Time To Defend the U.S.

The retreat from Afghanistan is a significant U.S. loss, but the Taliban never threatened the homeland itself. Similarly, a variety of other U.S. wars – Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia – have not endangered the U.S. But one country continues to press, indeed invade the U.S. without let-up – neighboring Mexico, or rather the drug cartels that control it. The exceptional country, as we’re sometimes called, has been exceptionally forbearing.

Photo by www.vox.com Megan Jelinger/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

This geopolitical anomaly has been the stuff of satire. Take the Babylon Bee whose fake headline reads: “President Trump is under heavy criticism for announcing the deployment of thousands of U.S. troops to the U.S.-Mexican border with critics slamming him for using the military for the bizarre purpose of defending the country.” No one is sure where Trump got this strange idea. A soldier complains: “I signed up to occupy Afghanistan, not defend the country. When I said I’d defend American freedoms, I meant I’d defend them abroad, not defend them at home.”

The comic approaches reality when U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin assures Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that the U.S. will help defend Saudi Arabia’s borders with Yemen, a smaller neighbor it has pummeled mercilessly in a six-year war. Some borders are more deserving than others.

The problem is the U.S border has never been more vulnerable. The highly organized, unrelenting drug cartels are pushing more hard and dangerous drugs than ever into the U.S. along with migrants who are forced to pay $12,000 for the trip or more if they’re from outside Mexico and Central America. It has been a cartel bonanza. And now the cartels are making a home in the U.S. interior – more than a thousand illegal marijuana farms in the California desert and counting. Not to mention all the distribution networks throughout the country, leading to the retail gangs that battle one another over drug deals in the inner cities.

Photo by military.com (U.S. Army/Army Spc. Ethan Valetski)

It’s clearly a national problem that needs a national solution. And that would mean engaging the U.S. military to make up for the outmanned and underfunded local law enforcement. Starting with the British soldiers quartered in colonists’ homes before the Revolution, Americans have always been wary of military involvement in domestic troubles. So, it has been used sparingly over the years, occasionally to break up riot-prone strikes or to enforce desegregation against resisting mobs in the south. There was of course the massive deployment of troops in the tumultuous Civil War.

But these were all fellow Americans. The cartel invasion is foreign for which there  are Constitutional provisions to react. This is where lessons learned from recent dubious wars can apply. While they were not won, U.S. troops were highly successful in punitive raids, in and out fast with maximum damage and minimal casualties. Writes U.S. Marine veteran Gil Barn dollar in The Wall Street Journal: “Thanks to strategic mobility, expeditionary logistics and high levels of readiness, the U.S. military is peerless when it comes to projecting combat power.”

That would readily apply to any action against the cartels. The idea is not to try to conquer Mexico and take the half that remains after the U.S. conquest of the 1840s. It’s to repel the cartels from the border and from the interior. Some thirty thousand troops could seal the border. Another ten thousand could flush out the cartel marijuana farms in California which alarm and intimidate inhabitants and keep new ones from starting.

Since the cartels have become very adventurous in crossing the border, the U.S. could pursue them if necessary, into Mexico. It’s their land, and they have forfeited it. There may be no final victory. We’re used to that. But in stalling and weakening the cartels, we can come to the rescue of both the U.S. and Mexico whose people have suffered indescribable brutality at the hands of the cartels.

The Drug Cartels Are Here (Part Two)

The U.S. border town Douglas, Arizona, has set an example of how to deal with a Mexican drug cartel. Seizing an opportunity, a cartel sent over a flamboyant youngster to run for mayor of Douglas. He won the election and promptly started to turn Douglas into a replica of a Mexican cartel town. That was too much for the citizenry who rebelled and ran an opposition candidate in the next election – a Mormon with ten children. He won, the cartel favorite scampered away, and Douglas, with some adjustments, was able to return to normal.

Photo by wikipedia.org Creator: Chairiot – Ralph Megna 

The circumstances of Landers (pop: almost 3000) in the southern California desert are different, but the spirit could be the same. At the small post office, which comprises the center of the town, I met two elderly residents who described their plight. They are surrounded by cartel marijuana farms. They stink,” says one, meaning in a number of ways. They produce trash whch they don’t bother to clean up. They steal water needed in great volume for the marijuana plants. Their pesticides destroy wildlife, even two bears, not to mention the slow moving tortoise always threatened with extinction.

Patricia Domay, who lives in Landers, complained to a local newspaper that the name should be changed to  “Potlandia.” My postoffice companion doesn’t want her name mentioned because of the possible danger. In Mexico anyone making this kind of trouble for a cartel would be promptly killed. She says townspeople are understandably intimidated by the spreading maijuana farms. “They are nervous, frustrated and some are scared as they have every right to be.” But a recent community meeting of some 200 people considered ways to combat the ominous newcomers, including, to be sure, harsher laws against them.

The cartels would like us to leave so they can take over, says this impassioned Landers resident. No way. Let them leave. 

For better or worse in this democracy of ours, Landers can’t expect much help from U.S. higher-ups. Complacent dreamers in Washington might even consider the cartel intrusion as a kind of prank. Look at what those silly Mexicans are up to now. Besides, the people of Landers are not our kind of people. Our kind are now bringing “peace and democracy” to various parts of the world.

