President Obama: “At the heart of a new Afghanistan policy is going to be a smarter Pakistan policy. As long as you’ve got safe havens in these border regions that the Pakistani government can’t control or reach, in effective ways, we’re going to continue to see vulnerability on the Afghan side of the border.”
Obama was talking about Afghanistan and Pakistan, halfway around the world, but soon he might be using similar language for the USA and Mexico. While there haven’t been insurgent attacks in the USA yet, there has been an increase in crime, particularly kidnapping.
Arizona has become the new drug gateway into the United States. Roughly half of all marijuana seized along the U.S.-Mexico border was taken on the state’s 370-mile border with Mexico.
One result is an epidemic of kidnapping that many residents are barely aware of. Indeed, most every other crime here is down. But police received 366 kidnapping-for-ransom reports last year, and 359 in 2007. Police estimate twice that number go unreported.
And the al-Qaeda and Iran bugaboos have been raised by alert US lawmakers.
Members of Congress are raising the alarm that war-like conditions on the Mexican border could lead to Mexican drug cartels helping terrorists attack the U.S.
“When you have…gangs and they have loose ties with al Qaeda and then you have Iran not too far away from building a nuclear capability, nuclear terrorism may not be far off,” said Rep. Trent Franks (R- Ariz.), a member of the House Armed Services committee.
The Mexican drug cartels’ violence accounted for more than 6,000 deaths last year, and in recent months it has begun spilling over into the districts of lawmakers from the southwest region, even as far north as Phoenix, Ariz. — which has become, Franks noted, the “kidnap capital of the U.S.”
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), whose district borders Mexico, said that while the situation is bad, it could easily get worse.
“The goal of the cartels is to make money,” said Cuellar, who sits on the House Homeland Security committee. “If they can smuggle in drugs and human cargo, then certainly they can smuggle other things in, other devices to cause us harm.”
And just as the US problems in Afghanistan are all Pakistan’s fault, these threats to the US Homeland are can only be corrected in Mexico, and the Pentagon is rarin’ to go. Admiral Mullen, the top US military officer, visited Mexico recently.
- During his meetings with the country’s military leadership, Mullen said he discussed how Washington could help in the battle against the powerful cartels, citing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) as a crucial element.
“ISR, that kind of capability is certainly a big part of it,” Mullen said, using a term that can refer to unmanned drones.[Predators over Chihuaha?]
He said the emphasis would be on sharing intelligence “but in recognition that there are additional assets that could be brought to bear across the full ISR spectrum.”
With last year’s death toll from drug-related violence at 5,300 as well-financed cartels orchestrate a campaign of intimidation and kidnappings, the crisis over the border has become a serious national security concern for the United States.
The visit by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff underlined US alarm over the escalating violence, which experts say is fed by easy access to guns and drug profits on the US side of the border.
Mullen said the US military was ready to share tactics learned in fighting insurgent networks in Iraq and Afghanistan that he said could prove useful in Mexico’s drug war.
The US military was “sharing a lot of lessons we’ve learned, how we’ve developed similar capabilities over the last three or four years in our counter-insurgency efforts as we have fought terrorist networks.
“There are an awful lot of similarities,” he said.
What Mexico needs, obviously, is more military stuff.
Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, also said the Defense Department was moving quickly to provide the Mexican military with equipment, including helicopters, under a $1.4 billion U.S. aid initiative.
“They have an urgent need. We all have a sense of urgency about this. And so we’re all going to push pretty hard to deliver that capability as rapidly as possible,” Mullen told reporters in a conference call as he returned from his first official visit to Mexico as Joint Chiefs chairman.
US-owned factories have to be protected.
CIUDAD JUAREZ, Mexico (Reuters) – Mexico’s army will take over the local police force in the border city of Ciudad Juarez where it helped quell a deadly prison riot on Wednesday in its widening war against drug gangs.
Soldiers poured into the city this week to restore order after 250 people died in February in a feud between drug gangs, which are often aided by corrupt police.
Ciudad Juarez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas, and home to foreign-owned factories that export to the United States, has become the main flashpoint in President Felipe Calderon’s two-year-old war against drug smugglers.
Is Mexico, like Pakistan, really at fault here? Or is it the US culture of illegal drugs, guns and military, with their US economic supporters, AKA the military-industrial-drug-weapons cartel?
Immigrants are going back to Mexico because of a bad U.S. economy. Meanwhile, the gun violence that Americans subsidize south of the border is boiling over onto U.S. soil.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano didn’t get the memo. She recently told a Senate committee that Mexico’s drug violence had not spread to the United States. But only a few days earlier, Texas’ Homeland Security Director Steve McCraw told the Texas Legislature that violence from the drug cartels had spilled into Texas. Then there is Napolitano’s own state of Arizona, where Phoenix is now considered the nation’s kidnap capital because of spillover violence from Mexico.
According to the Justice Department, Mexican drug traffickers have a presence in at least 230 U.S. cities.
In the meantime, the US State Department has issued a new travel advisory for Mexico (not Arizona or Texas) which will hit Mexico tourism really hard and unjustifiably hurt a lot of Mexican people financially. Of course the US tourism industry will benefit by US dollars staying at home, which is probably the intent.
MEXICO CITY – The latest travel advisory for Mexico from the U.S. State Department will certainly not please the tourist board here. The travel alert issued Feb. 20 reads like the plot of a crime thriller.
“Recent Mexican army and police confrontations with drug cartels have resembled small-unit combat, with cartels employing automatic weapons and grenades,” the advisory reads. “Large firefights have taken place in many towns and cities across Mexico but most recently in northern Mexico, including Tijuana, Chihuahua City and Ciudad Juarez. During some of these incidents, U.S. citizens have been trapped and temporarily prevented from leaving the area.”
Being “temporarily prevented” from leaving a firefight is never a good thing as far as promoting tourism goes. Tourism is one of Mexico’s main sources of income, and the U.S. sends the most tourists to Mexico.
The friendly people of Mexico, the third most populous country in the hemisphere and the thirteenth-ranking economy in the world, don’t deserve the raw deal they’re getting from their northern neighbor with its ugly high steel border fence and its war. In this regard they have something in common with the people of Afghanistan as both countries have been converted to narco-states.
Personally, I’ll continue to enjoy my extended visits south of the border with decreased competition for camping space from other Americans, as I reported here.
Don Bacon is a retired army officer who founded the Smedley Butler Society several years ago because, as General Butler said, war is a racket. Other JWN articles by Don Bacon may be found here.