Pubdate: Fri, 22 Jul 2011
Source: AlterNet (US Web)
Copyright: 2011 Independent Media Institute
Author: Phillip S. Smith


Author John Gibler's New Book Surveys Surveys the Unending Flow of 
Drugs North and Guns and Cash South and the Tens of Thousands of 
Murders They Cause. 

In Mexico, journalist John Gibler points out, there is the War on
Drugs and then there is the drug war. The War on Drugs is the
spectacle -- the well-publicized deployment of troops, the high-level
diplomatic meetings, the perp walks of captured capos before the
media, all designed to show that the Mexican government is dead
serious about confronting the "menace to society" that Mexican drug
trafficking organizations, the mislabeled "cartels," represent.

The drug war is what is really going on -- the tens of thousands of
murders, the amazing ability of cartel killers to do their dirty work
in broad daylight in cities full of police and soldiers and never get
arrested, the unending flow of drugs north and guns and cash south,
the undeniable collusion between factions of the security apparatus
and different cartels, all within the context of a nation unable to
provide safety or security for its citizens.

The Mexican War on Drugs is little more than a charade, or, as Gibler
puts it, "a terrifying farce." And it is a charade in which the US is
complicit. Our government is handing out $1.4 billion in Plan Merida
funds, most of it going to the Mexican military and law enforcement
apparatus to "strengthen institutions." But those institutions our
money is supposed to strengthen -- the army, the national police --
are precisely the ones complicit in the drug wars.

How is it that Ciudad Juarez could see 3,000 drug war murders last
year in a city filled with soldiers and military checkpoints? How is
it that 95% of those murders are never even investigated? How is it
that convoys of SUVS filled with rifle-toting cartel gunmen pass
freely through the streets? How is it that 90% of those arrested in
the drug war in Juarez are affiliated with the Juarez Cartel (La
Linea), while the Sinaloa Cartel, which is waging a deadly battle to
take over la plaza (the franchise), has hardly anyone arrested? How is
that 90% of those who were arrested are later released without charge?

And how is it that there is la plaza in the first place? To be clear,
the term refers to the ability of a cartel to go about its smuggling
business unimpeded in a particular geographic location. That means
someone, typically a military or national police commander has awarded
la plaza to a particular cartel, allowing safe and secure transit for
its goods and either looking the other way or actively participating
in the killing that needs to be done.

This is the second week in a row that I've reviewed a book that left
me angry. Last week, it was The Wars of Afghanistan with its carefully
documented evidence that billions of US taxpayer dollars going to
Pakistan to help the US in Afghanistan were instead used to help gin
up Islamic fundamentalist armies aimed at establishing a pro-Pakistan
caliphate in Afghanistan, all under the watchful eye of the CIA and
the Pentagon. And now, Gibler's revelations about the complicity of
Mexican military and law enforcement in the drug trade--while we
finance them.

Of course, it's not really a revelation. Anyone who has been seriously
watching Mexico knows exactly what is going on, but given the lame US
media coverage, it's easy to slip into a sort of crime beat mentality
that is good for counting the bodies, but not so good for much else.
To Die in Mexico is a sure antidote for that particular ailment.

Gibler's taut prose, keen eye, carefully honed outrage, and
willingness to actually do on-the-scene reporting bring the horrifying
reality of Mexico's drug war to vivid light. He travels with reporters
who don't report because they don't want to end up like the 60
journalists murdered in Mexico in recent years; he travels with crime
beat (nota roja) photographers who memorialize the corpses on the
pages of their tabloids; he goes to Culiacan, the home of the Sinaloa
Cartel, to interview Mercedes Murillo and the Sinaloa Civic Front and
the journalists of Rio Doce, who tell him they can't do real
journalism because it would be bad for their health. (I made that same
trek, talked to those same people, three years ago).

The cowing of the press is a critical issue. Because of it, Gibler
writes, a cone of silence descends over the drug war. The killings are
noted, yes, but never is there any discussion of who did it or for
whose benefit. There is no investigation beyond local cops counting
bullet casings at the scene while managing to miss the convoys of
cartel gunmen roaring by. Those whose tortured bodies prove their
guilt by virtue of having been killed.

It's not just the corruption and impunity in Mexico. Gibler offers a
devastating and heartbreaking critique of drug prohibition as well.
His arguments are not new to people who follow this, but his eloquence
is moving and astounding. And he offers a critique of a global
capitalist order in which Mexico exports goods, workers, and drugs and
imports guns, cash, and the violence of prohibition.

Yes, I am angry after reading To Die in Mexico. I've been cranking out
the Drug War Chronicle for more than a decade because I hate drug
prohibition and what it has done not only to our society, but around
the world. Years of immersion in the huge pile of crap and lies that
is the drug war tends to coarsen one, but work like Gibler's gets the
righteous juices flowing again. I think that's a good thing.

Gibler writes with a wisdom and eloquence about Mexico and its drug
war unmatched by anyone except the Sage of the Southwest, Charles
Bowden. And like Bowden, he sees Mexico's drug war for what it is: a
horrifying charade, a terrifying farce. And we're paying for it. I
heartily recommend this book. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.