THE PENTAGON — Any U.S. troops who assist civil authorities who come under attack by migrants will not be armed, Defense Secretary James Mattis clarified on Wednesday.
“There has been no call for any lethal force from DHS [Department of Homeland Security],” Mattis told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. “There is no armed element going in. I will determine it, based on what DHS asks for and a mission analysis.”
If border police came under attack, unarmed military police could respond, but they would be equipped with shields and batons, not firearms, Mattis said.
A reporter noted that Kelly’s cabinet order gives troops the authority to use lethal force, if necessary.
“I have the authority,” Mattis replied, noting that pictures of troops on the border show that they do not have weapons. “Relax. Don’t worry about it.”
Even though the order was not signed by President Trump, Kelly has the legal authority to convey the president’s instructions to the, Mattis insisted.
“He has the authority to do what the president tells him to do,” Mattis said. “He signed the memo out for the White House.”
Neither the troops’ mission nor the standing rules for the use of force have changed, Mattis told reporters at a Pentagon news conference. The roughly 5,700 active-duty troops in California, Arizona, and Texas do not have the authority to arrest migrants, nor are they tasked with law enforcement.
“There is no arrest authority under Posse Comitatus for the U.S. federal troops,” Mattis said. “That can be done, but it has to be done in accordance with the law. That has not been done, nor has it been anticipated.”
If U.S. troops detain any migrants who attack border police, the migrants would quickly be turned over to civil authorities, he said.
“There’s no violation of Posse Comitatus,” Mattis said. “There’s no violation at all. We’re not going to arrest or anything else. To stop someone from beating on someone and turn them over to someone else – this is minutes, not even hours, OK?”
This is not the first time active-duty troops have been deployed to the U.S./Mexico border, Mattis pointed outed. In the 1990s, Mattis was in led Marines who were dispatched to the border under President Clinton to help stop illegal immigration as part of “Operation Gatekeeper.”
In 1997, a Marine corporal shot and killed an 18-year-old goat-herder, whom he thought was firing at the Marines. Task & Purpose asked Mattis on Wednesday what steps he is taking to make sure another such incident does not recur.
“I’m not going to dignify that,” Mattis replied. “They’re not even carrying guns for Christ’s sake.”
NEWPORT — The explosion and sinking of the ship in 1943 claimed at least 1,138 lives, and while the sea swallowed the bones there were people, too, who also worked to shroud the bodies.
The sinking of the H.M.T. Rohna was the greatest loss of life at sea by enemy action in the history of U.S. war, but the British Admiralty demanded silence from the survivors and the tragedy was immediately classified by the U.S. War Department.
Michael Walsh of Newport is working to bring the story of the Rohna to the surface with a documentary film, which includes interviews with some of the survivors of the attack. Walsh has interviewed about 45 men who were aboard the ship when it was hit.
Editor's note: this story originally appeared in 2018
How you die matters. Ten years ago, on Memorial Day, I was in Fallujah, serving a year-long tour on the staff and conducting vehicle patrols between Abu Ghraib and Ramadi. That day I attended a memorial service in the field. It was just one of many held that year in Iraq, and one of the countless I witnessed over my 20 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
Like many military veterans, Memorial Day is not abstract to me. It is personal; a moment when we remember our friends. A day, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “sacred to memories of love and grief and heroic youth."