South of the Border

A crisis is brewing

by , April 28, 2010


Read the response by the Antiwar.com Staff.

The other day, the head of security for the Mexican state of Michoacán was ambushed in her car: she escaped with non-life threatening injuries, but four people were killed and ten wounded in a well-planned attack that featured the throwing of hand grenades. In Ciudad Juarez, seven Mexican police were attacked and killed by assailants. The attacks were the work of Mexican drug cartels, who have long been at odds over turf, but the latest attacks may be an indication that the cartels are increasingly turning to targeting the Mexican government itself as their principal enemy.

Mexico’s governing class has long been one of the most venal and corrupt in the world. For many years, the ruling Institutional Party of the Revolution (PRI) dominated national and state politics, dispensing favors to the privileged, repressing any and all signs of dissent, and generally living off the fat of the land. This ended in 2000, when the candidate of the conservative opposition, Vicente Fox, captured the presidency, but the breakup of the PRI’s political monopoly did little to liberalize Mexican society, which remained sunk in poverty, corruption, and spiraling violence. The violence is generated primarily by the rising drug cartels, which have grown to the point where they threaten the authority of the governing structures, until today, when they are attacking government convoys, and no one – not even the head of security for a major state – is safe.

And that goes for the Americans, too, who are finding that the violence is spilling over the US-Mexican border. As a 2009 news report put it:

"Homes are being invaded by gunmen, people raped and tortured, and bodies dumped in the Arizona desert as violence from the Mexican drug wars spills into the American Southwest. Illegal immigration and drug smuggling have always been issues in this border state, but warring Mexican cartels are carrying violence to levels that have shocked law enforcement and government officials.

"There are more than 1,000 safehouses used to corral illegal immigrants after they are smuggled into the country at any given time in Phoenix, according to Lieutenant James Warriner of the Arizona Department of Public Safety. Illegal immigrants are taken to so-called drop houses, stripped naked, blindfolded, and held for ransom. If they’re naked, there is less chance of them fleeing. A bucket in the room serves as a toilet.

"’Next door in the other room is the torture/rape room,’ [Arizona state Senator Jonathan] Paton said. ‘They say, "Hey we need another 2,000 dollars or we’re going to torture and rape so-and-so."’

"Arizona state police have found 30 to 40 people crammed into rooms the size of a child’s bedroom. Paton recently visited one in a Phoenix neighborhood. …

"Home invasions and kidnappings are so prevalent now that the Phoenix Police Department has formed a special squad just to deal with them. Men hired by the Sinaloa drug cartel – the most active in Arizona – wearing body armor and tactical gear identical to American SWAT teams kick in doors, zip-cuff the inhabitants, then kill them. Several bodies were dumped in the western Phoenix suburb of Buckeye last year, according to Warriner."

Talk about terrorism – this is the real McCoy. So what is the federal government doing about it? The answer is: nothing. The US-Mexican border is just as porous as ever, and any attempt to seal it is denounced as "racist" and the equivalent of setting up a "police state."

While I don’t approve of the recent legislation passed by the Arizona state legislature, which empowers police to check anyone who might "reasonably" suspected of being in the country illegally, opponents of the bill – particularly the professional victimologists and weepy-eyed liberals – refuse to recognize that the effort was spawned, not by hate but by the rising violence of a nearly-failed state – Mexico – which is seeping across the border and threatens to become a torrent of criminality and chaos.

What I would like to know is this: what country on earth fails to guard its borders this way? We are often told by liberals and "progressives" that the US needs to be more like Europe, with cradle-to-grave security and government-run health care, but what about when it comes to immigration? Precisely because the Europeans have extensive welfare states, the demand to see "Your papers, please" is a common request made by law enforcement agencies in those countries. And no one would think of questioning their right to do so.

An estimated six million illegal immigrants have flooded the US in recent years – in sheer quantitative terms, this represents the biggest single threat to our national security. And yet the merest suggestion that something ought to be done about it is met with cries of outrage by the liberal media and the usual suspects, i.e. the Big Business lobby, which thrives on a pool of unlimited cheap labor, the "La Raza" crowd, which is basically arguing for a policy of open borders, and the Roman Catholic Church, which seeks to replenish its fast-emptying churches with a fresh crop of congregants.

Nothing enrages our liberal elites like the suggestion that we need to control immigration from our southern neighbor. In response to the Arizona law, the legal affairs editor of the New York Times says she is boycotting the state where "breathing while undocumented" is a crime. Notice the phraseology: they’re not illegal immigrants, they’re just "undocumented." Try telling the IRS that all those home office deductions aren’t illegal, they’re merely "undocumented," and see how far it gets you. The point being that illegal immigration is – gasp! – illegal, i.e. against the law. So why isn’t the law being enforced?

While we’re expending tremendous resources in trying to introduce some sort of order to the wilds of Afghanistan, the wilds of Arizona, New Mexico, and the entire American Southwest are under siege by criminal gangs, the drug cartels, in effect extra-state actors with malign intent – with no discernible response from the Feds. The Arizona state legislature is merely filling a void left by Washington, which refuses to face a very real and growing problem.

Okay, you might ask, so what’s your solution to the problem, Mr. Smarty-pants? A logical question, with an inescapably logical answer: stop trying to protect Afghanistan’s border with Pakistan and start protecting our own border with Mexico. Make the border airtight. In short, start using the resources of the federal government to carry out its one-and-only legitimate function: securing and protecting our borders.

Mexico is a seething cauldron that is already overflowing onto American soil; the national government in Mexico City appears to be losing control, even in popular tourist areas. The drug cartels are successfully challenging its monopoly on the use of force in every area of the country. When the whole place starts to come apart at the seams, do we really want a policy of open borders in place?

I had to laugh when I read about the "travel advisory" issued by the Mexican government, which warns Mexicans "it should be assumed that any Mexican citizen could be bothered and questioned for no significant reason at any moment." When I visited Mexico in the early 1970s, I was stopped by Mexican soldiers en route to Puerto Vallarta.

They had set up a checkpoint at the Sinaloa border, and ordered us out of the car. The friend I was with was outraged, and kept protesting. "Banditos!" he shouted. I winced, and kicked him under the seat. As I stepped out, and looked down the barrel of a submachine being pointed at me, I wondered if this was The End. I was determined, however, that it would not be.

However, it didn’t look good at that particular moment: there we were, in the middle of the desert, with not a soul around but me, my dumb-ass friend, and a dozen mean-looking Mexican soldiers – not cops, but military dudes, one of whom was staring at me and caressing his submachine gun with an apparently itchy trigger finger.

They searched the car, and found what they were looking for – something to steal. Pancho Itchy Finger held my portable typewriter aloft, triumphant. His fellow thugs grunted appreciatively. As my excitable friend started up with the "Bandito" refrain, I told him to STFU and then turned to face the Mexicans: "Go ahead and take it," I said, "it’s all yours."

A few minutes later, I was back in the car, sans typewriter, the wind drying the sweat off my brow as we sped toward Puerto Vallarta.

That the US State Department hasn’t issued a travel advisory warning Americans against the growing lawlessness that threatens visitors to Mexico is just another indication of government failure. Our government is so busy carrying out tasks it has no constitutional authority to involve itself in that it has no time, energy, or interest in doing what it is supposed to be doing, in this case protecting the physical safety of American citizens.

Read more by Justin Raimondo