And hey, even Michelle Malkin has endorsed them, calling the project "the mother of all neighborhood watch programs." Funny, that: That happens to be exactly how John Trochmann described the Militia of Montana to me. But then, these ideas are the products of people who have been organizing "border militias" all along -- that is, they are bona fide extremists.
Actually, we'll be very fortunate, as always, if the month of April -- supposedly the duration of the project -- passes uneventfully without some tragedy occurring. Because that's what's we're asking for here.
The project is noteworthy alone for having the potential to create a genuine international incident. The president of Mexico, Vicente Fox, earlier demanded that President Bush do something about the Minutemen. When they met last week in Texas, Bush took the unusual step of speaking out against them:
- Last week, President Bush stepped into the controversy over border issues, saying he opposed the Minuteman Project.
"I'm against vigilantes in the United States of America," Bush said during a meeting in Texas with Mexican President Vincente Fox and Canadian Prime Minster Paul Martin. "I'm for enforcing law in a rational way. It's why we've got a Border Patrol, and they ought to be in charge of enforcing the border."
Simcox said Bush's statement was disrespectful to citizens who simply want to help solve border problems. "We challenge the president to join us and come down and see for himself what's really going on," he told CNN.
Fox has also expressed concern over citizen border patrols. He told reporters he was watching the Minuteman Project carefully and would take action in U.S. courts or international tribunals if any activists break the law.
"We totally reject the idea of these migrant-hunting groups," Fox said. "We will use the law -- international law and even U.S. law -- to make sure that these types of groups ... will not have any opportunity to progress."
"We don't have any evidence or any indication either that terrorists from al Qaeda or any other part of the world are coming into Mexico and going into the United States," Fox said, countering recent statements made by senior Bush administration officials. "If there is any of that evidence, we will like to have it. But as I said, it does not exist."
The genuinely ugly side of the Minuteman Project and the related border vigilantes was limned by a recent story in the Arizona Daily Star:
- The stories of illegal entrants abused by Cochise County vigilantes are buried in sheriff's deputy reports -- complaints of guns drawn, dog bites, shouts and humiliation -- in official language, using terms such as aggravated assault and disorderly conduct.
Since 1999, the Mexican consul in Douglas, Miguel Escobar, has documented 65 cases in which illegal border crossers reported being detained by U.S. citizens in Cochise County.
In at least six reports taken by Cochise County Sheriff's Department deputies, illegal entrants have reported being kicked, shouted at, bitten by dogs and had guns pointed at them -- yet there's never been a single Cochise County resident prosecuted in these cases.
Human-rights activists say it's because there's a culture of looking the other way when it comes to illegal-entrant abuse. Cochise County law enforcement officials say it's because the victims -- illegal entrants -- choose not to pursue charges. And without witnesses, there are no cases.
The debate has led to civil lawsuits involving millions of dollars. And it has fueled concerns by activists that lax enforcement will allow participants in the upcoming Minuteman Project to abuse illegal entrants without fear of prosecution in Cochise County.
The story also reported that the Aryan Nations was working hard to recruit for the project:
- The Minuteman Project is being touted now as a "political assembly" promising to bring 1,022 people to the banks of the San Pedro River for a monthlong protest of border enforcement, starting Friday. But activist groups point to elements within the group and cite a potential for violence.
Last year, one of its leaders, Chris Simcox, was convicted on federal weapons charges. More recently, the white supremacy group Aryan Nation has openly recruited for the Minuteman Project, promoting the monthlong protest as a "white pride event."
Organizer James Gilchrist said he didn't know the Aryan Nation was promoting the event.
Some neighborhood watch you've got there, Michelle.
Finishing off the whole toxic mix is a healthy dose of paranoia, also given a "mainstream" shot in the arm, from the Washington Times, which is reporting that Latino gang members are planning to show up and run counter-actions:
- Members of a violent Central America-based gang have been sent to Arizona to target Minuteman Project volunteers, who will begin a monthlong border vigil this weekend to find and report foreigner sneaking into the United States, project officials say.
James Gilchrist, a Vietnam veteran who helped organize the vigil to protest the federal government's failure to control illegal immigration, said he has been told that California and Texas leaders of Mara Salvatrucha, or MS-13, have issued orders to teach "a lesson" to the Minuteman volunteers.
"We're not worried because half of our recruits are retired trained combat soldiers," Mr. Gilchrist said. "And those guys are just a bunch of punks."
More than 1,000 volunteers are expected to take part in the Minuteman vigil, which will include civilian patrols along a 20-mile section of the San Pedro River Valley, which has become a frequent entry point to the United States for foreigner headed north.
About 40 percent of the 1.15 million foreign nationals caught last year by the U.S. Border Patrol trying to gain illegal entry to the United States were apprehended along a 260-mile stretch of the Arizona border here known as the Tucson sector.
Having sat around many a Patriot campfire, and heard many a tale of a looming army of well-armed brown people, often gang members, preparing to attack the patriotic militiamen defending their country, well ... I think it's highly likely the Times reporter was being, shall we say, a bit credulous.
In fact, given their propensity for jumping to the wroung conclusions and attacking innocent people, their fondness for heavy weaponry, their itchy trigger fingers, and the heavy paranoia in which they have been bathing themselves, I'd say we have, as the Star's editors put it, a recipe for disaster.
Just about the time some hapless family stumbles across one of their watchpoints at about, say, Day 17 of the Project, when everyone is tired of waiting for something to happen and worked into a paranoiac state of frenzy.