We’ve known all along that Governor Kristi Noem was deploying our National Guard to the southern border for costly political photo opps, not real national defense. The intrepid Stephen Groves of the Associated Press gets emails from Guards themselves affirming that Noem dispatched our troops to mostly twiddle their thumbs while Noem played generalissima:
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem described the U.S. border with Mexico as a “war zone” last year when she sent dozens of state National Guard troops there, saying they’d be on the front lines of stopping drug smugglers and human traffickers.
But records from the Guard show that in their two-month deployment, the South Dakota troops didn’t seize any drugs. On a handful of occasions, they suspected people of scouting for lapses in their patrols, but mission logs don’t contain any confirmed encounters with “transnational criminals.” And a presentation from the deployment noted that Mexican cartels were assessed to be a “moderate threat” but were “unlikely” to target U.S. forces.
Some days, the records show, the troops had little if anything to do.
“Very slow day. No encounters. It has been 5 days since last surrender,” wrote one Guard member whose name was redacted from a situation report created as the deployment neared its end in September 2021 [Stephen Groves, “‘Slow Day’: Guard Emails Don’t Match Noem Border ‘War’ Talk,” AP, 2022.11.04].
Noem claimed “the scope of the drug smuggling and human trafficking” at the border was “staggering”, but the Guards somehow didn’t see much evidence of either criminal activity:
During the two-month deployment, Guard members reported spotting 11 people they deemed to be scouting for lapses in surveillance. On another occasion recorded in the logs, Guard members pointed flashlights at five people with backpacks crossing the Rio Grande who then retreated. Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Marlette, the head of South Dakota’s Guard, later told a South Dakota legislative committee they were likely carrying drugs.
Those were the only times the Guard members reported suspected drug trafficking [Groves, 2022.11.04].
The world would be a better place if all war zones limited combatants to playing flashlight tag.
The world would also be a better place with governors who did not lie and who only deployed the National Guard on necessary missions that make a practical difference in keeping South Dakotans safe.