Pubdate: Sun, 29 Mar 2009
Source: Athens Banner-Herald (GA)
Copyright: 2009 Athens Newspapers Inc
Author: Mary Sanchez
Note: Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star.


Of all the comments made recently about the drug-related murders in
Mexico, among the most disappointing came from our new president.

Speaking at his recent prime-time press conference, Barack Obama
declared that his administration would take a greater role in battling
Mexican drug cartels. The number of agents at the border will more
than double; extra resources will go to damming up the flow of guns
into Mexico; and enhanced cooperation with Mexican authorities is promised.

Obama noted these measures would ensure "that the border communities
in the United States are protected and you're not seeing a spillover
of violence, and that we are helping the Mexican government deal with
a very challenging situation." With all due respect, Mr. President,
the violence already is here. Take in the nightly news broadcast in
virtually any major U.S. city, and you'll see drug-related violence is
rampant. For that matter, it spread long ago to such places as Omaha
and Nashville and Kansas City.

Oh, I know what Obama was referring to. He meant the outlandish
bloodshed Mexico has suffered since President Felipe Calderon took
office and declared war on drug cartels. A horror movie director
couldn't have scripted the gore any better. Torture and murder between
rivals is common, as are the beheadings of federal police who are both
attempting to break the cartels and ferret out those in their own
ranks who are involved.

The tally of death rises daily, with more than 7,200 murders since the
beginning of 2008. This kind of violence - which threatens to plunge
Mexican society into chaos - has stayed south of the border. But let's
be honest: It wouldn't happen, and couldn't happen, without
accomplices on this side. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton got
nearer to this truth recently in a startlingly frank comment as she
set off to Mexico to meet with Calderon. "Our insatiable demand for
illegal drugs fuels the drug trade," Clinton said.

Bravo, finally a public admission of complicity from the top of the
political food chain. However, let's not stop at the Saturday night
coke fiends, bong hitters and meth heads. Let's talk about the
businesses on this side of the border that supply the high-powered
weapons to the Mexican cartels. Let's talk about how the money gets
laundered stateside (drug dealing ain't done in pesos, amigo). It's
all well and good to send a few more platoons of Homeland Security
agents to the border, and to send Blackhawk helicopters and all manner
of surveillance gizmos to Mexico. But our foremost efforts need to
remain on this side of the border, where presumably they can have
their greatest impact. Federal agents need to use every available
measure to break the cartels' foothold in the States, much as they did
with the Mafia.

A huge portion of the drugs consumed in the United States are ferried
up through Mexico. We're a $65 billion market for the cartels. The
Mexican drug lords did not seize the U.S. drug market overnight, but
it did occur in something of a vacuum of concern. We've had our share
of drug violence, to be sure. We just aren't inclined to assign
responsibility to anybody but drug users and inner-city folks caught
up in the mess for quick profits or to feed their own addictions.

Only now, with the violence of Mexico threatening tourism there and
terrifying people living in states such as California, Texas and
Arizona, is the general public becoming concerned. And yet, even Obama
doesn't readily make the connection. Yes, the reign of terror is
unfolding in Mexico, but it is hardly "contained" there. It's here,
it's entrenched, and it's not going away on its own.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake