Monday, February 23, 2015

Ed Warner on Drug Cartels and US Media Silence

My former editor, veteran American journalist Ed Warner, remains professionally active in his retirement in Arizona. His current area of interest is the power of Mexican cartels and their influence in our country - a subject I must admit to knowing next to nothing about. So I asked him to write about it for this blog. I think the information Ed provides here explains the widespread ignorance about the problem.

Ed Warner, Carefree, AZ, February 23, 2015

Ed Warner
Why are some beheadings worse than others or at least more worthy of media attention? The question arises because videos of a few beheadings in the Middle East helped draw us into yet another questionable war, while similar grim videos are available in great quantities from Mexico. Yet we don't go to war there. Thanks to an absent media, we don't even know about the grisly killings.

In mid-February, 31 members of a big Mexican money-laundering ring were arrested in Chicago, a hub of drug trafficking. US Attorney Zachary Fardon said this kind of business is responsible for "countless devastated lives and ravaged communities," meaning both here and in Mexico. Again, hardly any media coverage while far away ISIS dominates the news.
The drug cartels, earning an estimated $6o billion a year from voracious American consumers, have wrecked much of Mexico and are an increasing presence in this country. Their danger is not just the drugs they purvey but the corruption that follows. It reaches into many areas of American life  - business, politics, law enforcement. In an important new book, The Accidental Super Power, author Peter Zeihan analyzes the interconnected US-Mexican crime scene and concludes: "More than China, more than Russia, more than Iran, it is the expansion of the Mexican drug wars to all of North America that is emerging as the single greatest geopolitical threat to the American way of life."

If only we knew about it. Why doesn't the media tell us? There are a number of possible reasons. First is Fast & Furious, the Obama Administration's delivery of weapons to the cartels despite their brutality that equals any on earth. Reputable gun dealers were forced by the ATF to sell arms to known criminals. If they refused, they could lose their licenses. The stated aim was to trace the guns across the border to higher ups who could then somehow be brought to justice. But the guns were never followed, and meanwhile they were used to kill many Mexicans and a few Americans. We await the real explanation of this debacle.

Faced with scandal, President Obama for the first time claimed executive privilege to prevent the release of key documents. Attorney General Holder asked the media to be "reasonable" in its coverage of what after all was a big story. The media complied and didn't look into it very hard. The exception was CBS correspondent Sharyl Attkisson, who dug too deeply and for that was hounded by the White House in various ways and finally removed from investigative reporting and resigned. The media took note. Time to be reasonable. Let's not lose access to the White House.

There's understandable fear of the cartels who have murdered dozens of Mexican journalists. If they can avoid it, they don't want to harm Americans - bad for business. But as they continue to expandd in this country, who knows? Prudence dictates pursuing less dangerous stories, though the media might at least pay tribute to the Mexicans who take the risk, like Anabel Hernandez, who was given round-the-clock bodyguards after exposing the links between cartels and government. She writes in her book Narcoland: " "Currently, all the old rules governing relations between the drug barons and the centers of economic and political power have broken down. The drug traffickers impose their own law. The businessmen who launder their money are their partners, while some local and federal officers are viewed as employees to be paid off in advance, for example by financing their political campaigns."

The cartels finally came close to grabbing Hernandez when a group of armed thugs raided her house in December. Luckily, she was not at home and decided it was time to go. She now lives in California. If she isn't worth a story, who is? But try to find one in our media.

Much of the media is financially strapped today and in search of help. With wealth to spare, the cartels could lend a hand but at a price of course: no unfriendly coverage. Despite the clear lack of news of Mexican crime, no element of the media has been accused of succumbing, though rumors abound. Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, one of the world's richest men, has suspected but no proven ties to the cartels. A few years ago, he lent 350 million dollars to a needy New York Times and has since become the NY Times Company's largest stockholder. Let's see if the paper runs any cartel stories.

It's said these drug bosses seek power as well as wealth. It could be as stalwart Mexicans, they're aiming at a reconquest in their own way. Revenge on President Polk and his invaders who grabbed so much of Mexico. Now there's a story!

Finally, an element of ideology. Neocons, assorted arm chair warriors and profiteers all want US participation in the useless Middle East wars to continue indefinitely. Reports of actual danger from across the border would be a definite distraction and might lead to a rearrangement of US priorities and commitment. Please media, plead our warriors, don't do that and let Americans know what's happening in Mexico. That would be in the national interest, it's true, but not in ours.

The cartels fear only one thing: legalization of marijuana. As their main product, they would be crippled, maybe be put out of business. If US lawmen don't have to cart bales of marijuana around, they would be free to concentrate on the harder drugs and any other crimes the cartels devise. Meanwhile, the media could help by actually covering the story and producing for once a good, solid analysis of the power of the cartels and the extent to which they control Mexico and intrude on the US. Is this too much to ask?

About the author: Ed Warner who has been reporting for more than 55 years. He wrote for Time Magazine from 1958-1982 and wrote, edited and reported for the Voice of America from 1983-2005, and continues to freelance today. His articles have appeared in The American Conservative and on and on his website:


Jeffrey Young said...

Yes, "Fast and Furious" began in 2009, when Obama took office. But two similar operations took place in the previous administration: "Project Gunrunner," based in Laredo Texas in 2005, and expanded in 2006. Also, "Operation Wide Receiver," which was based in Phoenix, (as was F&F) in 2006 and 2007. Both of these Bush 43 operations had the same objective as F&F - get guns into the hands of Mexican drug lord higher-ups so they could be arrested. When people bring up F&F as a way to slam 44, these earlier operations of the same kind need to be put on the table as well. in order to provide proper and fair historical context. Just stating hard facts here - nothing partisan. Jeffrey Young, VOA

Edwin Warner said...

Yes, the delivery of guns across the border was bipartisan, but the Bush efforts were a rather modest if misguided affair involving some 300 weapons that resulted in no apparent deaths. The Obama Administration's Fast and Furious went several steps beyond, sending around 2500 guns to the drug cartels who thereupon used them to murder innumerable Mexicans and a few Americans. If the Bush people set an example, the Obama Administration followed it all too faithfully, as indeed it has in other areas. A peculiarity of Fast and Furious is that it didn't let the Mexican government know what it was up to. In his book "Guns Across the Border" that describes a botched Bush operation, former arms dealer Mike Detty writes of F&F: "If the goal were to take down a cartel, you would think there would have to be a certain level of cooperation between the United States and the very country the cartels were operating out of. " At the very least, Mexicans should have been advised that "several thousand weapons would be flowing across the border and into cartel hands."

The explanations to date of Fast and Furious have not been very satisfying. Gun enthusiasts say the aim was to show how weapons from the US were pouring into Mexico and hence the need for gun control. But since the guns were furnished by the US Government, this doesn't make much sense. There's more to it. But what?

Anonymous said...

Hi Ed: great article and so glad to find you are still on the beat. Hope to be in touch:

David Cleveland