Border Crisis 2

Some 15 thousand Haitian migrants put Del Rio, a small U.S border town, on the map. They huddled together with minimal care under the bridge connecting to the Mexican town Acuna until they were hastily removed by embarrassed U.S. authorities. Some were flown back to Haiti, others crossed the river to Acuna, where Mexican authorities pushed them out. A few thousand were sent by bus and plane to sent to various parts of the U.S. where they will probably be allowed to stay.

Thousands of undocumented migrants have camped under the International Bridge in Del Rio. (Credit: SBG)

Today no trace of them remains under the bridge or the debris they let behind.  Rio is is back to normal which means daily contact with Acuna. While migrants reach the town illegitimately by crossing the Rio Grande – the border – others legitimately use the bridge for their every day needs. Since almost all are Hispanic – same looks, same language – it’s sometimes hard to distinguish legal from illegal, as the Border Patrol has found.  

But there’s one major distinction, according to residents. The people of del Rio who took the cumbersome route of becoming U.S. citizens, resent the illegals who may reap the same benefits by just showing up. It’s definitely not fair, they say, which explains a much higher Hispanic vote for Trump in the last election.

Bob Kapoor, a central fixture of del Rio, tracks the changing moods of his town.   Owner of a hotel in the center of town, ”Whispering Palms,” with a parrot that doesn’t whisper but whistles, he also manages an orphanage for 25 abandoned children in Acuna. If all roads don’t lead to Del Rio, his certainly did from a highly successful travel agency business to a snug perch on the border where he can sample two cultures.

As the migration crisis grows, Governor Abbott is under pressures to close the border, a difficult undertaking considering political opposition and limited resources. On a trip outside town with Bob and his wife Jyoti we came upon his efforts which are problematic. A fence under construction was quite a distance from the border. We asked a supervisor for the reason. He wasn’t sure. Perhaps we knew. It was also less than half the height of the thirty foot Trump fence which can be scaled by agile migrants. A worker explained that this fence is not meant to be climbed but to funnel migrants along the road into the waiting arms of state troopers. Governor Abbott assured Tucker Carlson that this will work. We’ll see.

I was surprised to find many pleasant homes along this scenic stretch of border. Isn’t it something of a risk living here? It’s possible that the drug cartels tell crossers not to make trouble for the homeowners. It’s bad for business, which comes first. It may also be the case that come what may – say, another flood of unwelcome guests – the people of Del Rio as well as others on the border will continue to lead their customary lives despite outside pressures. It’s a way of life.

Haitian Children and the Smugglers

How does a Haitian child pass the day? For many it’s the most demanding and dangerous pastime of any childhood. They are making their way to America on an exhaustive, agonizing 7000 mile trek from Chile to Peru to Colombia to Central America to Mexico and then ultimately and hopefully to the promised land of their dreams, maybe.

Haitian immigrants arrive by boat, to begin their overland journey through the Darien Gap into Panama and on towards the United States. Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

They have been selected for this arduous trip because they are more likely to be let into the U.S. if they are alone. So a parent or some adult pays a smuggler $10,000 or more for each of them and off they go from a starting point in Chile where many Haitians now live in refuge from an unlivable Haiti. Other adults help them along the way, but it’s very hard going. Borrowed cars or dusty buses take them across the border to Peru and then to the Darien Gap between Colombia and Panama where the ordeal begins in earnest.

They must traverse a 66 mile stretch of jungle, mountains and rivers that is not meant for human habitation. By foot and canoe they make their way with dangers all around. Rivers can sweep the unprepared away. Criminals lurk in the bush ready to pounce or rape given a chance. Dead bodies are a fixture of the landscape.

It’s a relief finally to reach Mexico where a bus takes them to an easier river to cross, the Rio Grande, and their goal, the U.S border. There they join thousands of other Haitians under the international bridge at Del Rio, Texas, to await their fate in enormously crowded conditions. It’s a roll of the dice. They may be out of luck and for all their efforts deported. If they stay, they may be united with a relative, assuming there is one. An alternative is foster care or lodging in one of the U.S. resettlement homes for a period of time. 

Photo by Raul Arboleda/AFP via Getty Images

The smugglers they have paid profit immensely, especially the Mexican drug cartels who virtually control the Mexican side of the border and increasingly the American as well. They have even got in the habit of shooting across the border since they get no response. A U.S. agent remarked plaintively, “Someone is going to get hurt.”  The cartels with superior numbers are not intimidated. 

