Mexican Army

Mexican Army

There is no border in the world anything like the one between the United States and Mexico: a wealthy industrialized nation sharing a 2,000-mile frontier with a developing country barely able to raise its millions above subsistence-level poverty. It’s as if France were to border directly upon Algeria, or Germany upon Somalia.

American writers from Ambrose Bierce, who vanished during the Mexican revolution of 1913, to Cormac McCarthy, whose All the Pretty Horses depicted Mexico as a place of enchantment and deadly violence, have always seen it as a land of extremes. Sam Peckinpah’s 1969 film The Wild Bunch dramatizes near-phantasmagoric violence.

The brilliant Mexican poet and essayist Octavio Paz maintained that mutual incomprehension between the two countries was permanent and inevitable. America’s legacy, Paz wrote in The Labyrinth of Solitude, “is Democracy, capitalism and the Industrial Revolution,” while Mexico’s is “the counter-reformation, monopoly, and feudalism.”

The American belief in the inevitability of progress doesn’t really exist there, although half the Mexican population would probably emigrate to “el Coloso del Norte” if they could.

I once visited the home of a seasonal worker in a remote, picturesque village in Jalisco, whose mother insisted the whole town would follow him to California if they could.

“Todos, todos, todos,” she said. “No hay nada para nosotros en Mexico.” (“All of us. There is nothing for us in Mexico.”)

So naturally, Republicans want to bomb them. Because, of course, nothing has ever succeeded like America’s vaunted war on drugs, and looking manly and warlike is Job One among GOP politicians. Writing in The Atlantic, former George W. Bush speechwriter David Frum compiles an alarming list of conservative politicians who think the best way to fix the eternal crisis at the U.S.-Mexican border is to bomb and/or invade that country.

Supposedly, presidential candidate Donald Trump has asked his advisers for a plan of attack. His mini-me rival, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has proposed a naval blockade of Mexican ports. The idea is to interdict chemicals Mexican drug cartels use to manufacture fentanyl. (Suggestion: Take a look at a map showing that country’s thousands of miles of coastline on the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, and the Gulf of Mexico. DeSantis’ suggestion is absurd on its face.)

GOP senators are breathing smoke and fire. Last year, Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas wrote a New York Times op-ed arguing: “We can also use special operators and elite tactical units in law enforcement to capture or kill kingpins, neutralize key lieutenants, and destroy the cartel’s super labs and organizational infrastructure. We must work closely with the Mexican government ... but we cannot allow it to delay or hinder this necessary campaign.”

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham argues that “Our nation is being attacked by foreign powers called drug cartels in Mexico ... They are at war with us. We need to be at war with them.”

Somebody will have to tell me where and when a nation has bombed its way out of a drug addiction crisis. But then, I had the great advantage of riding in Mexican Army helicopters more than 40 years ago during “Operación Condór,” back when the drug killing Americans was heroin and the cartels were mainly a regional problem in the state of Sinaloa.

I thought they ought to call it “Operación Pato Muerto,” i.e., dead duck, because the authorities had no chance of eradicating heroin poppies grown by destitute campesinos from a remote area in the Sierra Madre as large as California, where government authority scarcely existed.

Indeed, I’ve never met a Mexican who believes that country’s government has either the will or the ability to eradicate drug smuggling as long as we Yanquis keep buying the stuff. Not even Roberto Montenegro, the courageous Mexican reporter who arranged my helicopter ride and who was murdered on the cathedral square in Culiacán a couple of months after I left.

This, too, as Frum astringently points out: Mexicans do have a democracy, and they do get to vote. What’s more, they know a whole lot more about us than we know about them, and most feel that we’ve corrupted them more than the other way around. No Mexican politician can afford to be seen as countenancing a U.S. insult to that country’s sovereignty.

“Mexicans are dying,” Frum points out, “because of American drug purchases. Mexico has about one-third the population of the United States but four times the homicide rate.” Most are dying in gang wars over market share. “Does Mexico do too little to halt the flow of opioids northward? The United States does nothing to halt the flow of guns southward.”

Every Mexican citizen knows this proverb: “Poor Mexico, so far from God, so close to the United States.”

Gene Lyons is a National Magazine Award winner and co-author of The Hunting of the President.

Reprinted with permission from Sun Times.

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Surprise! Margie's Press Flack Is No Saner Than His Boss

Marjorie Taylor Greene

On Tuesday, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted out a video of testimony from the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security. The clip showed Rebecca Kiessling, a mother from Michigan, whose sons Caleb, 20, and Kyler, 18, along with a friend Sophia Harris, 17, died of accidental fentanyl overdoses in July of 2020. The two young men and teen girl believed they were taking Percocet pills, but those pills ended up being laced with fentanyl.

In Greene’s tweet, she wrote, “Listen to this mother, who lost two children to fentanyl poisoning, tell the truth about both of her son’s murders because of the Biden administrations refusal to secure our border and stop the Cartel’s from murdering Americans every day by Chinese fentanyl.” It’s hard to follow even the general conspiracy theory here—Chinese fentanyl is being brought in by people on the southern border of our country because of Joe Biden.*

But as many people pointed out, regardless of what you believe about how secure our border is, and no matter your opinion on “war on drugs” policies, President Joe Biden wasn’t even a Senator in 2019, when this poor woman lost her children to overdose. In 2019 the Senate and the Presidency were controlled by Marjorie Taylor Greene’s party.

The internet and reporters brought up this fact (even Twitter’s dubious moderation team had to flag her tweet), and the MTG team’s response was wild.

Before getting into the response, the reason that Rep. Greene wanted to showcase Rebecca Kiessling is that Ms. Kiessling has become a conservative activist on the fentanyl subject. She believes that the problem with fentanyl in the country is an issue of immigration. She also believes that the COVID-19 stimulus package, which provided financial relief to millions of families and children needing financial assistance during the pandemic, is to blame for her children having the money to buy drugs, and subsequently, tragically dying from overdose.

This story is not about arguing whether or not her thoughts on the matter make sense or are true, or are an actionable policy plan for mending our public health crisis in the field of addiction. Ms. Kiessling has suffered the kind of brutal loss that millions of Americans have suffered. It can only be an unimaginable amount of pain to endure. How she manages her grief is not something I’m interested in discussing here.

However, Marjorie Taylor Greene is interested in using Kiessling’s grief as an emotional prop to score political points. The moment she chose to blame President Biden, instead of simply pushing for her decades-tested (and failed) “war on drugs” policies, she helped cheapen Ms. Kiessling’s grief in the public sphere. She turned the deaths of these three young people into a crass and truly ignorant political statement.

Daniel Dale is a senior reporter for CNN who runs fact-checks on the president and other high-profile political figures. On Wednesday morning, he wrote, “I asked Greene’s office last night about her tweet blaming the Biden administration for these deaths in 2020 under Trump. Spokesman Nick Dyer responded by saying lots of people have died from drugs under Biden and ‘do you think they give a fuck about your bullshit fact checking?’”

But that’s not all from the classy organization of civility in discourse that is Marjorie Taylor Greene and her staff, with Dale writing: “I also gave Greene congressional spokesman Nick Dyer an opportunity to comment regarding Greene’s multiple false claims yesterday about the 2020 election, such as the lies that Trump won Georgia and that there were thousands of dead voters there. His response: ‘Fuck off.’”

Dyer has been promoted to Rep. Greene’s deputy chief of staff. Before that, he was Greene’s communications director, and managing communications with the press is the number-one job he has—supposedly.

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos.