Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'War on Drugs' Seems More Than Metaphor in Border Towns

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

'War on Drugs' Seems More Than Metaphor in Border Towns

Article excerpt

The Pentagon's recent recommendation to permanently cancel armed military patrols along the Mexico border is a good first step toward a drug policy not based on military force. Armed soldiers on the border, however, are only the tip of the iceberg in our militarized drug war.

The incident that led to the proposed policy shift - the shooting death of young goat herder last year by a United States Marine on an antidrug surveillance mission - should never have happened.

When I visited the Texas border town where Esequiel Hernandez was killed, residents said they could not understand why they were treated like criminals simply because they lived on the border. Military helicopters droned overhead. Children were afraid to go outside. Many in the community felt the military had taken from them one of their best and brightest. Yet, the Department of Defense has yet to acknowledge any wrongdoing. Instead, it hides behind last year's questionable grand jury decision not to indict the marine who fired the fatal bullet. It fails to mention that the majority of the jury were people who received paychecks or retirement checks from the federal government, including the deputy border patrol chief for the region, as well as a member of the very agency that called in the Marines and was responsible for their supervision. The Hernandez family has suffered from the loss of their son. They deserve a formal apology from the Pentagon. For most of our nation's history, police actions by the military have been barred from US soil. This was consistent with the sentiments of our Founding Fathers, who objected to the presence of British standing armies in the colonies. In 1878, Congress passed a law that made it a criminal offense for the military to be involved in civilian law enforcement. But in 1981, that tradition began to change. Over the protest of then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, the government put in place the first of several amendments allowing the military to become involved in civilian law enforcement. …

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