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A new War on Terror?

December 15, 2011

I just read that at an October hearing on the Merida Initiative, Representative Michael McCaul of Texas referred to Mexican drug cartels as “terrorists,” requesting they be classified as Foreign Terrorist Organizations.  Given the cartels’ extreme violence (which resulted in 15,000 drug-related deaths last year in Mexico–http://www.cipamericas.org/archives/5742), I can understand the inclination to label these organizations as terrorists.

Yet I can’t help but wonder if there is an ulterior motive to calling cartels terrorists.  Isn’t it true that the “War on Terror” is dwindling in the Middle East?  Is it not likely that defense contractors are looking for a new outlet for their military wares?  I worry that our government, rather than bring our troops home and shift our national priorities to health and education instead of fighting elusive enemies, will instead engage our nation in a new War on Terror with Mexican cartels.

If I thought fighting cartels with military violence would be fruitful, I might not be so concerned.  But consider this:  before the Merida Initiative was launched in 2006, drug-related deaths averaged 2,000 per year, far LESS than last year’s toll of 15,000.  Increased militarization of the so-called drug war was has only escalated violence, not curbed it–which, of course, is in the best interests of military contractors.

It is not, however, in the best interests of Mexican citizens, or of Americans like me who adore visiting Mexico but have not been able to travel there for over five years for fear of becoming a statistic.  It saddens me greatly to hear and read of the incredible violence racking not just the border areas, but also interior communities in Mexico, as the drug violence seems to have extended throughout the country and even into ours.  Mexican drug cartels run all the way up here in Montana, where they have links on the rez.

What is to be done about drug cartels if fighting them with military tactics doesn’t work?  Legalization of drugs?  Maybe.  Ignore the cartels and let them conduct their business?  That was better than pursuing them.  There aren’t any clear answers, but bolstering the Merida Initiative and increasing militarization with a new War on Terror would be a drastic mistake.  So if you begin to hear more in the news about “terrorism” in Mexico, don’t jump on the bandwagon.  We’ll only commit more American personnel to an unwinnable war and escalate violence that has already torn to shreds the fabric of countless Mexican communities.

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