No dreamers, the cartels are aware of this attitude in Washington. They looked no doubt with astonishment on the tolerance of the recent burning and looting of major American cities. We don’t do this kind of thing, they would say. Surely, the indulgent U.S won’t interfere with our harmless marijuana farms.

In fact, they are much involved. While their farms are quite distant from one another in the desert, they are hardly alone. Free from border restrictions, they sell  directly to the U.S, which requires all kinds of intermediaries to make the deliveries and the sales. They tie into the inner city gangs which profit mightily from their participation and mimicking Mexico, fight among themselves for control of the traffic. How much of this is responsible for the destruction in the cities? No one bothers to look. 
Let small town America – a Douglas, a Landers – show the way out.

The Drug Cartels Are Here (Part One)

Traveling through the vast, timeless California desert, you see little sign of life. But wait! What’s that white speck in the distance? And yet another. And one more. As you get closer, you realize these are the white canopied covers of marijuana farms run by the Mexican drug cartels, who not content with pushing more drugs and migrants than ever across the porous border, have set up shop in the U.S. interior. It’s a first and by any definition an invasion, and they plan to stay. Better get used to it.

Photo by losangeles.cbslocal.com

The grim gray midsummer desert demeanor wouldn’t see to offer an attractive change of life, but people are coming, some fed up with Los Angeles to the south. Home prices are rivaling Florida’s, though there’s no sparkling water or beach. For the cartels it’s a perfect setting – hot, dry and spacious. No nosy neighbors, who like the police, tend to keep their distance. Don’t make any unnecessary contact, the locals are warned. Farm occupants are not to be seen during the day, but lights burn all night with their activity. Normally very aggressive at home, they are more cautious here. Business comes first. Violence can wait.

Frank Luchino, city manager of Twentynine Palms, a town with many cartel neighbors, says every level of government and law enforcement is doing its best to remove them. But there’s a big bump in the road. When an illegal farm is discovered, it’s only a misdemeanor with a $500 fine, not even chump change for cartels whose product, including marijuana, earns close to one hundred billion dollars a year from American consumers. A more severe penalty is needed but is slow in coming.

Too slow for the citizens of the region. “It’s outrageous that this is going on and nothing is done about it,” says Liz Shickter, a manager at the historic 29Palms Inn who lives a few miles outside the town center. There are periodic raids that destroy some farms, but they are quickly replaced by others in all the available land. “I smell it,” she says of the ever-present marijuana. She notes how a complex of farms has been provocatively located in view of a U.S. Marine base – a brazen gesture since the US. military, unlike the Mexican, doesn’t belong to the cartels. Still, the U.S military is not allowed to confront the cartels. They are more or less safe.

This doesn’t account for Marine retirees and others in the area who carry guns and are good shots. In Mexico, which has very strict gun laws, the cartels don’t have to worry about the resistance of an armed citizenry, and they of course have plenty of guns with which they have given Mexico one of the world’s highest homicide rates. In the California desert, they would have to take pause. No use losing a shootout. Supreme strategists, they will figure.

Fentanyl: Cure & Killer

Apache, China Girl, Dance Fever, Great Bear. He-man. Jackpot. Murder 8. Some of the street names for fentanyl, a drug that fires the imagination like no other. A man-made opioid, it creates a euphoria way beyond rival drugs, 50 times more potent than heroin with which it is sometimes laced. It also kills like no other if not handled with extreme care. A speck barely visible to the eye can be quickly lethal. Overdose led to a record 93, 331 deaths last year. a thirty per cent jump from the year before.

Fentanyl is the gift of Wuhan, China, which also gave us Covid-19. It seems only fair that a global disease should be followed by a drug that relieves its pain were it not equally dangerous. While skilled in invention, Wuhan is careless in regulation, thus providing a home for criminals who are as enthusiastic about fentanyl as its consumers. It’s a big money maker since it’s inexpensive to produce.

Photo by cnn.com

Chinese and Mexicans have combined to market the drug. Chinese manufacturers may send precursors of fentanyl to Mexico, where it is processed in Mexican labs, some run by Chinese. The cartels then take it across the porous border for distribution in the U.S. At times, Chinese dealers directly contact customers through the “dark web“ of the internet, then mail off a few bits of fentanyl in an envelope that may be worth several thousand dollars on delivery. Afterwards, Chinese banks and businesses are adept at laundering the proceeds back to China or Mexico

It’s hard for law enforcement to keep up with this streamlined system. Not that the Chinese are all that interested. They say they want to accommodate the U.S. in cracking down on the lawbreakers, but their laws are lax and casually enforced. Many drug manufacturers, university trained, operate freely in the open. There are also suggestions that the Chinese government doesn’t mind giving a poke in the eye to another power that pokes it.

Ben Westhoff, author of “Fantanyl Inc.,” says he doesn’t know whether the ingenious chemists who create the death-dealing drugs should be locked up or awarded a Nobel Prize. It’s a case of good intentions gone spectacularly awry. Paul Janssen, a Belgian chemist, brought out eighty useful medical drugs, including fentanyl which is routinely given to patients for pain relief, a legitimate purpose. Little did he know that his dazzling drug would lead to another kind of enormous worldwide pain.

Weathoff writes that just as astronauts take voyages into outer space so do psychonauts delve into their own psyches in search of the macular high or cure. It’s an understandable human drive, but one that needs the most positive restraints.