Frightening Americans for Political Benefit

By Beacon Staff

In a recent column by Helena lawyer Cory Swanson (May 23 Beacon: Security Bill Needed to Protect Northern Border), Swanson concurs with Rep. Denny Rehberg’s support of H.R. 1505 (the National Security and Federal Lands Protection Act), “a bill that strengthens America’s ability to protect itself by securing our borders against illegal aliens, drug and human traffickers, and terrorists.”

While claiming that Montana’s border with Canada is an “open door” for terrorists, Swanson fails to note that in the 10-plus years since 9/11, not one single terrorist has been apprehended trying to “sneak” over either border.

This despite the fact that in Fiscal Year 2001, the Border Patrol had 9,821 agents nationwide, including 340 on the Canadian border, and that by the end of FY 2010, the number of agents nationwide had more than doubled to 20,558, and the number of agents on the Canadian border had increased almost 600 percent to 2,263.

In the course of doing research for my book “Who’s Winning the War on Terror,” I came to recognize the political, bureaucratic and monetary benefits of keeping Americans frightened of terrorism. Create a bogeyman, then claim to be protecting America from it.

And, I found case after case where in order to achieve that goal, Fear trumps Fact.

For example, Swanson neglects to tell us that (according to a 2012 study by the Pew Hispanic Center) more illegal Mexican immigrants are leaving the United States than entering it — because of a dropping birth rate in Mexico, a weak U.S. economy, and increasing difficulty getting across our southern border

Yet “Fear Inc.” muddles illegal immigrants (people unlawfully entering the United States to find work), drug smugglers (businessmen) and terrorists together, as if they are somehow colluding in a grand conspiracy to undermine our national security and way of life.

Groups opposing H.R. 1505, a.k.a. the “the Border Patrol Takeover Act,” are legion – including the Department of Homeland Security itself.

One of the latest expressions of opposition comes from two ranchers (one north, one south) writing in the June 15 Los Angeles Times: “As border-area landowners, we strongly oppose two bills pending in Congress: HR 1505, sponsored by Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah), and S 803, cosponsored by Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.).” Both bills, they write, would give unrestricted power to the DHS on land currently under the jurisdiction of the Interior or Agriculture departments, a great deal of which is leased to ranchers and farmers.

I’m not sure why, as Swanson writes, “Congressman Denny Rehberg deserves your support as he tries to pass an important bill to protect our way of life.” Passage of that bill would, in fact, ravage our public lands, extend our paranoia-driven police state, violate our property rights, and divert tax money that could be better used on projects that are based on real needs rather than on a mythical terrorism threat.

Terrorism works by turning the power of a stronger enemy against itself by fostering fear. H.R 1505 would serve to do just that. And the federal agency whose sworn mission is to protect us from terrorism – the DHS – seems to agree.

Richard E. Wackrow is the author of “Who’s Winning the War on Terror.” He lives in Polebridge.

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