The Cartels are a Bigger Problem than ISIS

In May of 2012, 49 headless, handless and footless bodies were dumped on the side of the road in Guadalajara. Before the Pope’s visit to Mexico the Knights Templar left ten severed heads outside a slaughterhouse as a warning not to support their rival gang. Nine bodies were hung from a bridge and 14 severed heads were found near the US-Mexico border. The cartels are in every major city in the US, and clear up to $29 billion every year. On a daily basis Mexican drug cartels do things that make ISIS look like a bunch of high school bullies, but it’s the fight against ISIS that has the federal government spending $7.5 million a day using the most sophisticated and expensive military technology ever developed.

Mexican drug cartels are a real threat to national security, not ISIS and certainly not Ebola. If a WMD ever got into the homeland, it would probably have gone through one of the air-conditioned tunnels normally used to get in brick-weed, cocaine, heroin, human slaves and illegally harvested organs; but never mind nukes or dirty bombs, small arms and drug overdoses together have killed more people and destroyed more lives than atom bombs ever will.

The brutality and scale of drug trafficking organizations are just products of circumstance; humans aren’t foreign to the concept of mass killing, persecution and drug taking. It’s not only the money to be made that’s motivating them; it’s the ease with which they’ve been able to get away with it.

In the wake of one of the worst financial crises in history, it’s all too clear how easily banks get away with committing crimes. The Department of Justice fined HSBC $1.92 billion for allowing itself be an easy channel for drug-money laundering, a tiny fraction of the profits it earned off the cartels alone. The bank had Mexico in its lowest risk category for money laundering, a denomination too naïve to not be deliberate. Wachovia also suffered no criminal charges after it was uncovered they facilitated the laundering of over $378 billion in drug money for the Sinaloa Cartel.

Whichever one is actually worse, the cartels or ISIS (it’s a tough call), they both certainly have something in common: our government carelessly armed them both using taxpayer dollars. We’ve all heard of the abandoned military technology from the Iraq War that ISIS now touts, but do you remember the DEA’s Operation Fast and Furious? It consisted of letting the Sinaloa Cartel get its hands on small arms with tracking devices on them in order to gain information on gun-running, a strategy known as gun walking (letting the guns walk). What seemed like simply a bad idea in law enforcement was allegedly a perverse divide-and-conquer strategy in which the DEA supplied the Sinaloa Cartel with weapons and facilitated their drug smuggling in exchange for information on rival cartels. This interesting document details the chilling allegations.

Apparently American law enforcement has a history of doing this; gangster Whitey Bulger essentially received protection from the FBI, which turned a blind eye to his murders in exchange for information about the Italian Mafia. Bulger’s former FBI handler tipped him off about his pending indictment so he fled and became No. 2 on the FBI Ten Most Wanted Fugitives List, after non other than Osama Bin Laden.

If the United States has under its wing the largest defense and intelligence agencies in the world, why are there tons of deadly drugs coming over the border? Why are leaders of murderous cartels on the list of the richest men on the planet?

It seems like we’re picking our battles where the money lies. The military industrial complex benefits from us being at war with an enemy far enough away we can bomb them. The prison industrial complex benefits from having a large prison population, and an ample supply of cheap narcotics makes that easy. Law enforcement agencies collectively benefit from grant money to fight criminal organizations. The media benefits from terrified citizens who frantically tune in to hear about the latest enemy or disease that might kill them in their sleep.

I’m not proposing there’s a few of evil men sitting around a table somewhere plotting to take over the world; this isn’t a conspiracy. Vicious cycles of violence, hatred and dirty money happen when those in power are too apathetic to make change, and take actions for their own interest instead of the common good. In the words of Irish philosopher Edmund Burke, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

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