Duckworth rips Trump over troops at Mexican border

Senator decries ‘real waste of resources,’ points out more than 5,000 troops will spend Thanksgiving away from families

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth questions the mission of U.S. troops being deployed to the Mexican border. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth questions the mission of U.S. troops being deployed to the Mexican border. (One Illinois/Ted Cox)

By Ted Cox

U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth is blasting the Trump administration over its controversial deployment of U.S. troops to the Mexican border.

“This president has done everything he can to politicize our military, and that’s wrong,” Illinois’s junior U.S. senator said in an appearance on CNN’s “All in With Chris Hayes” on Wednesday.

As a wounded Iraq veteran herself, Duckworth has been an outspoken defender of the U.S. military. She spoke as part of a CNN report stating that the first wave of aspiring Central American immigrants seeking U.S. asylum as part of what President Trump has called a “caravan” arrived this week at a border crossing in Tijuana.

Trump boasted at a campaign rally at Southern Illinois Airport shortly before the midterm election that he’d be sending troops to defend the border against the undocumented immigrants, but the CNN report pointed out he deployed them to the eastern end of the U.S.-Mexico border at the southern tip of Texas, while those seeking asylum this week arrived at the western end on California’s southern border.

“There’s no real mission for the troops there,” Duckworth said of the deployment. “And this is at the cost of, I’m hearing figures as high as $200 million.”

Duckworth pointed out that, by law, the troops are not allowed to engage in U.S. law enforcement, including securing the border against aspiring immigrants.

“They’re basically sitting out in the desert building fences and latrines for each other, eating (Meals Ready to Eat) with no real mission,” Duckworth added. “It’s a real waste of resources, and it is a real misuse of our brave men and women in uniform.

“And they’ll be there over Thanksgiving, away from their families.”

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim “Mad Dog” Mattis visited troops in Texas on Wednesday and insisted the deployment was “absolutely legal,” calling it “a moral and ethical mission to support our border patrolmen.” He counseled troops to ignore news reports, “because if you read all that stuff, you know, you’ll go nuts.”

Duckworth added, on a related matter, that more than 80,000 U.S. vets under the G.I. Bill have had housing payments jeopardized by a computer glitch that has proved hard to solve. “It is shameful,” she said, blaming “incompetence from the Trump administration.”

Early this week, Duckworth marked Veterans Day on the day before the 14th anniversary of her “Alive Day,” the day her helicopter was shot down in Iraq, resulting in the loss of her legs. Pointing out the “Alive Day” usage is from Vietnam veterans, she said, “It’s my gut-check. It’s my moral compass,” as she uses it to inspire herself to earn the life spared by her military colleagues and surgeons.