February 26, 2009

Why is Mexico burning?

So, I am sitting here on a snowy February day watching Anderson Cooper. In a long, personal, heart-wrenching video about Ismael Estrada and his lifelong experience living on the U.S.-Mexican border, special care is taken to mention that the violence is caused by "American guns smuggled into Mexico".

Um, no. It's not.

While it is true that far too many guns are purchased in American gun shops by people who turn around and trade or sell them directly to cartel members ("straw" purchases), that does not account for the huge numbers of automatic weapons, grenades, mortars, and other military hardware in the hands of the cartels. One recent CNN article blames the high number of weapons on the "6,600 U.S. gun shops within 100 miles of the Mexican border." Only a few paragraphs later it reports, "Drug traffickers used a bazooka in Tuesday's shootout with federal police". As the St. Louis Gun Rights Examiner pointed out a few days ago, the number of straw purchases American citizens make on behalf the cartels is meaningless because you cannot buy a bazooka, a mortar, an RPG, or an AK-47 in an American gun shop.

The real problem is not the guns the cartels are stealing from their own government, buying from foreign suppliers, and yes, sometimes smuggling in from the United States. The real problem is the culture of drug use in the United States which pours billions of dollars into the hands of the most sadistic, sociopathic people on the globe. At PBS.org, Robert Stutman has a very revealing interview about the connections between casual drug use among Americans and violence in Mexico. Anderson Cooper and his staff have the same internet access I do, perhaps even better access. So why aren't they quoting Stutman and other people directly involved in fighting both drugs and the violence they create? When comparing the situation in Columbia and Mexico, Stutman has this to say:

Both Colombia and Mexico are basically controlled by narcotics traffickers, and I think they may deny it. But anybody who knows it, knows it. They got there by very different means. And therefore I look at the countries very differently. I think basically, for years, the Colombian government and Colombian officials have tried to fight the cocaine war. They are simply out-gunned, and out-manned. We have had God knows how many Colombian cops killed. Nine Supreme Court justices were killed in Colombia.

I look at that country very differently than I look at Mexico, which has been bought off. To me there is a world of difference. In Mexico the issue is simply corruption. There are some exceptions, obviously. There are cops in Mexico who died fighting this, and I'm not denigrating those individual cops. The system never tried to fight cocaine in Mexico. In Colombia, they fought it, and they're basically losing. I won't go to Mexico. I have disdain for the system there. That doesn't mean individual Mexicans. It means the system that has allowed itself to become so corrupted. . . for the politicians to deny it. That's making politics more important than kids dying of drugs.

Virtually every administration has gone up there and testified that Mexico is cooperating with us. That is such crap, it's a joke, and every DEA agent knows it. But the argument that DEA agents would give you is--and it's a legitimate one--is that if we get up there and publicly say that, then the Mexicans will kick us out of the country, meaning kick out the DEA agents who are down there. Therefore, we would be worse off than we are now. That is absolutely a legitimate argument. But it means we perpetuate the myth that Mexico is really cooperating. The problem with Mexico is you don't know who the bad guys are.

There are cops who die. There are policemen who I know in Mexico who are incredibly honest and hard working, who risk their lives, but the system doesn't encourage that. That's the difference. The system encourages the corruption in Mexico, because nobody gives a damn.

There had been successful moments with Mexico, but there has never been more than a moment that has been successful. I think Mexico is probably the worst-case example of the drug problem. I don't mean all Mexicans, but the system doesn't care. All the system cares about is, "How much money can I get out of this?" Politicians and law enforcement officers have become multi-millionaires from drugs in Mexico.

In contrast with Anderson Cooper's emotional retelling of Estrada's story, Lou Dobbs gets right to the point and focuses on the enormous quantity of drugs captured in the recent raids on the Sinaola cartel:

It seems to me that Lou Dobbs has a better understanding of the situation than Eric Holder whose press conference became a campaign platform for reinstating the unwanted, unneeded, and useless Assault Weapons Ban.

And not only Lou Dobbs, John Roberts also did a reasonable job of seeking out and interviewing a knowledgeable commentator:

So what happened Anderson? Your show is supposed to be the one concerned with "keeping them honest", but instead of an indepth report on the causes of gang violence in Mexico we get a tearjerker that contains nothing more than your producer's quaint and unrealistic nostalgia. Bill Conroy over at NarcoSphere tells a very human story, but also includes clear and honest coverage of the corruption that makes the violence possible.

Over at Dallas News, Tod Robberson has a very enlightening opinion piece that points out all the many reasons legalizing drugs simply will not work. Among other things he reminds us that casual drug use rates among adolescents would probably increase dramatically regardless of how carefully such legislation is crafted.

Sadly, there is no way I can justify closing out this post without relating one of the most humorous, and yet frightening, internet fiascos I have had the displeasure to recently witness.

Over at Foreign Policy, an analyst named Shannon O'Neill asked the question, "Why is the United States backing Mexican Drug gangs?" In the middle of her article she stated this:

There are nearly 7,000 gun shops along the southern U.S. border, about three for every mile. They sell thousands of hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, AK-47s, and "cop killer" guns and bullets that cut through Kevlar body armor. The weapons quickly flow south, again with barely a nod from U.S. Border Patrol.

Within days the comments portion of the blog overflowed with readers pointing out the blatant falsehoods in that one paragraph. Dozens of people stepped up to correct her propagandistic assertion that military grade weapons are flowing through straw purchasers into the hands of Mexican gangs. In an effort to save face, she came back a few days later with this response:

I do incorrectly imply in the article that gun shops on the border sell hand grenades and rocket-propelled grenade launchers. The border gun shops do not legally sell these. However, these type of weapons used by Mexican drug cartels have been seized by customs officials making their way south through the border. How they are purchased is somewhat unknown, but many of these are making their way to Mexico through the United States.

Undeterred, dozens more came back and pointed out that if she is presenting herself as an expert, she has a responsibility to not "imply" anything, but to do solid research, present the facts, and then give her analysis.

She has not replied since.

The part that scares me is how easily she published a blatant lie on the pages of an internet site read by politicians in many different governments, including our own. The politicians readng her article would have neither the time nor the inclination to read the comments section!

When I see the sheer stupidity being displayed by Eric Holder in proposing that by some miracle reinstating the Assault Weapons Ban would magically end violence in both Northern Mexico and dozens of American cities I cannot help but wonder if someone like Shannon O'Neill is sitting in an official capacity inside the vast labyrinth of American intelligence agencies publishing equally false, misleading, and delusional reports and those reports are the basis for Holder's own analysis.

Who is really advising our President? No one on his cabinet has a published history reflecting a solid reliance on fact-based academic reports. Many of them have histories of fraud, deception, and avoidance of reality. If the people who write their reports are not extremely devoted to factual analysis, there is no way to predict what kind of delusional policies and laws we are going to see in the next few years.

Every day that goes by only serves to increase my concern. The recent mass arrests of Sinaola members was the result of a wide-ranging investigation begun long before Holder was considered for his post. Seeing him take credit for an operation that he had nothing to do with, and then use that operation to justify a reconsideration of the Assault Weapons Ban, is sickening in the extreme.

I have spent thirty years telling people that "sex, drugs, and rock and roll" would be the death of the modern world. No one believed me. Everyone in love with the modern culture of unlimited self-indulgence has insisted that what they do on their own time in the privacy of their own home has no impact on the world at large. Well, the thousands of dead innocents caught in the crossfire between rival gangs and the Mexican army indicates to me that I was right all along.