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When you use a hammer, everything looks like a nail

2 June 2011

From Xico:  another “must read” :

… Obama has, if anything, been more militant, more anti-immigrant, more pro-weaponry in Mexico than George W. Bush. His secretary of state,  Hilary Clinton, appears to knows zilch about Mexico, but supports the “drug war”as essential, no questions asked.  I wish I knew how and from whom Obama and Clinton got their education on Mexico.

It sounds as if Obama and Clinton have rather strange information about the country.  Perhaps they don’t have any knowledge of Mexico’s geography and think the northern region of Mexico is the entire country. Perhaps they think that Calderón is a very popular president, or even more, think that he’s the one with his finger in the dike and if they don’t support him, the country will drown. Perhaps they think that as in the US, almost everyone owns a gun, and perhaps they think that every other person is a narco.  The whole thing has a Dr. Strangelovian smell to it.  I’d love to get inside the mind of this man Obama who seems so intellligent, so calm, so controlled and yet who has had more Mexican workers in the US thrown into jails and prisons than his predecessor; who is going after their employers with a vengeance; who has done nothing to speak out strongly against the visciousness of the anti-immigrant crazies. Who, in spite of his public words of support for Calderón, according to Wikileaks, thinks little of him and his efforts against organized crime and can only imagine getting more militant, not less as a consequencef.  Obama doesn’t talk about the underlying social and economic issues influencing crime: only about how to beef up US (and maybe Mexican) slaughtering abilities.

… Why is Obama so unyieldingly militaristic and domineering about Mexico when he isn’t about anything else?

Although I have extracted the points Esther makes about the Obama Administration’s seeming disconnect from Latin America generally, and Mexico, specifically, she makes the more ominous connection between the Obama Adminstration’s choice of diplomatic representatives in Mexico and the U.S. war against Afganistan. The proposed replacement for Carlos Pascual —  who prior to his Mexico City posting was “Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization”, a fancy bureaucratic term for forcing “free market” economic systems onto “failed” states — with Earl Anthony Wayne, presently Deputy Ambassador to Afghanistan.

One thing I’ve noticed over the past few years is that much the same can be said about the U.S. media representatives here.  I can’t give any exact numbers, but that more than a few listed Iraq or Afghanistan as their previous assignment areas.  Is it any wonder foreign reporting is all shootouts all the time?  Certainly crime happens, and “if it bleeds, it leads”, but outside of the travel pages, you read next to nothing about Mexico that isn’t related to this particular issue.  Nothing on the upcoming elections, on banking, on economics, on sports, on education, on the normal things that happen in any normal country.  Which we are.  But then, you don’t send war correspondents to cover normal countries.  And, if you’re a war correspondent, you aren’t likely to know (or have much interest in) everything you write about is about the war.

Of course, I exaggerate (slightly), but have had good reporters — who aren’t war correspondents by training or inclination — tell me they can’t sell a story to their editors if it’s not about the “drug war”.  And, in a self-perpetuating (and dangerous) spiral, the U.S. public is deceived by reporters who have no choice but to go looking for a “war” … and, if they’re any good, manage to find one.  What’s shameful is that the State Department — supposedly stocked with intelligent, well-read people — don’t seek out sources that might contradict the official line.

In my perhaps-not-completely-paranoid moments, I wonder if the viewpoints of both the official and general public in the United States being over-influenced by recent events in the Middle East isn’t by design.  Not in the sense of a conspiracy, but simply by failure of imagination.

I can speculate on reasons why the U.S. might wish to see Mexico as a “problem” to be fixed — some having to do with the U.S. belief in “American exceptionalism” which is too often a nice way of saying “ignorance” but mostly having to do with the tendency of addicts to blame others for their problems.

Addicted to war? to drugs? to blaming others?

I don’t know.

9 Comments leave one →
  1. 2 June 2011 10:14 am

    De acuerdo.

  2. 2 June 2011 10:16 am

    I met a fellow just a couple weeks ago who used to be a Lat Am professor that traveled throughout Mexico with students – no fears. Now he works for state and is walled in at a housing compound for the wealthy and Gringos in Guadalajara. He travels to and from his compound and the consulate. He is now telling everybody he knows how dangerous Mexico is and to get out and stay out. It is pretty obvious why he’s made this sudden switch.

  3. 2 June 2011 10:53 am

    Richard, you capture part of the problem with your comment about “imagination.” It is truly unbelievable the lack of imagination, which translates to tunnel vision, that the US media and government have. I am guilty of it too. Bush said ‘stay the course,” and this is what the US is doing vis a vis Mexico and pretty much everywhere. Re the media, the mainstream reporters’ problem is that they follow the washington line, or at least perspective, because that is who reads them – they don’t think for themselves and don’t dare challenge the status quo. border papers are the same. original thought is not welcome. when you work for a company you follow that line. You continually fight bosses about perspective, and good luck selling some pendejo behind a desk in the US a story about anything other than drug war, juanito or mariachis (business booming in mexico? microfinance efforts taking off? FDI up? Who knew? Who cares? The very serious problem, as I see it, is that the US, and Washington in particular, risks losing sight of what is actually happening in many countries (lacking CIA on the ground and good reporters on the ground). The Wikileaks cables revealed something that few have picked up on: the consulate in Juarez is relying on street chismes that are hardly believable. Their resources on the ground are minimal.
    At the same time, in response to Jason’s comment, the problem is also that you begin to believe your own perspective, the one that was given to you by the company you work for. If you work for State, you become a potential target. you’re no longer a dude roaming around mexico talking to people and enjoying their company and learning, you’re part of the establishment, one that is attacking the mexican drug cartels with military force. you start seeing the entire country as dangerous.
    Anyway, enough from me.

  4. "craig" permalink
    3 June 2011 12:42 am

    Obama, despite his clear and unequivocal promise to Latinos of “comprehensive immigration reform in my first year in office” (and equally clear promise to be a “fierce advocate” for gay rights as well as “put on my walking shoes and walk with labor” if an important issue were to arise), has turned out to be much much different as the office holder than as the candidate.

    Even at his inauguration, he criticized the policies of Bush, who was sitting right there on the dais. The Campaigner looked like a leader with firm principles and strong goals.

    And then he took office. And all that was forgotten.

    He adopted Bush’ support of the odious ‘spy on all Americans without a warrant’ “patriot” Act.

    He quickly forgot any notion of immigration reform. Recently, he has remembered to make some small shows of support as next year’s elections draw near. But no change in policy. Indeed, as the Washington Post, published with pdfs of departmental documents, ICE agents have had deportation quotas built into their performance appraisals under the Obama administration. Deport too few and get demerits! Where is the HUMANITY in that? Disgusting.

    His justice department filed briefs comparing gays with child molesters and child incest. Even now, he could stop investigations under Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell, as the repeal law is about to be implemented, yet he doesn’t and career-ruining, privacy-invading investigations continue. He’s “thinking over” his support for civil unions only.

    My point is this: We were sold a bill of goods. We — I — thought we were getting a president who would restore the rule of law (zero investigations of torture, illegal wiretaps, illegal spying on Americans, perjury to lie the nation into war, etc, etc, etc).

    We thought we were getting a “fierce advocate” on gay rights. We got insults, put-downs and snubs. Administration support only returned after harsh criticism and not a few hand written letters. We thought we were getting humane, respectful immigration reform and we got the strongest crack-down in history. Even undocumented persons on buses LEAVING the country have been stopped and ARRESTED.. when they had already bought their own tickets HOME! Disgusting again.

    There is only one area where the Obama administration has shown total and unrelenting support: high finance, big business, Wall Street investment banks, i.e., “Big Money.” Unemployment double the normal rate and still near 20% in several states? Who cares! But, by God, we have Billion$ in no-strings handouts for banks, bond buying, no interest loans….

    What serves Big Money? Endless war, among other things. War on Drugs. War on Terror. Both continue funneling government money to private industry in remarkably few areas.

