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An immodest proposal

20 January 2013

The most appalling idea yet in the “war on (some, but not all) Mexican drug (exporters)”.  In the overwrought prose of the Associated Press:

The Pentagon is stepping up aid for Mexico’s bloody drug war with a new U.S.-based special operations headquarters to teach Mexican security forces how to hunt drug cartels the same way special operations teams hunt al-Qaida, according to documents and interviews with multiple U.S. officials.

Such assistance could help newly elected Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto establish a military force to focus on drug criminal networks that have terrorized Mexico’s northern states and threatened the U.S. Southwest border.

There was mention in the Mexican press of a “private meeting” between Secretario de Gobernacion Migual Osario Chong and U.S. Ambassador Anthony Wayne a few days prior to this story appearing in U.S. publications.  The substance of the meeting wasn’t given in the Mexican media, but I wouldn’t be surprised if this U.S. proposal was presented.  What I also haven’t seen in the Mexican media, nor in the U.S. reports, is any mention that Mexico requested this kind of “assistance”.

The poor showing by PAN  — the party of the former administration — in July’s election was seen by most observers as confirmation that the public would not stand for the continued militarization of the anti-narcotics “crusade”, and that there was widespread resentment of U.S. “assistance”.  And — not that I think Peña Nieto isn’t capable of making misleading statements — Mexicans were being assured during and after the campaign that a Peña Nieto administration was less interested in taking “trophy” gangsters than in increasing everyday security for ordinary citizens.  This may be just one of those over-reaches by the U.S. military in its bureaucratic search of a mission.

Based at the U.S. Northern Command in Colorado, Special Operations Command-North will build on a commando program that has brought Mexican military, intelligence and law enforcement officials to study U.S. counterterrorist operations, to show them how special operations troops built an interagency network to target al-Qaida mastermind Osama bin Laden and his followers.

The special operations team within Northcom will be turned into a new headquarters, led by a general instead of a colonel. It was established in a Dec. 31 memo signed by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. That move gives the group more autonomy and the number of people could eventually quintuple from 30 to 150, meaning the headquarters could expand its training missions with the Mexicans, even though no new money is being assigned to the mission.

What bothers me — beyond the idea of Mexican military being under the command of, and directed by, a foreign government from their own territory — is the presumption that the Mexican military would be used on its own territory to “hunt” for common criminals with techniques supposedly designed to fight ideological foes.  In other words, training for domestic use what was  internationally sanctioned (or at least tolerated) death squads. 

I may be cynical, but I’m not the only one to notice that the big time gangsters who don’t live long enough to make it into a court of law tend to be either U.S. citizens like “El Barbie” or who appear to have been assets for U.S. secret police and/or intelligence operatives (like Vicente Carrillo Leyva).  I suppose there’s a logic to NOT allowing the “kingpins” to appear in court (which could be rather embarrassing to some other kinds of “kingpins”… like bankers and high level officials), there’s the added danger that it’s not a flaw but a feature of these kinds of death squads that they are used for political purposes.

And, that’s on top of the whole ethical problem of just killing people.  What’s maddening about the whole proposal is that the U.S. is escalating their war on drugs just as the U.S. is starting to seriously consider some very mild narcotics law reforms (at the state level), as are governments in Latin America that see themselves as victims of U.S. “assistance”… even right-wing leaders, like Guatemala’s General Oscar Pérez Molina.   And the United States is FINALLY beginning to at least talk about making some half-assed changes in their ridiculously lax gun laws.  Both decriminalization in the world’s largest narcotics consumer nation and some control over the internal arms baazar in the United States are admitted by the U.S.administration to be of some use in bringing down violence in the supplier countries. But with the butcher’s bill from U.S. “drug war assistance” now officially over 70,000 and unofficially over 90,000 just here in Mexico, the U.S. response is to escalate the “assistance” and maybe throw in some drones.

The AP story does mention that “it’s unclear whether the Mexican government will agree to boost its training”, but even so, that the idea is being considered, is something we should be concerned about.

The U.S. just wants the drug war to continue indefinitely, it seems. No mention is ever made of reforming it’s own agricultural system (and opening the market for small farmers in Latin America to have a viable crop other than poppies and marijuana and — in the Andean countries — coca).  Or, of the unspoken assumption that any Latin American commodity in demand by the northern countries should be in the control of northern country businesses (you don’t think that “cartels” controlled sugar, coffee, mining, oil, etc. exploitation here non-violently, do you?) and hate it when Latin Americans control the production and distribution of something they desire.  And… of course… a terrible dependency, not so much on narcotics (although the whole country could probably use a good 12-step program), but on exporting war as a means of boosting the national economy.

Frankly, if the U.S. wants to use their trained death squads to “fight drugs” they can unleash them on U.S. bankers who launder money, and the arms dealers who sell weapons to Mexican gangsters and… if the U.S. is really serious, start sending out pickup trucks full of masked soldiers with 50-cal machine guns mounted on the roof into suburbia, and deal with their drug users.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Karl Neufeld permalink
    20 January 2013 9:00 am

    Very well said. The problem is that the US public has a short memory. The gun reform will die a slow death and the focus will stay on the drug problems in the South. America is an insular country with very little knowledge about anything outside their border, yet seems to always find a way involve themselves whether it’s wanted,needed or not.

  2. Allen G, in Mazatlan. permalink
    20 January 2013 9:08 am

    Once again, the U.S. of A. is creating a problem, not coming up with a solution. An emphasis on killing the suppliers will only lead to new, better, smarter replacements.
    As long as the U.S.of A. continues in its’ demand for drugs, specifically cocaine, the problem will continue, and accelerate. North of the border, those wonderful “Folks”, will keep reaching in the wrong direction, more guns and more cocaine. And , of course, its’ always the fault of the suppliers.
    So, if there were no supply, there would be no problem???
    More fuzzy thinking, mostly by “The Prez”. As much as dislike Pinato, I find the “Prez” even more unlikable.

  3. 28 January 2013 2:41 pm

    How Sad !! Dispensing “liberty and justice” to far away lands, when their own southern neighbor ( whose lands,the S.W. was stolen a mere one and half centuries ago) is being supplied with the weaponry, (aka weapons of much destruction ) to massacre its own countrymen , just so some U.S. citizenry can get high over the oxymoronic “illegal” drugs !

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