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by J. F. Kelly, Jr. | Coronado Every day brings new headlines about the violence in Mexico. It still seems to fall on deaf ears unless, that is, one happens to live near the border or in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Phoenix or one of the other U. S. cities on a growing list of places caught up in the drug war violence spilling over from Mexico. Americans were also slow in recognizing the problems associated with illegal immigration until it got out of control. Now, after several years of warnings about a spillover in violence, the warnings have come true. Phoenix led the nation in kidnappings last year, many related to the Mexican drug wars. Many victims were U.S. citizens or legal residents. U.S. mayors and law enforcement officials in border communities are expressing growing concern at the violence they are now seeing. The governor of Texas has called for the use of federal troops to reinforce the border. Other governors have considered similar requests. The U.S. State Department has issued warnings to Americans who would visit Mexico to be aware of the danger of violence and to avoid certain areas. Tourism in Mexico is sharply down, another victim of the violence. The reports describing the carnage and atrocities are warlike indeed. That’s because this is a war with the Mexican army fully involved. It is not one of those make-believe wars, only the enemy is not playing by Geneva Conventions rules. Last year alone, over 6000 were killed and the total body count to date is well over 7000. Many were executed, their bodies decapitated or dismembered or both. Some bodies were dissolved in acid. Many of the victims, we are told, were involved in drug trafficking but many were involved in the fight against the cartels and some were innocent bystanders. The war is going badly for the good guys. The drug cartels and the gangsters they control are well-organized and armed with a variety of heavy weapons including assault weapons, grenade launchers, anti-vehicle weapons and assorted explosive devices. They control firepower enough to equip the army of, say, a Central American republic. Several area analysts have warned that Mexico is in danger of becoming a failed state although exactly what that means is hard to say. The United States is not an innocent bystander in this war. First and foremost, it is demand by American drug addicts and casual users that is the root cause of this carnage. It is their money that is financing the cartels and their armies. How can they sleep at night with this on their consciences? Second, the weapons used for these killings come, almost without exception, from the U.S., most purchased legally by middle men from authorized dealers, to be smuggled into Mexico. Third, there is growing evidence of U.S. gang involvement partnering with Mexican gangs and cartels to smuggle and distribute drugs, guns and people. This is serious stuff. Mexico, our second most important trading partner, is the thirteenth largest economy in the world and the forth largest in the Western Hemisphere after the U.S., Canada and Brazil. The fact that it is not winning this war that we are responsible for should be a matter of grave concern to all Americans. How did it get to this point and what should we be doing about it? Mexico is a poor country in spite of its size, growing population, abundant natural resources and importance as the largest Spanish-speaking country in the world.. Wealth is concentrated in a small percentage of the population and poverty and unemployment is widespread. Youth are easily recruited by the cartels. Money talks. Corruption is pervasive and government, the military and law enforcement agencies are not immune. They often are mistrusted by the people. From time to time it is difficult, given the level of corruption, to tell the good guys from the bad. Intimidation takes a heavy toll and threats against law enforcement, government officials, their families and anyone else who gets in the way of the cartels is a huge problem. The Mexican government clearly needs help in dealing with this problem. Since it is a direct consequence of our insatiable appetite for drugs, the United States is morally obligated to help in any way it can. Meanwhile, the president needs to take immediate steps to safeguard U.S. citizens and this goes way beyond calling for drug use prevention, restrictions on weapons sales, or another beefing up of the Border Patrol. An obvious first step would be to militarize the border. The Border Patrol is a law enforcement agency that lacks the training, equipment, organization, staffing, leadership or even culture to control a violent and dangerous border. This should properly be viewed as a military mission, not a law enforcement challenge. The use of military forces to secure borders is widespread throughout the world and few borders are more important or more out of control than this one. The mere presence of U.S. troops on the border would be a powerful deterrent. This won’t play well with the world-without-borders crowd, and the overextended U.S. military won’t relish another commitment but something must be done to secure the southern frontier before it’s too late. CRO copyright 2009 J.F. Kelly, Jr. J.F. Kelly, Jr. is a retired Navy Captain and bank executive who writes on current events and military subjects. He is a resident of Coronado, California.

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