    Foreign policy is incoherent and incomplete, unless we look at Big Money.

    We bomb Libya because Qaddafi used tanks against civilians. But Syria is using tanks against civilians, torturing and castrating 13 yo boys, slaughtering towns full of people. And we do nothing.

    We “withdrew” from Iraq, yet somehow keep 50,000 troops and 10,000 mercenary “contractors” working as the State Department’s private army, armed with Blackhawk helicopters, Striker fighting vehicles, thousands of armored Humvees, artillery-detecting radar and much more. Nice “withdrawal” there.

    We’ve killed Osama – credit where it is due – but we have no plan for getting out of Afghanistan, longest war in US history and still seeing our troops die, for what? (Well, according to the Pentagon, there’s gold, and copper, and minerals, etc, etc, to be divided up and sold off…)

    The only guiding direction we have as a nation is “muddle through” and hope the Second Depression finally recedes. Double-dip is already here in the housing market and may be soon for the economy as a whole.

    And there’s NO OTHER CHOICE but to vote for him again.

    In my opinion, it is pretty clear that the US political system is more broken than Mexico’s at this point. God help us.

  5. don quixote permalink
    3 June 2011 8:50 am

    The over the top reaction to “drug problems” and crime in Mexico, by the USA powers that be (whoever happens to be in office), shouldn’t be surprising to anyone.
    In the USA social problems including poverty and it’s offspring, drugs, crime, and mental illness, are dealt with in a very heavy handed manner,especially when racial and ethnic minorities (Blacks and Mexican Americans to be more exact),are involved. Therefore why should anyone be surprised by the draconian solutions the US Govt proposes for the “war on drugs” in Mexico and other Latin American countries.
    After all, the state of California has as many people incarcerated as the whole country of Mexico, and is comprised of course by a majority of minorities, Black and Mexican American, which therefore reinforces the stereotypes so popular with many USA citizens of racial and ethnic minorities as inherently violent, lazy and immoral.
    The US prison industrial complex is waiting in the wings, a very lucrative business is this war on crime, or drugs, or terrorism, or whatever the flavor of the month is.
    Watch out Mexico!

  6. "Craig" permalink
    3 June 2011 2:38 pm

    The solution to holding and gaining power is as old as power itself: designate outsiders as “The Problem” and unite support behind you for the scapegoating, lies, and persecution.

    The raging mobs of tea-people and their fear of …. well, everything! … illustrate this tactic quite nicely.

    Fear is the lowest denominator motivator. People who live by reason have most to fear from those who use only fear.

    The Obama White House’s rejection of the Global Commission on Drug Policy’s call for an end to the Drug Wars and seeking solutions through careful decriminalization to defund cartels and killers is succumbing to the mob, not cool, level-headed, educated thinking. “No drama Obama” is missing the boat on this one.

  7. "Craig" permalink
    3 June 2011 2:43 pm

    “Office of Bi-National Intelligence” is home to the CIA; the FBI; the Department of Homeland Security; the Treasury; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the National Reconnaissance Office, the NSA; the Defense Intelligence Agency; and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Not evidently included: Mexican agencies.

    Mexico for Mexicans? Not so much……

  8. el_longhorn permalink
    5 June 2011 9:53 pm

    I agree with craig above.

    “Why is Obama so unyieldingly militaristic and domineering about Mexico when he isn’t about anything else?”

    The premise is wrong. Obama is militaristic and domineering about everything, including Mexico. The number of immigration detentions is stunning. I am an attorney and it is driving my business – I am doing bond hearings and deportation defense all the time now. It was not like this under Bush. Some of it is the local police and sherrifs are more agressive about contacting immigration, but a lot of it is driven by federal policies.

    And – credit where it is due – the wikileaks cables on Mexico seemed relatively accurate and straightforward. It seemed like the US had a better grasp on the situation than the government in Mexico.

  9. 6 June 2011 11:00 pm

    I read somewhere else that even with these new scanners 202 items out of 212 items that should have been stopped made it through security. Looks like we finally might get rid of these scanners.

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