One group of human smugglers, however, is now paying a price. Suspicious of all the children crossing the border to Peru, Chilean police with the help of Interpol has broken up the organization financing the exodus, Frontera Norte, and arrested nine members. The need of Haitians and the welcoming policies of the Biden Administration are key factors in the mass migration to the U.S. But equally important, though somewhat downplayed, is the crucial role of the smugglers who, indifferent to suffering, add vastly to the numbers reaching the border.

Is the Deep State Getting Deeper

We hear a lot about the Deep State, but what exactly is it? What are its ingredients? Any names? It remains obscure, even as it’s continually invoked to explain various mishaps. It appears to be a very shadowy shadow government over which we seem to have no control. It’s not democracy in action – the opposite. 

American flag painting on high detail cracked ground . 3D illustration .

Donald Trump is noted for blaming his election loss and other troubles on the Deep State, and that has given some currency to its usage. But it has wider implications. Its seems there’s hardly an explosive event that has not been attributed to secret underlying forces that may have escaped our attention and conventional wisdom, from Pearl Harbor to the JFK assassination to 9/11 to the death of bin Laden to the collapse in Afghanistan. For all of these there are conspiratorial or shall we say, alternative theories by the dozen and growing. The deep state at work.

We have brought on this suspicion of secrecy by in fact being too secret. We now  have 17 – yes, 17 – U.S. intelligence agencies doing secret work unknown to us because revealing it, we are told, would compromise sources and methods. Yet few successes have been noted along the way. When NSA chief Keith Alexander named fifty terrorist attacks his agency had prevented, they turned out to be false. Meanwhile, all agencies, including the FBI, disregarded a mountain of clues warning of the 9/11 attack. It didn’t help that afterwards some likely conspirators were rather quickly spirited out of the country.

The result was a mountain of counter theories, unflattering to the U.S. Government as well as perhaps to the people promoting them. But the formation of a group of “Truthers” contesting the official U.S. explanation is not surprising. The deep state got deeper.

We know from renegade NSA staffer Edward Snowden and many others that secret agencies have been spying on us for dubious reasons. Despite the revelations, this effort apparently continues, though not so obviously. It doesn’t help that according to U.S. Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz, the FBI continues to abuse its investigative powers. His recent report claims that in examining some 7000 applications for surveillance, he found the FBI made extensive errors that call into question the whole investigative process. Another mark against the Deep State.

At the end of the U.S. Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked what kind of government has emerged. He replied famously: “It’s a republic if you can keep it.” That’s the ongoing problem for the U.S., faced as it is today with the Deep State encroaching on it, perhaps enveloping it. There are ingredients beyond the intelligence  agencies – elements of a monolithic media, a big tech of new found power and the usual assortment of shadowy politicians who prefer operating in the dark. Perhaps the intelligence agencies could set a precedent by issuing an annual report on their accomplishments for the year without in any way jeopardizing their mission. The best response to the Deep State is the sunlight of transparency.

Victory Was Possible in the Afghan War

Tora Bora. The name isn’t engraved in U.S. history, but it should be, says Peggy Noonan in her weekly column for The Wall Street Journal. She writes that in this mountainous region full of caves on the Pakistan border Osama bin Laden, mastermind of 9/11, was making his last stand under heavy U.S. bombardment. It was just a matter of time before U.S. troops would seize or kill him, and he was drawing up his will. The war would be over in a few weeks. Mission accomplished.

UNITED STATES ATTORNEY’S OFFICE, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NY www.cbsnews.com

Then, astonishingly, writes Noonan, U.S. troops were not supplied but were sent instead to fight the planned war in Iraq, which had nothing to do with 9/11. Bin Laden escaped to Pakistan, where he survived as an icon of error for another ten years until killed in a Navy Seal raid. Deprived of their target, U.S. policy makers assumed the larger task of conquering Afghanistan and turning it into a replica of American democracy.

What were U.S. policy makers thinking? asks Noonan. Incompetence and the fog of war may partially explain the blunder. But was there something else? There were those in Washington, she writes, who may have felt it was too soon to seize bin Laden since it might weaken support for the invasion of Iraq, their basic goal. Noonan doesn’t name them, but the so-called neocons, who figure prominently in U.S. foreign policy, wanted to remove Saddam Hussein as an enemy of both Israel and the US. The war gave them an opportunity at the cost of its lasting another twenty years.

