapan asserts. “The troops being dispatched to the border are in a support role only.”

Second, Lapan does not consider the caravan (which originated in Pedro San Sula, Honduras and is presently in southern Mexico) an “invasion.”

“This caravan of poor migrants and refugees is not a national security threat to the United States,” Lapan explains in his article. “Its size—at this point—may be a bit different than what we have seen recently, but it is not unusual. Large groups of migrants travel north to the U.S. every year. This is not an ‘invasion.’”

Third, Lapan believes that sending troops to the U.S./Mexico border takes them away from other parts of the world where they are badly needed (such as Afghanistan and Syria). According to Lapan, Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ “focus on lethality and combat readiness won’t be served by this deployment.”

Lapan observes, “Secretary Mattis has rightfully recognized that after 17 years of mostly counterterrorism operations, our military needs to refocus and prepare for the next war or contingency, not the last one. That means training for full-spectrum operations, something none of the thousands of troops deployed to the border will be doing. This ill-advised deployment takes them away from their homes, their families, their regular duties and their training for future contingencies.”

Lapan emphasizes that although the U.S. military still boasts “the finest fighting force the world has seen,” it doesn’t have an infinite number of troops—and sending them to the border is a waste of their skills.

Lapan concludes that U.S. troops “shouldn’t be (mis)used as an adjunct immigration enforcement force, or as political pawns. They won’t ask for a break, but they certainly deserve one.”

Task & Purpose, founded in 2014, focuses on military-related topics.

By Alex Henderson

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