Posted on 03/18/09 at 12:03 PM
It’s rare I pick up the newspaper in the morning and read an article about the war on drugs that leaves me feeling encouraged. In fact, I don’t think its every happened before. But this morning, I read about hearings in congress that are identifying the role of the U.S. government in fueling the growth of massive drug cartels just across the border in Mexico.
If you’ve been reading the news on the drug trade from Mexico over the last couple years (if not see the wikipedia article), you’ll have heard about the increasingly powerful and violent cartels that have infiltrated the Mexican police and who regularly carry out kidnappings and assassinations. Reading this news its often easy to put the blame solely on the shoulders of corrupt Mexican government officials or lack of legitimate economic opportunity in Mexico.
Hearings in the U.S. congress this week are pointing to other factors north of the border. There’s the obvious (but often under noticed) reality of the tens of millions of dollars paid by U.S. drug users that drives the trade. But there’s also the not as obvious stream of guns that fuel the violence even more directly.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Rep. Zoe Lofgren from San Jose pointed out the key role the Bush administration played in allowing the widespread funneling of guns to the cartels:
“It was a priority policy decision that tens of thousands of agents would go arrest dishwashers and busboys, meanwhile letting the machine guns get smuggled into Mexico, which has contributed to a very serious problem in Mexico that should concern all Americans,” Lofgren said in an interview.
For decades we’ve been focusing the “war on drugs” on going to the source of the cocaine. For the first time in my memory, decision makers are beginning to look at guns in the same way. What if we pursued gun merchants and smugglers as ferociously as we pursued the Colombian farmers who grow coca?
“It is unacceptable to have 90 percent of the guns that are picked up in Mexico and used to shoot judges, police officers, mayors, kidnap innocent people and do terrible things come from the United States,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said at a hearing Tuesday. “I am appalled that you can buy a 50-caliber sniper weapon anywhere and it’s not restricted to a federal firearms dealer – you can just buy it.”
It turns out that some of the weapons being used by the drug cartels came even more directly from the US government:
Lawmakers are not sure how high-powered weapons get in the hands of drug traffickers, but some come from the U.S. military, said Sanchez, who held a hearing on the traffickers last week. “We don’t keep very good track,” she said, noting reports she reads on the Armed Services Committee “about how they don’t know where $1.5 trillion of assets are located, I mean, the Department of Defense doesn’t have a good scanner system for all the things it buys.”
I pray for the day when our immigrant brothers and sisters will be left in peace and the gun manufacturers and merchants that profit so richly from this trade will be shut down.