There are many excuses for not using the U.S. military more widely for a legitimate mission of defending the homeland against foreign invasion from our southern border.

One of the worst is that this is a strictly civilian mission – somehow strictly forbidden by the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878.

Why?

No. 1: It doesn’t apply because the U.S. military’s main purpose is to defend the United States from outside attacks – not, as we seem to have forgotten in recent years, projecting military power around the globe.

No. 2: The law is being broadly abused in a thousand ways, with the U.S. military increasingly used to enforce civilian laws inside the United States without the express congressional authorization that is required.

Did you know, for instance, that the U.S. military is helping to bust marijuana traffickers inside the country?

Last month, the Northern Command announced publicly that the 76th Helicopter Squadron had helped seize $284 million of marijuana while supporting joint task force counter-drug operations in 2005.

Here’s the way these missions work, according to the announcement:

The joint task force bases operations on requests for Department of Defense assistance from the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Border Patrol in coordination with the U.S. Forest Service. Because of the training opportunities the operations provide, the squadron volunteered for the missions. But because missions are sensitive, team members withhold their names.

Now, you might think, since the U.S. Border Patrol is involved in these missions, that they are taking place at or near the border. You would be wrong to make such an assumption.

In fact, the marijuana fields destroyed were in central California.

So, how are missions destroying marijuana crops in California justified as a military mission?

“The mission serves several purposes,” explained one squadron pilot. “For the community and our nation, drugs are off the street. For the war against terrorism, fewer drugs are available, which, in turn takes money away from organizations that support terrorism.”

Wait a minute. Are terrorist organizations growing marijuana in central California? Are they selling the marijuana on the streets once it is harvested? If so, shouldn’t we be concentrating our efforts on identifying and eliminating those organizations inside the United States rather than just depriving them of their product?

This seems like a bit of a stretch to me.

He added that “aircrews are able to train in an operational setting, allowing them to become better at what they do.”

The joint task force is a Department of Defense organization within the U.S. Northern Command. Its purpose is to support federal law enforcement agencies in the interdiction of suspected transnational threats within and approaches to the continental United States, said Armando Carrasco, a joint task force public-affairs officer.

That, of course, should include stopping millions of people – including at least a small percentage of terrorists – illegally entering the country. Yet, there seems to be great concern about using the military against this real threat.

While the border remains largely unguarded, the military is burning down marijuana fields in central California.

Which do you consider a greater threat to the national security – a marijuana field in central California or our unguarded, unsecured border?

According to the report, the military aided in the destruction of more than 1 million plants, with more than 800,000 of those seized in California.

Does Congress know about this? Has it been expressly authorized as is required by the Posse Comitatus Act? If not, someone is facing a two-year jail sentence.

Here’s what the actual law says:

The Secretary of Defense shall prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to ensure that any activity (including the provision of any equipment or facility or the assignment or detail of any personnel) under this chapter does not include or permit direct participation by a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps in a search, seizure, arrest, or other similar activity unless participation in such activity by such member is otherwise authorized by law.

If the military is being used for this kind of non-essential civilian law-enforcement mission, why would there be the slightest reservation about more widely using our armed forces to supplement the work of our Border Patrol, the very front-line of defense of our nation in the war on terror?

No one suggests that militarizing U.S. borders is the ultimate solution for ending the illegal invasion. But as we build the fences necessary and recruit, hire and train the Border Patrol officers needed to do the job, using soldiers, sailors and airmen to protect America from foreign invasion makes all the sense in the world.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.