by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
August 28, 2008
KEEPING VERMONT VERMONT
BLOOMSBURG, Pa. -- The superstar of the 2008 Beijing Olympics may not have been the multiple medalists like Michael Phelps, but the Great Wall of China. Every network covering the Olympics took the world to see it. Almost every newspaper and magazine reporter also visited the ancient wonder of the world.
But the Great Wall, built and rebuilt many times over 22 centuries of Chinese history, in the end was a failure for China. Although formidable, and one of the world's greatest engineering feats, by the 16th Century the wall could no longer protect China from neighboring armies.
The Maginot Line, which France thought could protect it from Germany and Italy in the decade before World War II, was largely a failure, too.
The Berlin Wall, first constructed of barbed wire and then of concrete, was built not to keep others out but East Germans in. Yet there were more than 5,000 escapes during its 28-year history before the wall finally came down in a giant heap in 1989.
As we now know, poorly-constructed levees in New Orleans didn't keep the flood waters of Katrina from destroying much of the city.
Even the walls of Jericho came tumbling down.
Now the U.S. is building its own wall. The Bush Administration is erecting some 700 miles of fence and other barriers along the U.S.-Mexico border it plans to finish by the end of the year.
The wall isn't continuous, however. There are several gaps. To fill those, the Bush-Cheney Administration is planting electronic surveillance devices that may or may not be effective, and could be jammed.
The cost to build that 700-mile barrier, with its gaps, is about $2-$3 million per mile. In some locations though, the cost far exceeds that. This week, the government began excavating an area near San Diego. When the three and one-half mile fence is finished, the cost will be about $57 million. That's about $16 million a mile, almost the same as a mile of Interstate highway.
Most illegal immigrants pose no problems. They don't receive American benefits but often pay for them, contrary to a lot of Internet gossip. Most try to avoid getting into trouble, since their purpose of being in America isn't to get noticed by the police.
Proponents also claim that the wall will reduce drug trafficking into the U.S. But smart traffickers - and most major traffickers seem to be - already have dozens of ways to move their product into the U.S. by air and sea, and even from the far more porous U.S.-Canada border, and so avoid the wall.
And for those who think putting up a wall will keep terrorists out of the country, reflect upon this: The 9/11 hijackers had American-issued visas to be in the U.S.
Like the Great Wall, the Maginot Line, the Berlin Wall, and the levees of New Orleans, this wall will also fail. Persons desperate to enter the U.S. will find many other ways to cross the border. But Americans will have spent more than $2 billion to learn that lesson again.
AR Senior Correspondent Walter Brasch is professor of journalism at Bloomsburg University, a syndicated columnist, and author of 17 books. His latest book is Sinking the Ship of State: The Presidency of George W. Bush, available through amazon.com and other stores. Visit him at www.walterbrasch.com.