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Drugs and Guns

The New York Times has an article about the drug war activities in Mexico: In Drug War, Mexico Fights Cartel and Itself
They mention Hillary Clinton’s well-publicized statements:

At the same time, American drug users are fueling demand for the drugs, and American guns are supplying the firepower wielded with such ferocity by MexicoČs cartels ÷ a reality acknowledged by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on her trip to Mexico last week.

Calderon has also complained about the American guns, and a lot of people (including politicians) have been talking about the need to stop the smuggling of guns across the Mexican border – guns easily bought at gun shows and retail stores in the United States.
This has led to more calls to militarize the border and stop smuggling both ways (people who say we can just stop smuggling by doing a better job of border control don’t quite understand the amount of legal traffic and trade across that border. Truly effective interdiction efforts would hurt the economy of both countries.)
And yet, let’s take a closer look at those guns…

On night patrol in Reynosa in November, soldiers came upon some suspicious men, who led them to a house that was packed with armaments for the drug cartels ÷ 540 rifles, 165 grenades, 500,000 rounds of ammunition and 14 sticks of dynamite. […]
The war analogy is not a stretch for parts of Mexico. Soldiers, more than 40,000 of them, are confronting heavily armed paramilitary groups on city streets. The military-grade weapons being used, antitank rockets and armor-piercing munitions, for example, are the same ones found on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Are these being bought at gun shows in the U.S.? Unlikely.
Anybody who has followed the drug war in Mexico knows that there is another factor that is heavily involved here…

The cartels bring in billions of dollars more than the Mexican government spends to defeat them, and they spend their wealth to bolster their ranks with an untold number of politicians, judges, prison guards and police officers ÷ so many police officers, in fact, that entire forces in cities across Mexico have been disbanded and rebuilt from scratch.

If you can own politicians and police forces, do you really need to smuggle individual handguns in from another country?
Bill Conroy at NarcoNews has done excellent reporting on the drug war and gets to the bottom of this in Legal U.S. Arms Exports May Be Source of Narco Syndicates’ Rising Firepower

The Obama administration is now sending hundreds of additional federal agents to the border in an effort to interdict this illegal arms smuggling to reassure an agitated middle-America that Uncle Sam will get these bad guys. The cascade of headlines from mainstream media outlets printing drug-war pornography assures us in paragraphs inserted between the titillation that the ATFČs Operation Gunrunner and other similar get-tough on gun-seller programs will save America from the banditos of Mexico.

But in reality, while the main weapons are getting to the cartels from the U.S., they’re not being smuggled into Mexico, and so no interdiction efforts will help.

The deadliest of the weapons now in the hands of criminal groups in Mexico, particularly along the U.S. border, by any reasonable standard of an analysis of the facts, appear to be getting into that nation through perfectly legal private-sector arms exports, measured in the billions of dollars, and sanctioned by our own State Department. These deadly trade commodities ÷ grenade launchers, explosives and čassaultä weapons ÷are then, in quantities that can fill warehouses, being corruptly transferred to drug trafficking organizations via their reach into the Mexican military and law enforcement agencies, the evidence indicates.

That’s right, the ultimate source of the guns used by the cartels in Mexico? The U.S. government.
Hey, why should we be surprised? After all, one of the most dangerous groups in Mexico — the mercenary army for Mexico’s Gulf Cartel — is Los Zetas, which we helped train at Fort Benning in rapid deployment, aerial assaults, marksmanship, ambushes, small-group tactics, intelligence collection, and counter-surveillance techniques. So why shouldn’t we be supplying them the weapons as well?
Conroy follows the trail of the shipments of legal guns to Mexico, noting that while these weapons could be traced…

But that assumes the Mexican government, and our own government, really want to trace those weapons. A November 2008 report in the San Antonio Express News, which includes details of the major weapons seizure in Reynosa, Mexico, that same month involving the Zetas, reveals the following:

Another example of coordination problems occurred this month. Mexican authorities in Reynosa across the border from McAllen, seized the countryČs single largest stash of cartel weapons ÷ nearly 300 assault rifles, shoulder-fired grenade launchers and a half million rounds of ammunition.
But weeks later, Mexican authorities still have not allowed the ATF access to serial numbers that would help them track down the buyers and traffickers on the U.S. side.

[…]
A former DEA agent, who also asked not to be named, says the shipment of military-grade weapons to the Mexican government under the DCS program, given the extent of corruption within that government, is essentially like čshipping weapons to a crime syndicate.ä

Conroy also notes that the State Department’s Blue Lantern program, which monitors the end-use of commercially exported defense articles had 634 cases in FY’ 2007, of which 143 were deemed “unfavorable.”
So we’re fighting an escalating drug war where both sides are funded and supplied by… us.
Over and over again in the drug war, we find the same kind of thing. The more we fight the drug war, the more damage we cause — more corruption, more violence, more criminal activity.

A strange game.

The only winning move is not to play.

How about a nice game of chess?

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