by Jacob G. Hornberger
Here we go again. Amidst all the talk about out-of-control federal spending and debt, what does the U.S. government do? It goes out and spends more money by expanding the drug war in Mexico.
Hey, when a federal program has failed to show any success after 40 years, what else would you expect federal officials to do, especially in the midst of a spending-and-borrowing crisis?
Even worse, according to an article in the New York Times, the expansion involves “sending new CIA operatives and retired military personnel to the country and considering plans to deploy private security contractors in hopes of turning around a multibillion-dollar effort that so far has shown few results.”
Does the CIA operate within the United States, monitoring the activities of the American people, either as part of the war on drugs or the war on terrorism? It might but under the law, it’s not supposed to. The American people don’t want the federal government’s intelligence agency operating domestically. That smacks of places like the Soviet Union, Cuba, and North Korea.
So then why send the CIA into Mexico to enforce the drug war? If it’s bad to have the CIA operating inside the United States as part of the war on drugs, why is it good for the Mexican people to have the CIA operating inside their country?
The principle is the same with the military. Here in the United States, the military has long been prohibited from serving as the police, including as part of the drug war. It’s called the Posse Comitatus Act, a federal law that prohibits the military from serving in a law-enforcement capacity within the United States. The idea is that the military mindset, which is suitable for warlike situations, is unsuited to law-enforcement situations.
So, why send those retired military types to Mexico? If it’s a bad idea to have the military enforcing drug laws inside the United States, why isn’t it just as bad to have the military enforcing drug laws in Mexico? After all, even though the military personnel being sent to Mexico are no longer on active duty with the U.S. government, they’re being sent to Mexico as paid agents of the U.S. government and precisely because they have military mindsets.
There’s nothing the U.S. government, especially the military and the CIA, would love more than to convert the war on drugs into a military enterprise, just as they have done with the federal crime of terrorism. By converting the drug war into a military operation, as they have done with terrorism, federal officials know that will then have the authority to treat drug-war suspects as enemy combatants.
As we have seen with the federal crime of terrorism, that would mean no more need for grand-jury indictments, jury trials, right to counsel, and due process of law. Suspects would be subjected to military tribunals, immediate punishment, torture, and indefinite incarceration, perhaps even execution.
It would obviously be a dream-come-true for longtime proponents of the drug war, who have longed for victory for some four decades and who have long viewed the protections of the Bill of Rights as nothing more than legal technicalities that allow drug suspects to go free.
For the past 6 years, at the behest of the U.S. government the Mexican government has been waging a fierce crackdown in the war on drugs, employing the Mexican military to impose the crackdown. The result has been ever-escalating violence. The death toll, as hard as it to believe, is more than 40,000 dead over the last six years.
Meanwhile, even though the government has killed or captured any number of drug lords, it has done nothing to stem the flow of drugs into the United States. In other words, the same failure as before but with tens of thousands more dead people.
I should also mention the massive civil-liberties violations that the Mexican military has been committing against the Mexican people. Things like barging down people’s doors and conducting warrantless searches, much as the U.S. military does in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places it wages its war on terrorism.
And now the U.S. government is adding the CIA, retired military personnel, and possible private contractors into this violent mix in Mexico.
Let me sketch out a possible scenario, one that we’ve seen play out in the war on terrorism, with disastrous consequences for our country.
Some drug cartel decides to retaliate for, say, the CIA’s killing of some of its members. The cartel retaliates with a terrorist bombing of a federal building in El Paso, killing hundreds of federal employees.
How will U.S. officials respond? They’ll say, “We’ve been attacked! We’ve been attacked! We’re innocent! We’ve done nothing wrong! The drug war and the war on terrorism have now come together.”
President Obama himself will proclaim, “Our country is now at war against both the terrorists and the drug dealers, who will now be treated as one and the same. We will pull out all the stops to kill or capture the enemy. I am hereby assuming the same emergency powers in the war on drugs that I currently have in the war on terrorism. We will win. God bless America.”
The government’s unnecessary expansion of the drug war into Mexico, through the use of the CIA and military personnel, shows once again that these people don’t give a hoot for out-of-control federal spending and debt — and that would love nothing more than to expand their emergency powers to an even broader ambit of our lives.
Jacob Hornberger is founder and president of the Future of Freedom Foundation.
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