Ed Warner

Veteran Journalist

Beheadings in Mexico

Posted on | November 11, 2014 | No Comments

A widely circulated video conveys the beheading in Syria of James Foley, an American who had undergone harsh imprisonment and torture. The grim picture repulsed the media and US Government, leading, among other things, to yet another war in the Middle East. Without questioning the horror involved, why not look across our southern border into Mexico to see many more such videos, courtesy of the drug cartels.

Like those of ISIS, they spare no detail of the killing from the crude, slow beheading by machete to the last anguished scream of the victim to the severed head proudly held to the camera. Don’t Mexican heads count?

Apparently not, as far as the US media and government are concerned. The violence that has taken tens of thousands of Mexican lives in the last few years is gingerly mentioned if at all, then dropped as fast as a hot tamale. After all, who needs to know? As a top US official once explained: “Stuff happens.” Immigrants from Mexico and Central America, who are endlessly and critically reported, say they’re trying to reach the United States to escape the violence. So does Honduran President Juan Hernandez, who says the considerable migration from his country won’t stop until the violence does. But if the US media ignores or downplays the violence, then the immigrants can be dismissed as freeloaders in search of an easy life.

There’s a reluctance to speak of the violence because of its cause; namely, the voracious consumption of illegal drugs by Americans with most of them coming from Mexico. They are thereby financing the drug cartels whose brutality matches any on earth. In their endless conflicts over drug routes, reaching as far as Chicago, the cartels mercilessly torture and murder one another, not to mention any innocents who get in the way. And they don’t even have to be in the way. The cartels have developed a refined taste for cruelty, surpassing even beheadings. How about dismembering a victim, piece by piece, while he is still alive?

And where are our feminists now that we are truly witnessing a war against women? In her book, “The Killing Fields, a Harvest of Women,” intrepid El Paso Times reporter Diana Valdez describes the serial murder of women in Juarez, sometimes known appropriately as the “murder capital of the world.” Her book was ignored by the mainstream media and received hardly any US reviews. Such has been the fate of other worthy books dealing with the taboo topic of Mexican crime.

It does seem a little tiresome to have to go to war across the border when the exciting Middle East beckons. But the Mexican government, at least the part not controlled by the cartels, might well welcome a US invasion. Nothing else has worked to curb the power of the cartels. Short of that, what about legalizing marijuana, the cartels’ main product? That could cripple their business, perhaps destroy it. Already cartel pot growers in Mexico are giving up because of partial legalization of marijuana in the US. Please stop this legalization, they plead.

Still ignorance is bliss as far as Mexican violence is concerned. A professor of journalism at Arizona State University made the mistake of informing some students at the University of Pennsylvania that the drugs they’re enjoying come at a price; e.g., enriching the cartels. For that uncomfortable revelation he was soundly admonished by students and administration alike. The truth hurts when you’re trying to have a little fun. Don’t make us feel guilty.

Media and government are not exactly squeamish about beheading videos considering their enthusiasm for the ISIS ones. Why then ignore the Mexican version? We’re told nothing should be done or seen to discourage tourism or investment in Mexico, especially now that the oil and gas industry will be open to private business, ending the decades-long state monopoly which has been in decline. Still, people might like to know the actual condition of the country they’re going to be visiting or investing in.

Then there are those Americans who say, well, business is business. As long as the drug money is available, it may as well help the economy by going into legitimate business. Which no longer stays legitimate. Let cartel money in and corruption quickly follows, as demonstrated by a cartel takeover of iron ore mining and selling the mineral to China in return for pharmaceuticals useful for the drug trade. The same cartel also gained control of the lucrative avocado trade, adding significantly to the cost of the fruit.

What happens to the drug money in the United States? There’s much speculation, though not many answers. Earning an estimated sixty billion dollars a year from selling their wares in the US, the cartels keep much of it in place. Laundered by American banks and even the Los Angeles fashion industry, recently raided, there’s a lot to pass around, some going, it’s charged, to campaign funds and needy politicians. In his eye-opening account of the misdeeds of the Bush and Obama administrations, “Pay Any Price,” James Risen shows how venal and corruptible so many of our leaders are. He notes the US Government inexplicably lost two billion dollars in its occupation of Iraq and tried to keep it secret. Why a couple of cartel bosses could replenish that with a wink and a grunt – pocket change. Not to give anyone in Washington ideas.

Most of the countries whose citizens have been kidnapped by ISIS have paid the ransom demanded to free them. Not the US and Britain on the grounds that payment encourages more kidnappings. But it could be argued that widely viewed videos of beheadings create far more brutality than quiet ransoms. Sadism is highly contagious, as we know from Mexico. Ironically, a tiny sliver of the drug money Americans pay the cartels each year could obtain the release of the two remaining Americans held by ISIS.

It’s not easy to confront US policies, even if their foundations are beginning to crumble. Risen discovered this when he was charged under an obscure law for not revealing his sources in an expose of an undercover project against Iran. In fact, the Obama Administration has far exceeded any previous one in using the police powers of government against journalists and the honest officials – whistleblowers – who inform them. Awaiting a court decision on whether he goes to jail or not, Risen is still free and probing. But as his book reveals, others have been harshly punished, police-state style, for their integrity. Indeed, when two members of US law enforcement traced cartel money to higher-ups in this society, both lost their jobs and one was threatened with death. Understandably, they don’t want to appear in any kind of video. Leave that to the Mexicans, who will continue to be featured in various grisly imaginative ways that will not be seen by Americans.

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"Master of Narrative"

~Ted Lipien


This website contains the collected works, recent articles and continuing blog posts from veteran journalist Ed Warner who has been reporting for more than 55 years. Ed wrote for Time Magazine from 1958-1982 and wrote, edited and reported for the Voice of America from 1983-2005. He continues to freelance today and his articles have appeared in The American Conservative and on AntiWar.com and other news websites. More...

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