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Terrorists? Sound and fury, signifying nothing

28 November 2019

Donald Trump’s “plan” to designate Mexican “cartels” as terrorists seems to have more to do with his own country’s domestic politics than with any imminent drone attacks on wedding parties back in the hills of Sinaloa.  Although, you can’t blame people here for starting to keep one eye on the sky… just in case.

First of all, Mr. Trump’s statement (on Bill O’Reilly’s “No Spin News”… a radio podcast program) suggested he’d been working with Mexico “for the last 90 days” on a plan to send drones.  But somehow no one heard of these discussions, including the Mexican government, until a few members of the extended LeBaron community, made a statement calling the gangsters who apparently killed some members of their family, mistaking them for rival gangsters, in a widely disseminated (and endlessly facebook posted) letter, referred to the killers as “terrorists”… about a week ago, not three months ago.  Somehow… while I wouldn’t be surprised that the United States Army has some plans on a back shelf to invading Mexico (and probably has since the botched “Punitive Expedition of 1916”) … I doubt this was much on the mind (does he even have a mind) of Mr. Trump 90 days ago, let 90 minutes before the LeBaron massacre made the Mormon separatists into all American victims.

But as to the “terrorist” designation. It seems like Manifest Destiny that the United States can decide what other countries should or shouldn’t do about groups in their own country that the United States “designates” as a threat, but let that pass. That the terrorist label allows the United States to forbid contact with the so designated group, and can prosecute those doing business with them is the same thing it does when it comes to criminal organizations now.  The only difference is that “terrorists” are pursued by the Department of Defense, whereas the Department of Justice goes after “criminals”.   What this suggests is less that the Trump Administration is looking to stop drug dealers than it is looking to continue militarizing law enforcement, perhaps beefing up paramilitary units like the Border Patrol and using Defense Department funds for “hardening the border”… popular to his domestic supporters, but not of much use when it comes to either stopping the flow of narcotics to willing US consumers, or, for that matter, the slaughter of Mexicans who get crosswise with the gangsters.

And, it’s not like the US doesn’t already find legally plausible excuses when it invades Mexico (as in 1876, 1892, 1914, 1916), or that the US hasn’t had “embedded” agents here before… notably during Calderón’s “war on kingpins” that accomplished nothing except drove the homicide rate sky high.  But rather, those incursions have gone spectacularly wrong.  The incursions of 1876 and 1892 were small affairs, supposedly to hunt “bandits” (although really to pursue would-be rebels against Porfirio Diaz) or to “help” Mexico (as in the 1914 invasion of Veracruz to stop the shipment of arms to the Huerta dictatorship).  And, given the last two military incursions, in 1914 and 1916, the US could expect resistance… not from those it sought to destroy so much as from, well, everyone.

In 1914, the German ship carrying weapons to supply Huerta’s federal army simply unloaded down the coast, while in Veracruz ordinary citizens, the Federal Army, the Naval cadets, armed convicts released from prison fought the invaders, and once the US Marines had captured the port, they found their presumed beneficiaries, the Constitutionalists led by Venustiano Carranza, were hardly grateful, publicly announcing they would ally themselves with Huerta to drive out the invaders.  In 1916, again under the claim of hunting bandits (Pancho Villa, having fallen from the grace of the Wilson Administration, being conveniently re-dubbed a “bandit”). the US Army did little other than split the Mormon community, beat and torture some campesinos, and rather embarrassingly lose the only battle they ended up fighting… not with the “bandits” but with the Mexican Army, their putative ally, in the small town of Carrizal, Chihuahua.

We’re already seeing a hint of what might be coming should the US even make noises about an incursion with hugely popular demands floating around the internet to strip the LeBaron colony of their citizenship and expel them from the country for their “treason” in appealing to the United States President for assistance, and serious questions being asked about the loyalties of those PAN governors in the border states who remain friendly with US law enforcement officials.

Of course, the United States has tanks, and drones, and.. hell,… NUKES… at its disposal, but   if they were serious about “fighting the cartels” they’d release their said to be incorruptible police forces… the FBI; the DEA, the IRS, the ATF… on their allies of the cartels in the United States.  Sure, they can lock up all the drug dealers they want, but until they go after the money and the weapons, more incidents like those that befell the LeBarons are going to happen, with or without US drone attacks.

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