Middle American News, Apr. 2004
Although U.S. political elites plan to cut the budget for the forces guarding America’s borders, they plan to increase spending for the forces guarding the borders of Iraq.
After months of terrorist attacks in Iraq aimed at both civilians and American troops, Bush administration officials announced the U.S. will spend $300 million on a plan to beef up security on Iraq’s borders to protect the population from foreign infiltration. The plan includes placement of border traffic sensors, adding more armed patrols and police, and hiring additional personnel to manage computer tracking of visitors.
“Foreign terrorists are present in Iraq. The numbers are not known with precision, but recent attacks and their continuing presence underscores the importance of improving security at Iraq’s borders,” said L. Paul Bremer, the American head of the coalition of occupying forces. He said the U.S. intends to double the number of border police officers to 16,000.
In the same week, T.J. Bonner, the San Diego-based president of the National Border Patrol Council, told Copley News Service that the overall budget for the U.S. Border Patrol — charged with protecting Americans from terrorists and foreign infiltration — is slated for a decrease of $18 million, even though spending for sensors and surveillance technology is increasing.
“Substituting detection technology for staffing and equipment designed for apprehending lawbreakers is unwise,” he told a House subcommittee. “While such technology can be useful in pinpointing the location of those who cross our borders illegally, it cannot catch a single violator. Only trained people can accomplish that task.”
Iraq, which is only about the size of California, will have 6,000 more border police than America has to guard its entire border, under the Bush administration’s Iraqi border protection plan.
The U.S. Border Patrol, with just under 10,000 agents, is smaller than the police department of Chicago.
Security along Iraq’s borders collapsed when the regime of Saddam Huessein fell. Iraq is bordered by six other nations, providing several routes for anti-American terrorists to enter the country surreptitiously.
An unknown number of foreign Arabs reputedly tied to Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda have already entered Iraq, most likely from Syria and Iran, say U.S. intelligence officials.
Senior U.S. officials told international news services that they were bracing for more suicide bombings and other large attacks in light of the dangerous border problems. Already, U.S.-led coalition forces have about 150 non-Iraqi Arab suspects in custody in Iraq.
Occupation chief Bremer said America owes Iraq better border security.
“We recognize the challenges inherent in trying to secure Iraq’s porous borders,” he said. “But we must continue to do more. We owe this to the Iraqi people.”
The $300 million slated for the border plan comes from a special congressional allocation to rebuild Iraq, according to Army Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmit, deputy operations chief. Authorities will spend $150 million on equipment, including 300 new trucks to patrol the border, $104 million in frontier construction, and $46 million to train new guards.