Coincidentally, in the same issue of The Wall Street Journal, a leading neocon, Paul Wolfowtitz, says this longest war may not have been long enough. He writes that given low U.S casualties, a war can go on forever to help keep America safe.  He fails to mention how others may feel about endless wars destroying their homelands and peoples. Also unmentioned is his own role as U.S. deputy defense secretary in the Bush Administration in providing false information leading to the invasion of Iraq. Contrary to his assurances, Iraq had no link to 9/11 and was not building weapons of mass destruction. 

Oddly, the crisis of 9/11 did not lead to a concentration on strategic thinking that largely characterized Cold War policy. Rather impulse and emotion seemed to prevail. In his book “Bush At War,” Bob Woodward quotes a U.S. counter-intelligence chief predicting to a doubtful Russian: “We’re going to kill them.We’re going to put their heads on sticks. We’re going to rock their world.” Forever wars are not conducive to balanced judgment.

A Madness No More

Reefer Madness. That was the title of a popular 1936 film, one of a series depicting in grim detail all the horrors of marijuana from bad dreams and hallucinations to suicide and murder. You name it, marijuana caused it. As a result, one state after another outlawed it and Harry Anslinger, commissioner of the newly created Federal Bureau of Narcotic Control, declared it responsible for “insanity, criminality and death.”

We have come a long way from that prognosis. Today marijuana is the world’s most popular drug, a dramatic change in both attitude and law. Eighteen states in the U.S. have now legalized marijuana and 38 approved its medical use. It’s considered no worse than alcohol which is freely used, maybe a little better. It’s certainly preferable to the harder drugs like Fentanyl which is fifty times more potent than marijuana. Legalization is not entire. Prohibitions remain on excessive personal use, dealing in the drug or involving minors. But for normal everyday consumers, seeking recreation and relief, it’s time to celebrate.

Not for the Mexican drug cartels. They have said all along that legalization of marijuana is more damaging to them than law enforcement. That seems to be the case. For the moment, more drugs than ever are crossing the US. border thanks to a relaxation of rules in Washington, but in general marijuana deliveries are way down along with their price. Since marijuana amounts to about half of their business, they could be in serious trouble.

They have been scrambling to compensate, switching to harder drugs like fentanyl which was largely responsible for the record 93,331 American deaths from overdose last year. They have branched out into human trafficking and are forcing migrants to pay to cross the border which they completely control on the Mexican side.

Now they have invaded the U.S., starting hundreds of marijuana farms in southern California that will let them continue to profit from the drug. How they managed to avoid U.S.authorities in this extensive enterprise on U.S. soil is a major question. Are their farms a Mexican version of the sanctuary cities popular in California? Though they don’t make the official U.S. list of terrorists, they are terrorizing Americans the way they do Mexicans. When a couple of hikers got too close to a farm, a worker appeared with a picture of a bullet-ridden truck with a dead driver inside and warned: “This what will happen to you if you come back out again.”  

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Photo: Steve Petteway/Courtesy of the Collection of the Supreme Court of the United States

Since these farms are not in Mexico but in the U.S., it’s assumed that U.S. law enforcement, once galvanized, can root them out in a timely fashion. Then as soon as possible the remaining states should complete legalization and resolve contradictions with the U.S. Government. As U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas notes in a recent statement, it doesn’t make sense for the federal government to continue to enforce laws against marijuana that have been eliminated by the states. “The federal government’s current approach is a half-in, half-out regime that simultaneously tolerates and forbids local use of marijuana. “

Once this is accomplished, the harried cartels will face a marijuana wall of consumerism that could enfeeble them to the benefit of both the U.S. and Mexico.

The Bidens Do Mexico

Somehow in his frequent travels around the world Hunter Biden misplaced a laptop at a computer shop in Delaware. Once it was discovered and turned over to the FBI, its contents were made available and are now being reported. Among the various business ventures disclosed was one in Mexico involving that country’s richest man, billionaire Carlos Slim. A photo shows then Vice President Joe Biden and son Hunter smiling alongside Carlos Slim at a State Dept. luncheon in Washington D.C. in 2015.

