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Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen took a little trip to the US-Mexico border Wednesday to let Our Troops know that even though the caravan has been forgotten, they haven't been. The personnel serving in what had been "Operation Faithful Patriot" need to know Mattis, Nielsen, and the American people completely support them in their mission to get out the rightwing vote last week.

Also, even if the fancy mission name was dropped post-election, the "president" definitely thinks the world of our great military men and women, but decided to opt out of actually dropping by to see them, because they'll be on Fox News later and he can see them just fine then.


Mattis was very aware that many critics of Operation 2020 Comes Early consider it a complete waste of time, money, and military resources, but by golly, while visiting the military base camp that's gone up outside Donna, Texas, he explained repeatedly this is not a stunt, no sirree:

"It's very clear that support to border police or border patrol is necessary right now," said Mattis, standing alongside the secretary of homeland security, Kirstjen Nielsen.

"We determined that the mission was absolutely legal and this was also reviewed by Department of Justice lawyers. It's obviously a moral and ethical mission to support our border patrolmen," Mattis said.

And if you please, it might be best not to call too much attention to the minor detail that the caravan of Central American migrants has actually split into smaller groups; the first group to head to the US border actually plans to seek asylum at the port of entry at San Ysidro, California, just across from Tijuana, where some are waiting now. Wouldn't want to hurt the morale of the brave troops in Operation Definitely Not A Stunt.

While inspecting the men and women of Operation Nowhere Near The Caravan, Mattis toured the desert base growing near the border crossing, and even took some questions from The Troops. We sat through the video so you wouldn't have to!

Mattis explained to the soldiers that their country truly needed them to help support the Border Patrol, and he knows they'll do America proud.

The eyes of the world right now — certainly all of the Americans — are on you [...] We're here because of the number of illegals who say they are going to try to cross into our country.

Now, if you want to get all technical about it, the migrants have said from the get-go they plan to claim asylum at a port of entry, and most are still hundreds if not thousands of miles from the border, so it might be a tad premature to be calling them "illegals." But since that's how Team Trump regards all immigrants now, it's just more efficient to call them criminals in advance, no? The president says they're illegals, so they're illegals.

The soldiers asked Mattis pretty easy questions like "Can we get a picture with you and Secretary Nielsen?" and "What do you miss most about being in the Marines?" and "Does the president smell like ham? He looks like he'd smell like ham." Secretary Nielsen was also acknowledged, just barely.

But some questions were a bit more tricky, prompting very strategic non-answers from Mattis. One soldier asked what the short-term and long-term goals of the mission are. You might think they'd been briefed on that by now -- maybe the soldier was checking to see if Mattis had been briefed!

Good question! "Short term, get the obstacles in" so Border Patrol officers can do their jobs safely and nobody can get close enough to "chuck a rock at 'em," which seems like a good use of 7,000 troops at a cost of Crom only knows how many multiple millions of dollars. The Pentagon doesn't even have a cost estimate yet for Operation Look Manly. As for those long-term mission goals, well, said Mattis, those are "somewhat to be determined."

But gosh, he understands the troops always want to know when any mission will be over and they can go home, but it's a "dynamic, unpredictable" situation and they'll need to be ready for anything. He didn't say what -- possibly hordes of MS-13 gangsters, or an unstable babyman Commander in Chief who needs a ready distraction again, or even a lot of footsore mothers and children fleeing for their lives, and there's no telling what THEY might do.

And while Mattis had already determined the caravan is a bunch of illegals, he wanted the troops of Operation Blame Soros to know immigration is actually good when it's legal, which of course was mostly in the past, and that's why they're on the border now, as BuzzFeed's Vera Bergengruen notes:

While flying out to Texas, Mattis explained to reporters why Operation Not Helping Puerto Rico is "obviously a moral and ethical mission." it's all about US history, don't you see?

I would put this in a little historic context...President Wilson 100 years ago...deployed the US Army to the southwest border...The threat then was Pancho Villa's troops, a revolutionary raiding across the border into the United States: New Mexico in 1916.

So yes, a group of unarmed asylum seekers comprising mostly women and children is a threat to national security just like a Mexican revolutionary army that raided a town in New Mexico in 1916, killing 18. Totally the same, you see, because wingnut media -- and hence, Trump -- are obsessed with all the virile young Honduran men who will surely do exactly the same thing, possibly hundreds of miles before they even reach the border, with their Latin Sex Minds. Mattis never mentioned the Pancho Villa thing to the troops, incidentally.

Mattis also explained why the Pentagon dropped the name "Operation Faithful Patriot" after the midterms. Or he seems to have thought he explained it, at least. You see, since this is a mission on US soil to protect the homeland from exhausted refugees (who could become a marauding horde, maybe, once they rest up), Mattis didn't want a lot of military jargon confusing people. It's a classic example of a reporter asking one question and a skilled bureaucrat answering an entirely different one!

When the name of the mission first came in, I had given instructions, "I do not want to put this mission in some arcane military terms. If what we're doing is laying wire, don't talk about implementing a barrier plan" [...]

So, when you saw the reporting coming out, it was my continued direction to quit using military terms. "Quit using terms that mean a lot to us and are subject to misinterpretation by people untrained at Fort Leavenworth and Command and Staff College." That's all I changed, OK?

As examples, he said that instead of saying troops were "securing" an area, which sounds awfully militaristic and might confuse civilians into thinking the Army is doing law enforcement, which is muy illegal, spokespeople should "talk in terms that people understand. It's their country. It's their border."

Which is lovely, because no one wants to hear toothpicks being called wooden interdental stimulators. It also has absolutely nothing to do with why the Pentagon dropped the insanely rah-rah name "Operation Faithful Patriot" as soon as it plausibly could. But you're not going to catch Jim Mattis on an open mic saying "Jesus, that was one embarrassing mission name, so of COURSE we're now just calling this a border support operation." He likes his job, and is far better at non-answer answers than his boss.

[Guardian / Military Times / WaPo / AP / Vera Bergengruen on Twitter]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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