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Several Former Military Leaders Speak Out Against Troops Sent To U.S.-Mexico Border


A wasteful deployment of overstretched soldiers and Marines - that is one reaction to President Trump's decision to send U.S. troops to the U.S.-Mexico border. And that reaction comes from a former chairman of the joint chiefs, retired General Martin Dempsey. He is one of several former military officers speaking out about the timing and possible political motives behind this deployment. Among them, my next guest - Army Lieutenant General James Dubik, now retired. General Dubik, welcome.

JAMES DUBIK: Thank you very much.

KELLY: Other presidents, as you know, both Republicans and Democrats, have posted troops to the border when they saw fit. What makes this situation different?

DUBIK: What makes it different is the timing. There's certainly nothing unusual about using federal troops in support of domestic authorities. That's done many, many times. What's abnormal is the timing of this deployment in relationship to the midterm elections.

KELLY: So would this sit easier with you if this deployment had been ordered after the midterms?

DUBIK: I don't know. Quite frankly, I think as long as it meets all the legal requirements, there's certainly nothing illegal about the president's order to - for - or support the domestic authorities. And the rules of engagement are correct. I leave it up to political leaders to sort out whether or not the timing is a problem. As far as the military is concerned, I think this is a legitimate mission.

KELLY: Stay with the timing issue for a moment, though, because you said it's the timing juxtaposed right before the midterms that bothers you. Why?

DUBIK: Well, if the situation on the border does not pose a military threat, which - there's no argument that it does, and if the situation on the border cannot possibly be reasonably called an invasion except in hyperbole...

KELLY: President Trump has used that exact word, as you know.

DUBIK: Well, he has, but 3,000 or 1,500 displaced people throwing rocks does not constitute an invasion of a country of 300 million people.

KELLY: I should just insert, there's some differing reports about the number, but we're talking several thousand people.

DUBIK: Sure. So whatever the number is, it doesn't constitute an invasion except in a hyperbolic sense.

KELLY: And so again, what bothers you about this particular deployment at this particular time?

DUBIK: Well, again, the timing because it didn't appear to have any military purpose. There's no military invasion. There's - didn't appear to be any invasion, actual invasion probabilities. So why send them?

KELLY: If you're concerned about the politics of this and the timing of this, is there a flipside to that of military officers speaking out and becoming part of the politics, as we are now a day out from the midterms?

DUBIK: Well, I suppose there's some risk of that. But there's also the corresponding risk to not saying anything and merely standing by.

KELLY: What about for people currently serving? And I'll ask specifically, what's the responsibility of Defense Secretary Jim Mattis here?

DUBIK: Well, the current serving military leaders, as well as civilian leaders like the secretary, have the obligation to speak out in the discussion phase prior to a decision to ensure that the use of troops is both legal and prudent. And this deployment - I think - is legal, and whether it's prudent is going to be a matter of debate and argument.

KELLY: Lieutenant General James Dubik, now retired and now a senior fellow at the Institute for the Study of War. General Dubik, thanks very much.

DUBIK: Thank you. I appreciate it.

(SOUNDBITE OF LITTLE PEOPLE'S "MAKEMEBETTER") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.