I am writing a final paper on the links between international terrorism and organized crime, and I am trying to focus on Mexico. Of course, it’s not easy as there isn’t a lot of material, so I have to read many things on general trends around the world. I have come up with some articles on what’s going on in Mexico, each more ridiculous than the last. People in Mexico know that there are no Hizbollah or al-Qaeda cells trying to reach the drug cartels; even the Iranians who were supposed to contact Los Zetas contacted a DEA agent and there wasn’t conclusive proof that they were sent by Iran.
Anyway, I found the most obnoxious paper on how Mexican drug cartels will definitely start using WMD against the US. Because obviously they want to completely destroy the people who buy and use their drugs, right? The arguments and the logic behind the paper are so absurd that I just have to share them here.
First of all, I have to say that all this worry about WMD is so Cold War. They served a purpose and everyone has already agreed that they are the best deterrent possible against nuclear war. Aum Shinrikyo did try to use biological weapons but mostly failed, since no one realized what they were doing. That defeats the purpose of using them? When people don’t know you are attacking them and carry on with their lives? Also, most analysts agree that the odds of WMD falling into terrorist hands are vey low and that would require extensive capabilities, to buy the materials, assemble them, transport them and detonate them. It is likely that they would be discovered and stop somewhere along the way. Thus, Americans talking about terrorists or organized crime using WMD seems a tiny bit paranoiac.
Besides, the real WMD, those that actually kill people in the thousands EVERY SINGLE DAY are small arms. guns, rifles, grenades, light anti-tank devices and the like. Witness yesterday. Those however, are not strictly regulated, especially not in the USA. Those are the weapons that terrorists and criminals do use all the time. If you’re going to worry about them, do something about weapons trade, especially the black market.
Moving on. The article mentions the Colombian drug cartels as the genesis of the Mexican ones. What? I mean, sure, once the Colombian government cracked down on them and FARC, disrupting their routs and trade, in effect dismantling them (or controlling the drug trade itself), the Mexicans took over production, transport and selling. Probably also the contacts they had made in South America with Hezbollah and al-Qaeda, but this has not been proved and so far there has been no indication that they are interested in terrorism. Also, saying that the Colombian cartels are the Mexican precursos completely ignores the fact that Mexican cartels have been here since at least the 1920s. That is important because it tells a lot about their relationship to the local and federal government, as well as about who controls what territory, the alliances they have made, their routes and what it is they produce and sell. Focusing only on Colombia when trying to make a point about Mexico is simplistic, to say the least.
Not as big a deal as the previous points, the authors introduce the concept of “Narco-Corporate Terrorism.” We already speak about narco-terrorism, by which we mean that drug cartels use terrorist tactics when it suits their purposes: distracting the government or getting rid of a rival organization. Why add the corporate bit? Well, according to the authors, this reflects the structure of the cartels. I guess it does and it might be useful for people who know nothing about them. However, this article is geared towards people who have at least a basic knowledge of the topic, so I don’t think it really adds anything to the discourse.
Then they go on to compare the cartels’ activities to the genocide in Rwanda. Right. Because getting rid of your competitors or the army that’s trying to wipe you out is exactly the same as completely distroying a whole population. This is completely mind-boggling. Genocide means the people you want to eradicate share a certain trait: ethnicity, nationality, religion, that differs from your own and you think it is inferior and could contaminate your superior group. The narcos do no such thing. They are not interested in eradicating indigenous groups, or foreigners. They want to control a market. Sure, they kill a lot of people and their methods are horrific, but that’s not genocide. Go read the official Convention before you start slamming the label onto anything.
So after that “background”, the article goes on finally to the issue of WMD. The authors do recognize that there is not enough information that drug cartels are willing to use them, or that they have begun to experiment with them, or to buy materials. But they insist that it is only a matter of time. Why? Because they decapitate their rivals. Yes, that’s right. That’s their argument: they decapitate people, therefore the next step is WMD.
Their main worry is biological weapons, because the total number of hospitals and veterinary clinics is unknown in Mexico (really?). Yes, the waste coming out of them can be used to experiment with biological weapons, but that doesn’t mean the narcos are doing just that. If you’re going to argue that, please show some proof. I’d love to see reports on how the narcos are experimenting with hospital waste to develop a virus and infect their crops or the people who will buy their drugs.
If you don’t back up your ridiculous assumptions, I’m going to laugh at you all day. Or I would, if these people weren’t posing as serious analysts and trying to influence US foreign policy. That’s what I find really scary about this article, that someone in office might believe them and decide it’s high time to send the US army into Mexico instead of solving the drug problem in a really effective way: by controlling the use of drugs in the US AND regulating the arms trade.
(I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything else from an organization called Stand Up America. I won’t link it here, they don’t deserve the traffic.)