Photo by https://nypost.com/

There’s nothing new about top U.S. officials getting photographed with controversial characters. The world is full of them. But doing serious business with them is another matter, especially when Mexico is now inundating the U.S with illegal and dangerous drugs and in the process wrecking its own country. There’s no clear evidence linking Carlos Slim to the drug dealing cartels that basically run Mexico, but it’s not really possible to be a billionaire in Mexico and still be alive without making an accommodation of some kind with them.

In turn the Biden’s have made their accommodation. They are hardly alone. In 2009 Slim made a $250 million loan to the ailing New York Times and is now the company’s second largest share holder. The Times reports very little about the doings of the drug cartels and the dismal situation in Mexico. The same is true of the rest of the mainstream media, which may explain why the Biden’s went so casually into business with Slim. They weren’t aware of his background.

The question arises as to why this enormous drug traffic escapes genuine scrutiny.

One reason may be fear. The murderous cartels have a long reach and in fact these days may be right next door. They are sophisticated, increasingly global managers who may associate with their peers in legitimate pursuits. Just don’t get in their way.

Then there’s indifference. Sensitively attuned to any violation of civil rights within their borders – don’t dare call a Mexican a bad name – Americans seem mindless of the slaughter of Mexicans in Mexico. Not our problem. What’s their problem?

And last but not least there’s money, many billions of dollars available in the U.S. that has not been laundered back to Mexico. It amounts to a vast redistribution of wealth from the less affluent buyers of drugs to the more affluent who profit from them. If the mainstream media were serious, it could examine how this works and what it does to the U.S..

Given the current rush to the border, cracks are appearing in media coverage. Apparently, it’s no longer taboo to mention the cartels whose control of drugs and migrants is so very obvious. But there’s a long way to go to make plain their impact on American life.

How Many Wars and For What?

As he pledged, President Biden is withdrawing from the war in Afghanistan. It will not be easy since it has lasted twenty years and the U.S. has not had its way. The Taliban are likely to assert control not without bloodshed. Biden will doubtless take a pummeling at home for allowing this to happen. But how long can a war be sustained with its inevitable death and destruction, and one that is no longer in the national interest?

MAIN POSHTEH, AFGHANISTAN – (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

As if to make up for this avoidance of battle, Biden has now bombed Iraqi militias that are assumed to be backed by Iran. The professed aim is to deter them from attacking U.S.troops in Iraq. The question is why these troops are still there close to twenty years after the much deplored and altogether unnecessary invasion of Iraq that started the region on its downward spiral of unending war.

It’s obvious time to regroup, say many analysts. A report by the Atlantic Council notes “The core assumptions underpinning U.S. policy – ensuring oil flows, maintaining Israel’s security, preventing the rise of a dominant hegemon and countering terrorism – have been upended by new realities.” The Middle East is not so crucial to the U.S. as it once was. No polity there, including Iran, seriously threatens the U.S. It’s a local matter.

It’s one thing to understand this, another to implement it. U.S. foreign policy is fragmented among various power seekers from Pentagon to State Department to CIA to, yes, the media. Gone are the days of the so-called “Wise Men” who formed an actual establishment and were able to construct a viable foreign policy that stood the test of time. Today the divisions are daily apparent, including the murky doings of a Deep State that manages to avoid serious scrutiny.

The current greatest threat to the US. is also divided – the ever combative Mexican drug cartels that compete with one aother for control of the immensely lucrative drug trade with firepower that has devastated Mexico. But unlike the U. S. they share a common overriding goal – move as many drugs and migrants across the U.S. border in the shortest possible time for the largest possible profit. This they are currently doing perhaps more successfully than ever before.

 US-Mexico border fence in Tijuana. Photograph: John Moore/Getty Images

There are simply no serious impediments to them on the border. Long stretches of its 2000 miles lack any sort of protection. You can cross freely, go back and forth without anyone noticing. A nation that is involved in protecting borders across the Middle East and elsewhere doesn’t seem to want to protect its own border. Even now in the face of an invasion of drugs and migrants, there’s a squeamish reluctance to put the manpower where it’s vitally needed and make it effective. –  on the border.

It’s not that the U.S. isn’t welcoming. A case can be made that all of Mexico qualifies for asylum given the violence that permeates the country. The root cause is the vast American consumption of illicit drugs that keeps the cartels in business. We Americans are responsible for the tragedy on the border. It’s of our own making, and we are the ones to mend it.